I had a very interesting and emlightening day last Thursday. My employers were holding a diversity week, part of which involved a cultural tour of Leicester. As part of this tour I visited a hindu temple, followed by a mosque.
Never having set foot in either ever before, I wasn't sure what to expect, and there was a little trepidation. What I did experience though, was a warm welcome in both places and a real sense of the venues being meeting places which served the needs of their communities.
Returning home that evening I went to the pub. The pub, which I had never visited before was an estate pub, albeit a nice estate, and was very busy, especially so for a Thursday. There was a poker tournament going on, darts and pool being played in the bar, and (and this is the reason I went), a demonstration outside by a cooper from Theakstons. There was a real warm welcome here and a true feeling of community.
I'm not for one second suggesting that pubs are like churches, but in many ways they do the same job. It's where you meet like-minded people and make new friends. You are welcomed, even as a stranger, and maybe afterwards as a regular.
We are losing pubs by the dozen in this country. Hopefully for the most part it is the poor ones, and those which provide a sanctuary from all the crap in the World will be allowed to flourish.