Thursday morning, if it's not Little Fishes, means the monthly Eucharist at one of the numerous rest homes in the parish. I always find these a little frustrating, as there seems to be little expectation from either church or home that it would be good to develop a relationship with these communities. I hate hit and run ministry, but the way things are arranged (far more with the timetable at the home than with my own diary) it seems that I have very little option. Nonetheless, I've made a few connections, at least enough to recognise new or missing faces and we totter through the service together in reasonable unity, even though individuals tend to revert to whatever form of words is most familiar to them, regardless of those on the large-print cards. Since we've several denominations represented, this can lead to confusion at times, but the Word is listened to and bread and wine are shared so on the whole things feel OK.Yesterday, we even achieved unanymity on our choice of hymn tune!
But despite all that, I found yesterday really quite difficult. When I came into the sitting-room, there were the usual communicants gathered, one or two in different chairs, one now missing forever (but surely sharing with us in the celebration) - and in the corner a lady who has consistently made a point of not being part of the group. Last month, this meant that she left with great dignity and determination as I lit the candles. No problem.
But yesterday she elected to remain, though firmly shielded from any connection with the worship by her magazine. In case I should be under any illusion, one of my regulars told me very firmly
"She's not one of us, you know".
OK. She may not be one of the church group, - but she's definitely one of God's family, even if she doesn't like the connection. So throughout the service she's there, present if not connected. But who knows whether or not she's paying more attention to the words on her page, or the words that surround her in the room?
I'm glad that I've decided to stick with last Sunday's lectionary and speak briefly on the Good Samaritan, using the Tony Campolo story I included in my sermon. Maybe there's a bridge there.
But when it comes to the Communion, I'm stumped.
She is sitting right next to one of the communicants, and it feels so wrong to offer bread and wine to E while ignoring her...but equally, she could not have made her disconnection more evident and short of knocking on her magazine, like a door to door salesman, and saying "Excuse me. Would you like to receive the Body and Blood of your Saviour?" there seems very little I can do.
So I make my round of the group, feeling desperately awkward and uncomfortable.
"What would Jesus do?" I really have no idea,- though I guess there's more than a possibility that his presence would be significantly more attractive than our rather fumbling worship...But "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" - not charge at the door with a battering ram, so I think I had no option really.
After the blessing, I try to engage her in conversation, but it's a one-way street leading nowhere, offering no salve to my feelings as I leave. It's not often that I meet such an apparently deliberate statement of rejection.
Polite indifference, often.
But rarely determined "here I sit" rejection.
I wish I knew what was going on inside her...simple determination not to be moved out of her favourite seat, or a longing despite herself to be connected? God knows, clearly,-so all I can do is pray that my clumsiness will not have hindered the work of the Spirit in her.
I'll be away next month, so WonderfulVicar will lead that service. Perhaps things will be different, or perhaps she'll sit on, as resolute as the dwarves in the stable.