An estimated one million extra tourists have descended on London. The underground is bursting to capacity, and the busy streets are full of visitors. Over 100 volunteer “Games Pastors” have been stationed around the city to meet the physical and spiritual needs of travelers and games-goers.
The Games Pastors Ministry is linked to the nationwide Street Pastors and Church Angels – two organizations that have grown rapidly over recent years, caring for needy people in urban areas throughout the UK. The Games Pastors are doing the same in London during the Olympic period. “We are just here to help people,” says pastor Judith Swindell. Amidst the chaos of the games, people may be disoriented or confused. “We are here to care for those who may be distressed, to meet their needs, and to share our faith.”
The Pastors are easily recognizable with their blue jackets and bags clearly marked “Games Pastor.” Stationed throughout busy areas in Central London, the Pastors work eight-hour shifts in groups of two. Swindell was in St Pancras Station on Saturday afternoon, along with her colleague James Stewart. Already involved in the Street Pastors ministry in her home parish, Swindell says that becoming a Games Pastor was a natural way for her to combine her excitement for the Olympics with the work she was involved with at her local church.
For Stewart, who normally works as a chaplain in the London Underground, being a Games Pastor provides a contrast to the work he normally does. “When I’m working as a chaplain in the Underground, I normally do ministry by myself. It’s nice to be working with a team,” he says.
Both Stewart and Swindell agreed that the response from the public has been very positive. “We’ve had some great conversations with people that have a real spiritual root, and we’ve been able to ask a couple people about their beliefs and share ours,” said Swindell. Stewart and Swindell said, however, that their main goal is not to do overt evangelism. “We’re sowing seeds,” said Stewart. Saturday was only the second day of their duty, but both Stewart and Swindell said they’re excited for the impact their ministry will make.