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Dear Friends,


Last month, friends took me to the races.  You may think it shocking that your minister should do this, but in fact it was an afternoon of fun and laughter. Sat around dining tables, it was personal choice whether or not to go out and see the races from the rails. The betting was done in £2-£5 only and the fun part was listening to folk choose their runner: ‘what name do you fancy’, ‘I like the colours of that jersey’ etc. In other words, we were complete novices and took everything in good humour as a result.


This all came about because I made a throw-away comment last year about living in a town with a racecourse for ten years without knowing what all the fuss was about. It is something about an alternative identity: what visitors to the town perceive as the ‘real’ Cheltenham. Christians may have one perception, the night-time clubbers may have another and the race-goers yet another. To experience a different reality than your own doesn’t make you a traitor to your beliefs. As a street-pastor, I saw many drunks who needed help getting to taxis but who would be hard at work the next day.


What view might non-church goers have of us in the church? Just as we make snap judgements about drunks and gamblers, might they say of us ‘boring’ or ‘hypocrite’? Jesus rubbed shoulders with prostitutes and beggars and always saw the person rather than the label. We need to work hard to show our community that we are in touch with the world outside of church, that we understand the pressures and the temptations but that we have something valuable to offer as an alternative. Christ has won the race for us all.



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