On the pilgrim way: Tripped up by prejudice
I have been caught out yet again misjudging someone. William called as a winter afternoon was drawing to a close and I groaned inside. William is a 50-something Irishman from East London who, for the past 20 years, has had a sophisticated begging round, visiting clergy in the centre of my town. Unless too inconvenient, I always invite him in for a cup of tea and wait for the tale of woe – delay in benefit payment, leaking shoes et cetera. He tells a good story, and the discrepancy between my comfortable, fulfilled life and his lonely struggle means I often give him something. This time we sat and had a cup of tea together and, while I knitted, we chatted about this and that – a recent development is that he gets the occasional bit part in films and is interesting on the subject. He finished his tea, got up, wished me well and left. No money changed hands. I think, on reflection, he was calling on an old friend.
My theological prejudices have also recently been shown up. Some years ago, a friend and I started something called Sacred Space in our local church. Twice a month, we dim the lights and set up stations for thanksgiving, confession and intercession and offer a good half hour of silence to ourselves and one or two others from our congregation. For the past year Barbara, from a local, large charismatic Anglican church, has been coming regularly. Recently she told us that she felt God was calling her to set up a large prayer project for the coming months. She and a friend, with support from the alliance of evangelical churches in the town, were going to rent a central office in order to have “24/7 prayer for three months”. We listened politely and went through the motions of informing our church – i.e. a notice at church meeting.
When I got home I bent my husband’s ear with my dislike for this approach to prayer – as if quantity was the point – and also expressed my snobbish dislike of the phrase “24/7”. He quietly commented that he thought “24/7” prayer was something the contemplative religious orders had done for centuries and he thought I rather admired them!
Next Sacred Space, Barbara gave us cards with the website so we could log on and book a slot (day or night!) when we would like to pray there. She said: “It will be creatively set out – I got the idea from coming here.”
This article was published in the February 2013 edition of Reform.