Thursday, 12 September 2013

Ministry in retirement with homeless people - and sadness

I am privileged to be the Chaplain at Resurrection House, a day shelter for homeless people on Sarasota FL..

There we offer laundry service, showers, clothing, some food, a medical clinic, counseling etc. Mostly we offer a place of shelter out of the heat of the day for those who have no fixed address and wander Sarasota's unfriendly streets.

I am there every Wednesday morning for a simple prayer service.  It's a quiet time. I do not preach, but we try to meditate on a verse or two from Holy Scripture. Those who attend can also light a candle on the Altar Table, and pray their concerns silently or aloud.

There were but four worshipers yesterday (including me).

There was "Becky" (not her real name) who is a rocker.  She sits down and rocks her upper body up and down, up and down.  When she prays she recites a lot of Scripture which she knows by heart. She is especially fond of praying to "Jehovah Jireh"  (the Lord will provide).

"Dawn" is a regular at the prayer service. She cries a lot.

Dawn  has a boyfriend named "Tom".  He is a 60 something man, short and muscular. He always wears a bandana, and he has a long shaggy and handsome grey beard. (American readers would see him as a Vietnam era "biker").

Tom is a devout Roman Catholic. He is always delighted when at the end of the service I pray the "Hail Mary"..

Yesterday, Tom was unusually pugnacious and talkative. He reeked of alcohol and was scarcely coherent.

After service I told Tom that it made me sad that he was intoxicated by 10:30 a.m. I expressed a hope that he could become sober.   He told me that he had had only one beer. (So many drunken persons have had only one or two beers!).

Tom  said that "if I did not want him to attend the service then .............(insert your own words).

I countered that indeed I welcome him, but that I was so sad that he had had so much to drink.

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After service I chatted to some Res House staff about this. They were "gob-smacked" since Res. House had just fronted the money for Tom to be in an Alcohol Rehab. facility.

And so it goes.

Please pray that I will follow Jesus by caring for the lost sheep more than I care for religion.

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By  god-incidence my friend and former colleague Jane Dunning posted this on her Facebook page today:

 I remember Desmond Tutu preaching at his daughter's ordination here in the diocese. He talked about the shepherd and the one sheep who wandered off. He said it wouldn't be the little lamb we saw in Sunday school pictures, and it wouldn't be the gentle ewe who would stay with her flock... No... the shepherd would seek out and find the smelly nasty mucky smelling old ram, the one with the nasty fleece, tangled with weeds and stained with urine, who wandered off who knows where. The shepherd would find that sheep, the one most likely to fight him all the way, and carry that one lovingly home.


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Thanks Jane!  Your memory of Bishop Tutu's sermon helped me to make sense of my ministry at Res. House.

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