It's been a busy few weeks, especially as last week was half term so I was working double the hours at my other, pizza based job. I'm coming towards the end of a 13 day run without a full day off; the curse of having two jobs with not set hours, I have to consciously remember to have days off. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when I'll finally have time to see Skyfall!
I am settling down in my work a bit now, and am starting to work closer with two projects in particular, the Drop In at Lune Street (Central) Methodist Church Preston, and Comfort Zone at North Shore Methodist Church, Blackpool. These both run along the same lines, they provide food, hot drinks and a place to come together for people who need it. Not all the visitors are rough sleepers; many are sofa-surfing or in really bad accommodation. There is no grilling of who comes in, so long as they don't pose a risk to others they are welcome. I've been helping at the Preston Drop in a few times but this week I did my first Sunday shift. It wasn't that different to the Monday, same visiting faces, though a different group of volunteers, and there was quite a strong Welsh ex-pat group. I really enjoy the work of the Drop In; the volunteers are great, the visitors are a friendly bunch.
The only problem I have is the apparent resentment of a group in the wider church. There seems to be an attitude among some (and I must say, I haven't heard it directly, but it has been commented on by a few different people) that we shouldn't be doing this kind of work. The other week, we came in to find at one of the kitchen tops was slightly damaged. Logic dictates it can't have been us, as it was fine when the Sunday lot had left, and was damaged by the Monday evening. But the Volunteer co-ordinator was ringing around reporting it, conscious that we didn't 'get the blame' as it would only give ammunition to those in the church who were unhappy. And at the end of an evening, we have to make sure everything is spotless and left millimetre perfect where we got it, or voices will complain.
Now I have been involved in the church long enough to be more than aware of church politics, and trying to keep people happy. But when there is a feeling that a group in the congregation (and I'll stress that it is a minority) don't like the fact that we are serving those in need completely baffles me.
Have they missed the part of the Bible where Jesus spends time with the lepers, the poor and those most in need. And in turning our back on them, are we not turning our back on Christ (see Matthew 25: 31-46).
Another thing which I think sums up the attitude of some in the church is at on the first Monday of every month, the Drop In has to move to the church down the road because the Preston Historical Society meeting in Lune Street Methodists. Does that show the underlying priorities of the church?
Does a social group concerned with the past matter more than the group in society who are in need right now? And maybe on a bigger scale, how much of our time in Church Meetings is spent preserving the buildings, traditions and order we have inherited, and how much is focused on serving those around us, the ones in real need?
Post Script: This is quite a negative post, and I know that. I have a much more positive post lined up about my time at the Comfort Zone in Blackpool, but I don't want this post to be the length of War and Peace, so I'll post that in a few days time. But I'll leave you with this picture, that simply made me giggle.