So, Saturday night I attended the retirement meeting of two officers in the city. I headed off early to the meeting basically because I thought it would be hard to get a seat…
although, thinking about it, if it people were having to stand I’d have offered my seat….anyway…
…so, there is no traffic on the way to the meeting, and I’m an hour early. Had a bit of a drive round the community of Easton (if thats what its called) and quickly noticed that this place is well dark. Sex shops, cultic shops, strange pubs, full of high rise flats, generally sort of messy inner city place. Plus, the place is heaving with enthnic minorities.
Decide to get out the car and have a walk round in the dark, although feeling quite safe considering I’m all sallied up. Can’t remember the street I was in, but as I walked past a particular building, I had a picture come to my mind of a woman. She was young, pretty, dressed up. She was sitting in a toilet cubicle and she was crying, her face was stained with tears, she had black rings round her eyes. So, stopped where I was, laid hands on the building, prayed for the woman or whoever she represented, who may or may not have been in the building, and then went on.
So, got to the end of the road, crossed over and got up the other side. Feeling the oppression of this community pretty much now as I wander along praying in the Spirit. I notice that as I get back to the car that I’m actually praying quite loud and people are looking at me. I just smile as if its a normal thing to do…I am wearing a Salvation Army uniform after all.
An hour later, I’m in a packed Salvation Army hall…the one that is in this area. I look around me. Firslty, I’m struck by all the incongruent cars in the car park…very posh for this area. Secondly, I’m noticing the amount of white faces in the hall…certainly not representative of the community. Thirdly, of perhaps 400 people, I can only find one man who looks as if he is a local…he is wearing a trench coat and is pretty dirty and smell. He isn’t too interested in the meeting, he is wearing headphones.
A songster comes up to me and says “I love your tunic Captain, very Army” (I’m in my high collar you understand), and I say “thank you sister.” Next, the above mentioned local man walks past, heading for the side door. The sister says: “Oh, we better watch him…he’s only here for the food you know.” I say to her, rather sarcastically I’m afraid, “Oh, thats very Army!” I don’t think she got the irony. Bless her.
Its near the end of the meeting and Mr Trenchcoat has got up and gravitated towards the side door again, and is standing behind the band. Maybe about 40 in the band, they are pretty good although the back row of cornets seem to be getting upset about the stench of Mr Trenchcoat.
Anyway, we move to the after-meeting eats, and Mr Trenchcoat is no-where to be found. I’m sure he was looking for eats, but it appears to me that either he’s been given a doggy bag to take away with him or he has just been told to leave…I hope not. In any case, I doubt the he would have been made feel welcome and accepted.
I think to myself, as I have often done when in these situations, there goes Jesus again, turning up as usual. You know…standing at the back of the band by the side door, rather smelly, seeing who might care for his needs.
“I was at the meeting in my trenchcoat and you ignored me. Lord, when did you come to the meeting in your trenchcoat? What ever you do for the least…” (Matthew 25:35, my paraphrase).