A short walk from our church there is a pub which always has a lot of men in it, drinking a lot of beer, many of whom are sitting by themselves. It is run by a well-known brewery chain which has hundreds of pubs and the lone drinkers seem to be a common characteristic. Its probably because they open early and the beer is cheaper than other pubs.
A few months ago one of the ministers in my church, Gary, got chatting to the Pub Manager. She was expressing concern about the welfare of some of the men she sees in there every day and Gary asked her what the church could do to help.
‘Prayer and a Pint’
After some discussion, the Manager agreed for a group of us from the church to go into the pub every Sunday specifically to talk to those who were by themselves. So about 3 months ago in early November, with some trepidation we launched the new venture which we called Prayer and a Pint (or P&P for short). We have been around 12 times so far, so it’s still early days but already it’s been one of the best church things I have ever been involved in.
When we get there we put some laminated ‘P&P’ posters up – behind the bar, on the front door and on the wall near where we are. At first, many people were a bit wary, we got some funny looks and the odd ‘look out it’s the God-Squad’ type comments. But quite quickly we got in with some regulars who were keen to know what we were like and why we were there.
Accepted and welcomed
We have been incredibly accepted and welcomed by both drinkers and staff. Almost all of the men sitting drinking alone are keen to talk and we are very open about coming from the church so the conversation often naturally flows onto issues of faith and belief.
Sometimes people have wanted to pose hard questions or debate controversies, but mainly people want to talk about their lives and their story. We have shared a lot of great laughs and heard a lot of pain. We know we are not there to give easy answers.
A few have asked for Bibles and many have asked for prayer – sometimes right there in the pub. Three of them have come along to our church, ‘If you are willing to come to our place, then we’ll come to yours.’ It was brilliant to see one man we met come on Christmas Day and stay for the big Christmas lunch.
Simplicity and hope
I spend my working life in some of the most complex areas of Christian social mission – leading an organisation which employs 50+ people to work with some of the most vulnerable and complex people imaginable. Yet ‘Prayer and a Pint’ is completely different – we are not there to be social workers or therapists; there are no risk assessments or care plans. We go into the pub each week armed with nothing other than friendliness and the hope of the gospel. Also we are clear that we are not there to proselytise or give a sales pitch for our specific church. We go because we want to share and show something of God’s transforming love.
It is early days and I don’t want to exaggerate or over-hype what we are doing. But one thing is for sure – I would not swap the conversations that I have had over the last 3 months in that pub for anything. They are worth far more than any of the complex theological debates I have had with other Christians. P&P has taught me to be braver, to shed my spiritual inhibitions, and to express what I believe in ways that make sense to ordinary people. I hope and pray we have blessed some of the people we have met – but I know that I have already been deeply blessed by being part of it.
Related R&R posts: God does not have a mission for his church