I had an amazing experience yesterday. This pioneering stuff, being in the community and waiting does strangely take a lot of effort. I certainly have not prayed so much in my whole life. Before you think that’s super spiritual of me …. it’s not; I mean … what else can you do when you are sit alone for most of the time in a pub in the morning! As I gaze out the window, or look around the pub I pray and ask God to show me what he wants me to see.
Yesterday I bought my coffee as normal and was invited to sit with a group of the guys that are regulars in the pub. I sat and as others turned up who normally sit there they joined us and we had a great time just talking about ‘stuff’. I am not sure what I was expecting but I was very conscious of the fact that some of the regulars may be put off by me sitting with them and although surprised to see me there seemed more comfortable than I felt.
We chatted for about an hour and a bit before it seemed right for me to move on.
After 10 months is this a small step towards acceptance? It’s interesting as I have been praying for weeks to be invited in and had almost started to think it might never happen, and so I was pretty surprised yesterday by the simply way the invite came.
Does this mean people are starting to feel more confident, will the invite come again or was this a simple one off to see what would happen? I can’t answer any of those questions and I am not entirely sure what to do later today (when in about an hour to be exact) when I return. I guess I will have to play things by ear and see what seems and feels to be the right thing to do. In fact it strikes me that the questions are unimportant; this happened and God was working through it in some way. If God is in control he sorted this in some way and God will do the same again at the right time.
In my mind this is a significant step towards building relationships but it is interesting to note how long this has taken. I started at the beginning of September visiting this place nearly every day and we are now at the beginning of June. Ten months is a long time; building genuine authentic relationships cannot be rushed, it takes time to just start to be accepted by the community.
I say ‘start to be accepted’ because I am under no illusions that yesterday equates with acceptance. There were uncomfortable silences. Whether I like it or not I am seen as different because I am ordained and for this group of people that is so far removed from their reality (as it is for most people in our society). Most people in our society do not come into contact with clergy people – and this group have to see me nearly every day! It’s entirely possible, in fact probable, that today will be very different and I will go back to normal to sitting alone and waiting for the next invite.
A big question I have here is how do I seek to serve as Christ would serve in this environment. I don’t feel I’m here to build church, or to convert people or anything like that. That is all God’s work as it is only God that can achieve those things. What does loving service look like in this setting? How can I be good news in this environment? How can I help people to encounter the amazing generosity of God. In short, how do we focus on the Kingdom of God here and create the space for that Kingdom to be noticed?