Church removes pews from sanctuary to give drunken revelers a place to sleep off hangover

Church of St. Anne Soho in London, England, January 11, 2006. | John Winfield/Church of St. Ann, Soho

A 17th century church in London replaces its pews with camp beds and invites drunkards from nearby streets to sleep in its premises with the hope that they will sober up. 

Volunteers of St. Anne’s, which is part of the Church of England and situated in London’s Soho area, go to the streets every Friday and Saturday between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in search of those who are vulnerable and bring them back to the church, where they are offered water and beds, just as “Jesus reached out to all people,” The Sunday Times reported.

Sometimes the church seeks the help of paramedics from St. John Ambulance for people with more serious health conditions, the newspaper added.

“Jesus reached out to all people no matter who they were or what they’d done; He acted for the vulnerable,” the church’s resident priest, the Rev. Simon Buckley, was quoted as saying. “I don’t sit here in judgment on people who’ve decided to get bladdered on a Friday night. I don’t know what they’ve been through that week,” added Buckley, who earlier worked as a puppeteer for the satirical television show "Spitting Image."

The initiative is part of a scheme run by Westminster city council.

“Drinking culture has changed,” Buckley said. “When I go out into Soho on a weekend and even on a Thursday I’m shocked by the number of people still drinking right into the early hours of the morning.”

There is no consensus within Christianity on whether a believer should drink alcohol. While some enjoy the practice, others abstain.

Patrick Nelson, president of Dordt Theological Seminary, earlier told The Christian Post that while “the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of alcohol,” nevertheless it “does forbid us from getting drunk from the drinking of alcohol.”

Both the Old and New Testament speak of the practice, giving it mixed reviews.

“You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come,” says Leviticus 10:9. “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise,” reads Proverbs 20:1.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” says Ephesians 5:18. “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses,” reads 1 Timothy 5:23.

In November 2018, a LifeWay Research poll found that among Protestant Christians in the United States, Lutherans are most likely to say that they consume alcohol while Pentecostals are least likely.

In the poll, over 75 percent of Lutherans answered “yes” when asked if they drink alcohol. Meanwhile, 62 percent of Methodist respondents responded with the same answer.

By comparison, just 43 percent of nondenominational Christians, 33 percent of Baptists and 23 percent of Assemblies of God/Pentecostal Christians said that they consume alcohol.

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