As those who read my blog and Steve McAlpine’s will know, we’ve been spending some time with ‘the street drinkers’ down London Road, a road 2 minutes walk from my house. Recently they were featured in the local area news letter, the upshot being that people were happy for them to drink, as long as they could do it out of sight…well, that was my reading of it anyway.

Today I popped down and had a great chat with Pete again. Hopefully he’ll be coming to our meeting tomorrow where we’ll be having our first baptism!

While we were talking a police car pulled up. The copper gave us a glare and then got out. It turns out that he’s the new bobby for this area (and his name is Bob!) and he wanted to make his mark.

He wanted to lay down the law, so to speak, and to find out people’s names. He looked at me and said ‘You’re not one of this lot?’

Well – what do you say to that? Opportunity to do the respectable thing, distance myself from the alcoholic druggies, say ‘of course not, I’m respectable, I’m middle class – look I’m even wearing a t-shirt with the emblem of my university’ (which, it so happens, I was).

Instead I said ‘I don’t mind hanging out with them.’

Not great, not ground breaking, but it was the best thing I could think of at the time.

When the copper had gone, one of the guys, who I’d not met before, said to me “I respect you for saying ‘I don’t mind hanging out with them’.”He was offended by the police man labelling them ‘this lot’. I think the officer made a real mistake there. He’d already boxed them and separated them off, and they felt devalued. But the guy appreciated me not distancing myself from them. Hopefully it will make it easier explaining how Jesus was willing to be ‘numbered among the transgressors’.

Pete certainly has appreciated the welcome he has received from people. Some of the guys saw him on their way to the cinema and invited him along. He didn’t go, but really appreciated them asking. He’s nervous about doing or saying the wrong thing around us, but again it was a wonderful opportunity to explain to him grace.

God willing the baptism we have tomorrow will soon be followed by some others…