Sunday, November 13, 2005

Penitent

It was one of THOSE evenings. The vicar was out of town, leaving the Reader and me with the pleasures of Evensong (and, in my case, a hideous sermon on Revelation....I don't propose to do that again in a hurry). As I sweated over this, I was a little surprised to be phoned mid- afternoon by our totally calm, wise and rather splendid retired ChurchWarden, who wanted advice.
'What, from me??? But it's always the other way round....'
It became clear that the problem was outside the usual remit for Church Wardens in Charlton Kings. Because we're your traditional leafy suburb we tend to be rather off the beaten track for most gentlemen of the road, but on this occasion one such had found his way into church, set off all the alarms and relieved himself in the north transept. Did I want the police called?
I ascertained that the guy wasn't aggressive, but simply roaring drunk, so was pretty confident that the police were unnecessary, and A. seemed happy to leave things be for the moment. When I arrived for the service, however, there were a number of rather perturbed people about. Our visitor was still with us, and seemed to be proposing to settle down for the night...What did I want to do?
`Ouch. What did I want to do?What would Jesus do? I guess he'd start by talking to him....'
so over I went...
"Are you a lady minister?"
"I certainly am"
"Well, I always respect ladies, so you tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it"
"Well, it makes people a bit nervous if you walk about waving your arms and shouting. Do you think you could sit quietly for the service"
"Mebbe"
Actually, this was rather optimistic. Sitting was semi-possible, quiet clearly not, and as the service went on the angst level of the congregation increased discernibly....I rose to lead the intercessions, which happen from a prayer-desk half way down the nave. I had no idea by this stage what was going on at the back of the church, - just that a small posse of sidesmen seemed to be clustered together, and the noise level from our visitor was rather muffled. I began to worry that they had elected to turn him out, and felt unbelievably hypocritical as I prayed
"You, the God whose name is love, want us to be like you-
to love the loveless and the unlovely and the unloveable
to love without jealousy or design, fear or threat..."
Ouch again.
When I moved into the pulpit, I was probably the only person in the church relieved to see he was still there, and was indeed sitting quietly..He called out what might have been
"Go lassie, I'm listening" so I set forth onto the choppy waters of my Revelation sermon. It seemed like the longest I'd ever preached...If only I'd had the courage to throw my text away, and just speak about the God whose name is love...
Hymn.
Blessing.
Exit...then to the back of the church to greet the congregation.
Someone asked if he needed a bed for the night.
"A bed"
He was scandalised.
"I've never slept under a roof since I took to the road, and I'm not about to start now. You bring me a cup of coffee and a bacon butty in the morning and I 'll be fine. I'm Hamish. Can I call you Kathryn? You seem like a lovely lady to me"
And with that he made a wild attempt to kiss my hand, and made off into the churchyard, where,he assured me, he'd located a nice quiet spot for the night.
Soothing the ruffled feathers of the congregation as best I could, I shepherded the more nervous through the churchyard and set off home myself. It's a clear, cold night tonight (I've just brought my geraniums in, for fear of frost) and I, who aspire to be minister of Christ, have left a drunken man sleeping rough outside my church.
The fact that he refused offers of shelter is small comfort. I know that those who offered to help were all, like me, rather hoping to have their offers refused. Did he know this too? Was he in fact the most courteous and considerate among us? What would Jesus do??
Urban Army would know an answer to these, I'm sure...if not to the question of how I can sleep in my warm bed tonight, knowing he is out there.
Right now, I just feel inadequate and very very sorry.

16 comments:

Songbird said...

I don't recall Jesus making anyone do anything, just offering hard choices. You did the best you could, and I love it that you made it possible for him to remain in the worship service. Bless you and bless him.

peripateticpolarbear said...

you offered him a lot of hospitality. bless you.

Mary said...

I think he may go away (or not)feeling asomewhat more positive about church. And it's greatly to everyone's credit that the situation was worked through and sustained right to the end of the (church's) evening. Not a pat on the back exaclty, but remember how alien that flet to your congregation and how much was achieved.
As for Revelation, my fist "real" sermon was on Ch 15-19 inclusive, as part of a series, - and we are of course evangelicals so I needed to preach the whole text......

Mary said...

Sorry about the typos - it IS Monday morning but even so......

stuart said...

Kathryn,
I don't claim to be an expert in these matters however, working in the prison brings you into contact with many people in similiar circumstances. Many men leave prison with no place to live and in the last couple of days of their sentance try to rally round all who can help but with little results quite often. These men are grown adults fully aware of the help and resources available to them often more aware than we are, yet they choose to leave it until the last minute to sort out, i would not want to be so hard as to say its their problem, however, we all have responsabilities and need at times need to be responsible for our own lives. This man sounds like he had done just that, you for your part however, treated him with the dignity and love, friendship and charity that any human being is entitled to regardless of their background or appearance.

Gordon said...

I wish I did have answers to how we feel in those circumstances - you've sparked some thoughts - thanks.

The crucial thing is that you offered him choice which in terms of self respect is priceless.

Thanks

cheesehead said...

Bless you for your ministry to him. We tend to think that the ministry that is refused is no kind of ministry at all, but I think we underestimate God that way. We don't know what your simple acts of kindness will afford this man in the long run.

Be at peace about this.

Lorna said...

Hey you were kind to him, you spoke to him and you gave him respect - that's exactly what Jesus would have done -

You did good, sister!

Dayzeee said...

"I know that those who offered to help were all, like me, rather hoping to have their offers refused. Did he know this too? Was he in fact the most courteous and considerate among us?"

I love this insight, Kathryn and the respect everyone offered as you all touched each other's (very different) lives.

brother terry said...

You did good Kathryn!

I'll pray for Hamish.

peace,

LutheranChik said...

I think your kindness to him was the absolute best ministry you could offer.

I work in social services, and sometimes we simply can't force needy people to accept our services. It's frustrating, but we have to honor individuals' choices, even when everyone knows that they're not particularly good choices.

Tony said...

Might have to stop reading your blog. Makes me feel inadequate. ;-)

I think you did great - much better than I have often done in similar circs - and I agree you've nothing to feel guilty about.

I always find it so disconcerting when Jesus turns up like this...

Dr Moose said...

You did all you could, and should (I think), and through it Jesus challenged you (and all your readers) again.

Be encouraged. The next trick is to see how to get the congregation to recognise the teaching ministry of anonymous angels in the midst

Howard said...

I'm really not at all sure that Jesus would have done a bacon sandwich!!!

Kathryn said...

lol
Thanks Howard...needed a giggle this evening, so this was spot on :-)

Karin said...

This reminds me of a young man I met in Brighton last year while on the Trade Justice march. I bought him a hot drink and a snack but it seemed woefully inadequate and the local man I asked about ways the lad could be helped seemed totally clueless inspite of being a member of the church we were in.

There seems to be something wrong with the society we live in.