THE ASCENSION TRUST, one of the largest parachurch organisations founded by a black Christian in the UK is celebrating its 25th anniversary with events this weekend, including a special service and gala dinner.
Founded in 1993 by Rev Les Isaac, the Ascension Trust aimed to help churches be more effective in their local communities by providing training for church leaders which explored local demography, found skillsets within congregations and looked at the church’s vision to see how it met the needs of the local community.
Rev Isaac shared: “I started Ascension Trust because I wanted the church to be more relevant in terms of impacting the local community, and reaching a multi-racial cross-cultural city, and I felt the church was not properly equipped to respond in those two areas.”
Over the years, the trust has also trained thousands of young people in mission and outreach, and while it might not be a well-known name, their Street Pastors initiative is.
Launched in 2003 in response to the gun and knife crime at the time, the scheme has grown to be a key aspect of the trust’s work.
It currently has around 14,000 Street Pastors operating in more than 250 towns and cities across the UK, providing pastoral care at weekends.
Street Pastors has also expanded international and currently operates in Jamaica, America, Nigeria, Antigua, Australia and more.
Rev Isaac is very proud of Street Pastors’ achievements. He said: “When we started, the police, the nightclub owners and the bars weren’t talking to each other.
“We encouraged them to work together. Now people are doing partnership together. “We’ve also seen crime rates come down because Street Pastors are out there bringing peace on the streets.
“Fewer people now go to hospital because we can help people on the spot when Street Pastors do their patrols.
“We’ve seen people who are vulnerable get help, some have come to faith and it’s also given the church credibility. People respect us.”
Over the years, the Ascension Trust has developed more initiatives including School Pastors, which provides a listening ear for students who might not feel able to talk to teachers or parents, Rail Pastors who provide support at stations where there has been a high number of suicide attempts and fatalities, and Response Pastors who provide pastoral support after major public incidents such as the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Synergy Network, which seeks to bring together organisations working to reduce youth violence, is the Ascension Trust’s latest initiative.
Rev Isaac was awarded an OBE for his work fostering community cohesion in 2012 and, along with the Ascension Trust leadership team, is contemplating their future steps by seeking God.
He said: “We are emphasising a lot on prayer, and asking Him, ‘what are you saying to us?’. We are really being reflective.”
While they wait on God, Ascension Trust will continue working to make a positive impact on local communities. Visit ascensiontrust.org.uk for more information.