A quiet day?

I had expected a fairly quiet day today at church – it being the first of the weeks of the choir’s summer holiday. As it was, we had two seperate 999 (ie emergency-call) incidents before most of the people had arrived at church.

In the first, someone was found early in the day grasping a the church railings and in a clearly distressed state. On refusing help from an ambulance crew, the police then got involved. And after that, I’ve no idea what happened.

All this was just being explained to me when I arrived at about 9.30 only for a confused person who had been sleeping rough to appear in the church. There was violence and anger in his eyes and when startled he threatened me with his fists. It was one of those incidents in which I was unharmed physically but which shook me up a bit. I’d guess that being physically threatened at one time or another is part of the experience of most clergy though never acceptable behaviour.

This one was a clear case for a fast 999 call. Once again, the police were very helpful and once again, I don’t really know the end of the story.

This kind of thing always makes you think quite a lot about what you are about. St Mary’s aspires to be welcoming for everyone. It isn’t, of course. There are limits to that welcome and violent behaviour is way beyond our limit.

I worked in a college chaplaincy for a while which had the slogan, “Welcoming all who come in peace”. I think that is close to the kind of welcome that we can offer. Generally speaking, I think we can be a welcoming and inclusive church very easily amongst those who do not threaten others. (Some threats are not merely physical, either). Our welcome to those who threaten others is very certainly guarded and clearly partial. That is the way it is, though an uncomfortable truth.

It was then on into the Eucharist, though by this time, several of us at the front had been dealing with difficult things. Thus is was that we started to forget this and that and somewhere the priest’s host ended up on the floor before it was consecrated. It was substituted quietly and professionally by the servers who had also had to substitute a microphone which had been forgotten as nerves were jangled at the beginning.

I’d also forgotten to set the video camera, so I’m afraid you don’t get to hear John Riches’s sermon, which focussed, rather appropriately, on madness and exorcism and which lots of people wanted to talk about afterward.

So, it was one of those naught for your comfort kinds of mornings. Who said religion would be comfortable, eh?