Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome


Peter is a car guard/traffic co-ordinator in the road outside of my office.
He used to work on the mines with Joe. He has also worked on oil rigs as a machine operator, and in his younger days he restored old cars. He has a daughter in a nearby town, which has been fostered by a caring family. He tells of how he once travelled to this town and sat across the road from her home to catch a glimpse of her. He did not want her to see him because he was ashamed of being on the streets.
He has been looking after traffic for about 5 years. And for four of those years he has slept in the front garden of the church at night. Many of these nights has seen him raging drunk by 8pm. He has destroyed our plants. He has used the garden as a toilet and our drains as a storage place for his clothes.

Now Peter wants to clean up his life. He met Beverly, who has managed to bring him closer to sobriety. They have been attending the early morning Sunday service for about six months. They sit right at the back, so as to be anonymous. More recently they took a small step out of the shadows: they asked if I meant what I said at the beginning of Holy Communion. I was blank: “What did I say?” “That all are welcome to Communion”. I replied that this is the place to discover the welcome of God. It is part of our mission statement that we are a “church for all people”. And so they have been coming forward for Communion....with great hesitation and gratitude for being able to participate in something that has deep spiritual significance for them.
Peter does not rage as he used to. Do not misunderstand me: Peter still struggles with alcohol. And I doubt that there are any days that he is able to avoid it completely. But he is much calmer.

Tonight he arrived at an orientation evening that welcomes new members. He and Beverly want to join the church. He was not entirely sober. But he had showered and was dressed in clean clothes. He told the group that he has landed up on the street, and wants to change his life. And that this church was helping him to do it.
The thing that encouraged me – was the way the other new members accepted him. I do not want to chalk him up as a victory (or carve a notch on my Bible for another conquered soul). But I do ask your prayers for someone who struggles very hard against the things that tie him in knots. And who sometimes wins.

3 comments:

Paddy said...

There's a song in Church Hymnary 4 (as used in Iona Abbey and available from our shop...) entitled "All are welcome". Unfortunately it is over-used in our Saturday night 'Welcome' service, but the sentiment is there!

becky said...

this is a great post. a church with open arms

becky

bugs said...

'I have a dream...'
How awsome it would be if someday the church as a whole could say: "all are welcome" ...and actually mean it.

Thanks Pete