Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church – Day 23 – Monday after 4th Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.
In the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, much of the language of its canons has been inherited from the Church of England so, when it comes to the duties of church officers, Canon C29.7(b)V still has the time-honoured phrase that churchwardens are:
…to see to the seating of the congregation, without respect of persons.
I cannot, however, find any reference to allocation of parking spaces! In the Church of England Churchwardens are now simply urged to:
‘use their best endeavours by example and precept to encourage the parishioners in the practice of true religion and to promote unity and peace among them. They shall also maintain order and decency in the church and churchyard, especially during the time of divine service.’ (Canon E1.4)
Which is a more comprehensive role description and may well cover the use of car parks. Mind you car parks can be a useful asset. If you ever need to visit Wembley Stadium do put some money in the coffers of St Michael’s Wembley who rent out their church hall car park on match days…
The Principles of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis exhort members to be ‘ready to accept the lowest place when asked, and to volunteer to take it’ and so I have always found it difficult to get involved in jockeying for position. Life is, I have found more fun at the back of the queue and to have to walk a little further from car to church (or for that matter supermarket) entrance is not onerous and may involve meeting a sister in Christ along the way. If I find myself at the front of the queue I find that I too easily rush to get on with the ‘business of God’ forgetting that much of it happens in the car park and in loitering around the entrance to the church.
In a previous parish one of my curates and I often commented on the perils of leaving the church car park unlocked. Sure as night followed day, jut as we were getting ready to go home or go on to a meeting someone would pull in to the car park to visit a grave, have a look around the church, or just leave their car whilst taking Fido for a walk. It was frustrating at times, but it became part of the ministry of the parish with people and their cars only reluctantly being ‘hurried away’ as a small patch of tarmac became, for a moment, holy ground.
Of course there are practical challenges to leaving car parks (and even churches) open. On one particular day I found myself loading the vicarmobile with a broken child’s trampoline, five treadless tyres and two dead batteries that had been left in the car park as a ‘donation’ to church funds!
It would not be good stewardship of God’s gifts to leave everything everywhere open all the time – but if we can leave some places open some of the time why not do so? However there are ways of keeping a car park or a church safe and yet still extend a welcome to those who may begin by treating the church as a convenience, perhaps then become visitors, and eventually worshippers.
Penny Went is a franciscan friend in Zimbabwe who has a small farmhouse in the Eastern Highlands near Mutare. Her home, called ‘Chokwa’ (the Shona word for truth) has always been open to whoever comes to the door. When visiting there with a large group of other franciscans from South Africa we discovered during the night that Penny had given up not only her own bed to her visitors but also every room of the house. She had seen us all comfortably bedded down and then quietly crept out of her own home to spend the night sleeping outdoors! Penny was incapable of putting any barriers in place, and, having lived through the heat of the civil war, she was sick and tired of barbed wire. I wish I were more like Penny.
St Benedict in his Rule urges his brother monks to, ‘Prefer absolutely nothing to the love of Christ’. Each time we put up a barrier, each time we lock a door for our own convenience, each time we put our name on a pew, we prefer ourselves to Our Beloved because we not only deny strangers entry into our car parks but also refuse Christ entry into our hearts.
O gracious and holy Father, give us
wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Benedict of Nursia
I was once a vicar of a parish in a rural area where it was getting difficult to fill the rota for unlocking and locking the church. A generous minded churchwarden made the suggestion that the church be left permanently unlocked. Which it has been now for over a decade.
- Are there any buildings, facilities, cupboards in your church community that are kept unnecessarily locked? What would it take to unlock them and throw away the key?
- Do you have any personal ‘no go’ areas for other cannot ‘enter’? It is difficult to let others share our Personal space but there may be ways we could consciously, be more ‘ready to accept the lowest place… and to volunteer to take it’
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017