Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Two sides to Benidorm
I recently spent the weekend in Benidorm as part of my future son-in-law's stag weekend and was fascinated to be able to view the two sides to Benidorm.
For the most part, Benidorm is a typical Spanish resort with sweeping bays, beautiful beaches and wide promenades designed for paseo, yet it is best known for the 'British Square'; a plaza with a collection of pubs and clubs, supplemented by takeaways, which makes up the main strip and is filled nightly with English tourists, generally in groups, generally celebrating (whether stag or hen weekends, birthdays or some other milestone), and generally in fancy dress or t-shirts proclaiming what is being celebrated by means of a pub crawl. All the stereotypes of drink, drugs, hardcore house & cheesy pop, sun, sea, sand and sex have their basis in reality. Free shots, cheap deals on booze, and table dancers are the main means used to entice groups into specific pubs and clubs but little leeway is afforded when the plentiful supply of alcohol results in throwing up or aggressive behaviour. The strip is perimetre policed and those stepping over the line are swiftly dispatched from the Square. Possibly as a result, the general atmosphere in the Square was merry but calm with no sense of latent threat.
There appeared to be much good natured banter between the different groups to be found in the Square. One group, in t-shirts proclaiming themselves to be 'Vicar's off duty', were amazed and pleased to find that what they had imagined to be an anomalous joke was actually a reality. One of their group offered to bring friends with him if we were to hold a service in our hotel and passed on contact details to keep in touch. A group of women from Birmingham who spoke to us at the same time talked about the positive impact their local Vicar had made at the local school and in taking the funeral of a friend's father. They thanked us because they said the work which we do - being with others at moments of crisis - is under appreciated.
Conversations like these highlighted the opportunities that would exist were a ministry like that of Street Pastors to exist on the British Square. Throughout the weekend, several of us were asking ourselves where would Jesus be in this place. While there I read these words in Peter Rollins' the orthodox heretic which provide some kind of answer:
"... what if Jesus had an infinitely more radical message ...? What if Jesus taught an impossible forgiveness, a forgiveness without conditions, a forgiveness that would forgive before some condition was met? Now, that kind of forgiveness can really annoy people, and might help to explain why Jesus got a reputation for hanging out with drunkards and prostitutes rather than with ex-drunkards and ex-prostitutes!"
The Phantoms - Benidorm Nights.