WELL-KNOWN local street chaplain, Andy Burns BEM, is preparing to officially launch his new book about his life in fulltime street ministry. Andy Burns heads up the local Christian outreach group, Newcastle Street Chaplains, which helps young people in Newcastle town centre on Saturday nights. The Lurgan-born man founded Scotland’s first street chaplaincy team when he decided to start ROCK Street Chaplains in Dundee in 2000. Since then, the unique street ministry has been established in several towns across Scotland and Northern Ireland; its largest teams being based in Dundee, Lurgan and Newcastle. Andy grew up in Lurgan before moving to Kilkeel in 1987 to become an evangelist with Mourne Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).
Two years later he married Kilkeel nurse, Marina Campbell, and they soon moved to Dundee where they pioneered the work of CEF and raised their two children. In 2000, Andy felt “led” to reach out to the young night-clubbers of the Scottish city and soon called his team ROCK Street Chaplains, which stands for ‘Reaching Out to make Christ Known’. “From tract distribution as a young Christian in Lurgan, to buying the Good News Bus in Dundee, we eventually began nightclub ministry, reaching young people in nightclubs and bars in the city of Dundee and other towns in Scotland. “We don’t preach at people, we are there to lend a helping hand to people who are sometimes vulnerable and we share God’s love through our words and actions,” he explained. Andy, who will mark four decades in full-time ministry in a few months’ time, continued: “Many have helped us along the road, many have tried to hinder and discourage, but God has been gracious and the little we have done for Him has hopefully sown the seed of God’s word in many hearts.”
After 24 years in Dundee, Andy returned to Northern Ireland in 2016 where more recently he has started further street chaplaincy teams in his hometown of Lurgan and in Newcastle near his current home in Annalong. He is also chaplain for Warrenpoint Football Club and the Schomberg Society in Kilkeel. In recent years, the work of the local Street Chaplains has been featured on BBC NI and the groups have received several civic awards. In 2019, Andy was awarded a BEM in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for his services to the community. The following year, when the pandemic struck, the work of Street Chaplains was, as Andy put it, “severely impacted”.
However, he used this period as an opportunity to do something that had long been at the back of my mind – to put together a book about the Street Chaplains and “how the Lord has worked through me and others to bring it about”. However, putting pen to paper was easier said than done. Fortunately, one of the local volunteers, Callum Bowsie, offered his writing skills and from here ‘Feet on the Street’, as told by Andy, was born. Paying tribute to those who encouraged and assisted with on this literary journey, Andy continued: “I want to thank Callum who has always been an encourager to me while doing this book. He has done a lot of hard work over the last three years in getting this book written. “I also want to thank my wife and family for their patience and encouragement. It was them who dared me to do this book. I want to extend my thanks to Kilkeel Baptist Tabernacle who have supported us as missionaries for many years, and will be kindly hosting the book launch next week.” With an Ulster-Scots flavour, the new book begins with Andy’s upbringing in Northern Ireland, before giving a personal, frank, and sometimes humorous account of the joys and challenges of nightclub outreach across these two lands, “offering along the way Biblical reflection on street evangelism in an ever-changing world”. Andy adds that it is a story of perseverance, faithfulness, and common sense which should stir every Christian to ‘Reach Out to make Christ Known’.”
Locals will be warmly welcomed to the book’s official launch, which is being staged in Kilkeel Baptist Church next Friday (10 November) at 7pm, where signed books will be available for £8 each. Similar events will also take place in Lurgan and Dundee in coming weeks. Copies of the book will then also be available for sale in selected shops and online.