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Beer and Bandits
The team of young people known as Ribbons of Faith (RoF) with who I was working in the sixties were getting known further afield, and we began to get invites to work with different churches who thought we may be able to help. Perhaps we did, perhaps we didn’t, I don’t know.
One day we received an invitation from a church in the small town of Ruddington, Nottinghamshire. They wanted us to lead a series of meetings, they had been praying for ‘revival’ whatever that is, and they believed that we could be the answer to their prayers. The members of the church community were getting older and older and they began to realise that they would all eventually die, and with them, the Christian community. They decided they had better to something about it and were that something.
We were scheduled to spend a week of evenings in the area, and as usual we were not sure what to do. Part of the RoF team included a band, very sixties, guitars, drums, a trio of girl singers called The Ribbonettes. Alright, I know it’s cheesy but that’s what they were called. There was not much to do for young people in Ruddington, and we found lots of teens hanging out of street corners, arguing and making a noise. They had no money in their pockets, so when handed a leaflet advertising a free band and the inevitable cup of tea, they were more than willing to come along and hear what we had to say.
We discovered that just across the road from the church building there was a working man’s club; we also found out that the band they had booked for the evenings entertainment had done a no-show. One of our crowd offered our band as a stand in. A problem arose, not for us, but for the local church community, they felt great concern that we should go into such an evil place; apparently they drank beer in there. Worse was to follow, on the evening when the band was playing, one of our girls was watching one of the guys play the one arm bandit, ‘Hey love’ said the guy ‘you come and pull the handle for me, I’m sure you’ll bring me good luck.’ She grinned at him and innocently pulled the handle, the machine whirred and three apples slowly slotted into a matching row, and then the machine began pumping out the jackpot. Needless to say the rest of the time our crew were in great demand on the one arm bandits, especially that particular young lady. But this only made things worse with the church community, now we were gambling in this den of iniquity.
Being a small town, word spread quickly about these strange ‘Brummies’ who were invading their town and soon there were loads of young people drinking tea, listening to the band and chatting. I was impressed with what they talked about, they asked serious questions about God, the meaning of life and where they were going. They were also keen to know what they needed to do to find out if the maker had any designs for their lives.
More problems were in store for us, the chatting went on and on, some of them truly wanted to know the living God. One of the first young people to make a commitment to Christ was the daughter of the owner of the working man’s club. He was not at all happy about this and began to regret meeting our band.
The leader of the church was an old man, although he was only 21. Even at this tender age everyone called him the Pastor. He opened up the building each evening and looked completely out of his depth surrounded by all these unchurched youngsters. He also looked strained waiting for us to leave each evening so he could lock up and go home to bed, it was all a bit much for him even though he only lived in the next street. Whereas our mini-bus convoy often didn’t arrive back in Birmingham until the early hours.
As we were getting on so well with this great crowd of youngsters and did not want to curtail their serious conversations, I asked the team to stay a little later on Friday evening; the 21 year old Pastor said that this would be impossible as it was a Friday. I pushed him a little, explaining I knew it was Friday, I wanted to understand why this was such a problem. Then he dropped the bombshell, ‘I always wash my hair on Friday night, so I need to lock the building early.’ Oh help!
During the conversation he also told me that the people in the church were very unhappy about the way the building was being used and that the youngsters that were coming along were not showing respect. I had found them to be intelligent, articulate and open hearted, as far as I was aware nothing had been broken and they seemed very polite. I was concerned to find out if I had been missing something, had something happened about which I was unaware. He went on to explain that the ‘church’ people were upset because the young people didn’t sit on their chairs correctly. He saw my bemused face and said ‘They turn the chairs round, and straddle them so they can lean on the back of the chair when they talk to you, this is very disrespectful.’ I didn’t say anything, but in my head I was yelling. Help! Oh help, help, help!
It was a tough learning experience; some of those young people had a real encounter with the God who is there. But the local ‘church’ was not ready for them, unwilling to come alongside them or reach out to them. Rather like new wine in an old skin perhaps.
When we were originally invited to Ruddington by the church community they said that they had been praying for God to send them loads of young people. God did, but they didn’t like who God sent. I guess we should be careful what we pray for, or perhaps when we pray we should be more open minded and allow God to answer our prayers his way, be a little less prescriptive, as if we aren’t they we may well miss out on all that he could or wants to do.
Stories for Ourlab
11th April 2010
Editor: A Brookes