Dear Inner Circle,
In the middle of our busy café recently, I saw a woman who had clearly spotted
me and waved for me to come to her. She had the worst black eye that
I've ever seen. The swelling had shut the eye and I wouldn't be surprised
if the bone around the eye socket and the cheek bone was fractured.
She asked me to put my hand on her face. I was surprised by the
request and it felt a bit awkward. I guess prayer always feels awkward.
I put my hand on this poor face as gently as I could and she put her
hand on top of mine. I quietly uttered the words of Isaiah 43,
"Fear not, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and
you are mine. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you.
When you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you...
For I am the Lord your God the Holy One... and you are precious
and honoured in my sight and I love you." This must have looked a
bit odd but no one in the busy cafe seemed to notice us. She then said,
"Can you put your hand over this wound?" She pulled back her blouse
to reveal a dreadful wound. She had been stabbed and clearly the knife
had penetrated through to the bone. As gently as I could I cupped my
hand over the wound and she placed her hand on top of mine.
By now this was getting a bit much for me and I started to talk
about the need to report the incident to the police and the risk of
infection and the need for medical attention. She was way ahead of me
and clearly intended the hospital as her next place to call. I sat down so
that we could have face to face contact and we talked. I haven't the slightest idea
how long this incident took because it seemed like time had stopped and, for a
while, we touched eternity. The woman knew her urgent need of medical
attention but she wanted to first reassure herself that she still had a soul.
As she left, I felt my own faith was the size of a pea and that I'd been in
the company of a saint.
Yesterday, I celebrated with a man that used to be a street drinker. He told me how
he had seen the new year in without a drink and how for the first time in his life,
he entered January 1st sober and with no regrets. We did a little metaphorical
dance around the table. I know people get excited by the cricket but there
has never been a "6" hit like this one. We not only celebrated the achievement
of January 1st but in an odd way we both knew that we shared together
somehow in the new life that was present in the room.
In the break, I did a funeral and as usual I invited people to share their
memories of the departed person. The first speaker said something like,
"Some of you low lives have been accusing me of killing this person..."
The undertaker at the back of the room looked at me with a stare that said,
"See if you can save this!" Thankfully, we got through it well and afterward
everyone came to the coffee shop at the cemetery. After lots of coffee and
discussion, everyone was forgiving one another for hurtful words that had
been said from shock and grief. It turned out to be a lovely funeral.
Our Christmas Day was a hoot this year. Genuinely life-changing events
are just that, events; they happen; they are done. It isn't the philosophers
or the theologians or anyone lost in reflection of any spiritual variety
that changes the world. Many who believe the "right stuff" make no
contribution to the world and many who believe the "wrong stuff" are a
sweet gift to the world. Our Christmas Day Street Party was a massive
effort on the part of hundreds and for those who had eyes to see, the achievement
was massive. Street people were dancing in the street together with some of their
well-heeled neighbours; the distinctions of good and bad, well and unwell,
housed and homeless, saved and lost all evaporated in an event where we
were, for a while, a community with "no us and them". You can see some photos
I know many of you will still be on holidays but I'm here and we're working and
there's plenty of action, so why not send off a note!
I wish you all a happy, fruitful new year,
Thanks for being part of our inner circle,
Rev Graham Long
The Wayside Chapel
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