The wind howled hungrily, lifting the curtain of rain until it billowed in its side long fall.

Each drop stung with a needle-point of ice.

He had been here before and knew of a church nearby. There would be company, shelter, a hot drink perhaps even something to eat. As he approached, the darkness surprised him; it surrounded the church like a cloud deeper than a mere lack of light. A broken fence and missing gate allowed him to move around the property easily but grimy windows prevented him from seeing inside.

His coat was inadequate for this weather, the holes in his shoes let more water in than they let out. Moving to the house next door he knocked. Somewhere from within a voice called out in unfriendly suspicion,

“ Who’s there”

“ A traveller, without shelter, can you help me?”

“ Go away.” the reply came fast like  a poison dart.

Moving to the house on the other side he knocked several times each time louder than the last. But his knock could not be heard above the television playing endlessly from within.

Turning again to the cold night he retraced his steps to the back of the church property. Trying a door that rattled against the wind he tested the lock. It held strongly. Further round he found a window not quite closed. As he lifted it enough to squeeze through he paused momentarily,

“ Is it illegal to break into God’s house?”

“Perhaps not, if it really is God‘s House…” came the thought in reply.

The blast of cold air scattered papers across the floor. He had trouble collecting them because the room was cluttered with furniture and other bits and pieces. He moved a few things so he could sit comfortably and by the light of a nearby street lamp he glanced at the papers. The notice was a call for volunteers from the congregation to sign up to run a soup van in the city. It was void of signatures: the unanswered call had gone out 6 months before.

It didn’t take long to find the church minutes book, on a shelf nearby. There was a trail of disappointment recorded there. Two years before, the pastor had been reduced to a part time wage, even so it looks as if he came up with lots of ideas to build the community;  a trivial pursuit night… cancelled through lack of interest, food bank, neighbourhood lunches and fellowship teas…all cancelled …through lack of interest.

Then came letters of complaint, church members complaining about the pastor,  ‘he’s disturbing the peace’, ‘changing things too much’, ‘taking over’, ‘pestering with new ideas’ and the final accusation ‘he is unable to gauge the needs and interests of the congregation’.

Moving through the sanctuary he saw no banners, no tapestries or art work, no children’s drawings, flowers or candles, instruments or music stands. The paintwork was dismal, he could almost hear the groans of the lonely and broken-hearted who might have been made welcome there.

He left before the sun had fully risen. Down the road he found shelter, warmth and company at a popular burger restaurant that stayed open all night. The restaurant was bright, light and certainly not empty. As he approached he could see a group of young people all the worse from a night out clubbing. He sipped his hot drink and watched as one of the young men just made it outside in time to empty his stomach before falling on his face in the bushes. This was not pure or innocent laughter. His friends bundled him into a cab and they dispersed into the rosy dawn.

The Traveller decided to return to the church for the Sunday Morning services. As he approached the empty street was a forewarning. Not totally surprised then when he saw the amendment to the faded timetable beside the closed doors.

It read  ‘CLOSED’

A great sorrow welled up within him as he gently whispered the truth behind the closure…

‘… through lack of interest.’

Words © Denise Stanford 1999

Matthew 25 v 31-46

1 John 3 v 11-24


~ by Denise Within the Vine on 20/01/2012.

2 Responses to “Traveller”

  1. Hello Denise,
    I don’t know what to say. This is a such sad story. A town with no hope; people with no hope. A good lesson for us all.
    Blessings Gail

  2. Sadly there are churches that struggle on, failing because they forget it is God’s church… not theirs… He needs to be first not their programs or plans. His appointed servants respected. His Holy Spirit made welcome, honoured, acknowledged…working to bring in those outside, rather than just for the comfort of those within. x D

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