Milliken Park is a small train station outside of Glasgow, Scotland, where trains frequently pass through at high speeds. Because of its small size and lack of staff, it’s a place where some attempt to take their own lives. In response, the local police and Network Rail are working with local churches and organizations to support distressed passengers through Rail Pastors.
Rail Pastors, an extension of the already established Street Pastors ministry, is a group of Christians who volunteer to be like chaplains at train platforms and carriages across the United Kingdom. They pray, make conversation, and look for people who might be especially troubled, distressed, or even considering suicide.
Cheryl and Roy Adair, members of the St. Mathews Church of the Nazarene in Paisley, Scotland, are both volunteers with Rail Pastors.
“The word 'pastor' involves caring,” Cheryl said. “Our motto is 'care, listen, help.' If we really see someone who is vulnerable or distressed, we would go up and ask them how they were tonight.”
Rail and Street Pastors go through more than 50 hours of training to prepare for the range of conversations that may take place on their patrols. In addition to the standard Street Pastor training, Rail Pastors undergo additional training from Samaritans, a UK-based suicide prevention organization.
Both the Rail and Street Pastors ministries are initiatives of a UK para-church organization called Ascension Trust, whose mission is to mobilize the Church to make a positive social impact on the community. Through these initiatives, they utilize the passions and skills of lay leaders to bring the presence of Christ to people right where they need it.
“The work of Street Pastors has been very powerful and effective in our cities for many years," said Jim Ritchie, superintendent of the British Isles North District. "And now, the Rail Pastors ministry is another ‘front line’ ministry reaching out with the gospel in places and at times when the church would not normally be engaging with others. I am very proud of Cheryl and Roy Adair as they serve Jesus and represent the Church of the Nazarene in this way, and pray for them as they continue in this ministry.”
One of their primary ongoing prayers in train stations is simply for peace. Especially in stations where local youth can sometimes cause problems, praying for peace makes a difference, and it’s noticeable to the railway staff. Rail Pastors has changed and saved lives, but it’s not just the down-and-out in train stations who are affected.
“Being out on the streets at night, we’re carrying Jesus Christ with us,” Cheryl said. “I totally believe that. We are engaging with people who would never come into a church, and we’re not there to Bible bash; we’re there to care, to listen, and to help. But the amazing thing is people ask why, and that gives us the opportunity to tell them why. Amazingly, the police, the council, Network Rail — they’ve all seen the merit of what Christians can do in the streets."
And often, it’s the beginning point of a longer conversation, one which is only possible when the church goes to the train station.