The Rev. J. Randolph Alexander, Jr., Rector
I decided to go to MacDonald’s for a Breakfast treat, (specifically oatmeal, hash browns, and coffee, if that helps to set the context). As I was standing in line I heard the man next to me talking to another man about how his children were preparing for Confirmation (yes, my Mother taught me not to eavesdrop, but they were speaking fairly loudly, so there was no way to avoid listening, especially when I heard the topic!).
The one man seemed very kind, and I could imagine he was a good Dad. He said that his children were preparing for Confirmation now, but then he said, “It’s a good thing I don’t go to Church. My poor wife is having to take care of it, and I think they will stop going after it’s done.” It became pretty clear they were talking specifically about the Roman Catholic Church, as the other guy talked about the struggles of getting an annulment since he had been married before, and the first guy talked about a friend who had recently had a stillborn child, how they wanted the priest to do some sort of blessing of the body, and how the priest didn’t.
I couldn’t decide if I was glad I was in my baseball cap and shorts, rather than a collar, or not. Should I interrupt? And what would I say if I did chime in? Would that be rude beyond belief? Or would it be caring, even loving? Could I say something like, “I’m sorry you have had that experience of Church—it’s not all like that—might you give it another try?” I was a bit angry at this guy, but I was much more angry at the Church, for letting this man and his family down, on some level. And I felt sad for him, profoundly so.
I didn’t interrupt. I decided that might cause further damage. I decided I could pray for this man, though, this man whose name I didn’t know. I prayed that, in God’s time and by whatever means, God’s love and pure delight in him might become known to this man. I prayed for healing in his experience of Church. I offered a short confession for any ways I may have damaged or impaired the experience of Church, or even of God, for others. I prayed that, somehow, this man’s relationship with God could be healed and made manifest in his life.
And I wondered how many there are like him out there. . . hurting, ticked off, distracted, or just plain bored with religion. And I thought of so many of our people who are so giving and loving, to one another and to strangers, who find hope and meaning and purpose in their relationship with God and in our fellowship. How do we connect with more of those many people out there like this man? Might our Anglican branch of the great Christian family speak more to him? Might we be a home he is looking for?
I was only left with some haunting questions. I resolved to trust God’s care, love, and grace for this man, but also to hold this question before us—what more can we be doing to reach out to the many like him, right in our neighborhood? How do we even cross their radar? Will you pray about this with me? And don’t hesitate to interrupt when you hear a conversation like this, if you think it might help. Otherwise, praying is always a precious resource.
See you in Church,