Thought for the Month (October 2009)

Dear Friends,

One cannot be unaware of what is happening in most town centres across the country at the weekends, even in places like Tunbridge Wells. Town centres become menacing places with groups of intoxicated people, usually young, wandering around making a lot of noise.

The churches of Tunbridge Wells, as I write, are preparing to launch the Street Pastor scheme with the idea of ministering to these folk, to prevent them from harming themselves or others. Recently we discussed this in the Eldership at Hawkenbury URC, and to help resolve this situation will sponsor a visit of a trainer from Hope UK to talk to all church leaders about the dangers of drink and drugs in our society, and ways in which we can help youngsters stay off these harmful substances.

In former times the 'Free Churches', in particular, were very strong in their advocacy of temperance as a way of 'Holy Living'. Some churches went as far as making abstinence part of Church membership. Sadly, only the Salvation Army holds to this today.

We can read in scripture that drunkenness was against the moral and religious code. Isaiah 5:11 and Luke 21:34 give examples. What can be done to stop the damage being done to thousands within our land, not just from drugs but from alcohol which is so widely available? Well, the British Medical Association (BMA)have suggested that all alcohol advertising, including sport and music sponsorship, should be banned to discourage young people from taking advantage of cheap drink promotions. The BMA have further suggested a higher rate of taxation on drinks and a ban on such promotions as 'happy hours' or two-for-one purchases.

At the moment 800 million is spent on advertising by the drinks industry in order to promote its sales. Some, such as alcopops, are aimed particularly at the young drinkers.

The effect of all this is that many more people become alcoholics, and that illness, leading to death, is on the increase not amongst the old but amongst the young.

In Romans 14:13-23, Paul makes the point to the Church in Rome do nothing which would cause your brother or sister to fall, either in your behaviour or in what you eat or drink. If by your abstinence you help those who are weaker, your conduct will have done them a service.

Paul writes further in Galatians 5:16-26, that we are to endeavour to be filled with the 'Holy Spirit' which produces only good things, rather than be given over to drink which, as we know, doesn't always make happy, peaceful citizens. These are difficult times for many people. Many are looking for answers, but if they have a problem when they start the bottle of booze, they will probably have two problems when they finish it.

We can do something practical as Christians to turn our Society around, not in our own strength but in the strength the Lord supplies.

God Bless,

Pastor Richard C. Blackwell

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church