Monday, December 19, 2011

An "Angel" in our midst

I can't believe it's been 6 months since I blogged. No just has happened that way. I hope that this is the re-start of writing more often! But don't hold me to it -- life flies by when you're in the middle of your 6th decade...

Advent is almost over. Christmas is coming in less than a week, and we at St. Paul's have been blessed by an angel -- though I'm sure many of our parishioners have not recognized her as such, and I didn't either, until yesterday. 

During this Advent, St. David's, Austin (my "home" church) has been experiencing some controversy -- in the news: radio, television and the newspaper, due to their unusual steps in attracting the downtown community to Advent: graffiti on the walls outside the church -- not the work of "gangsta" artists, but the work of one of St. David's young members, commissioned by the church. Their "theme" is Light Interrupts-- calling attention to the downtown community that when Christ's light appears, it interrupts our daily life. They have a daily email to go along with the theme, pointing out that God does interrupt our lives in many ways. 

I've been so touched by many of the "Light Interrupts" posts, but today's really got me thinking about what has interrupted me, and turned on the light. A couple of weeks ago I got a phone call at the church from a woman who needed help. I had some money in my discretionary fund and told her to come to the church and I'd see what I could do. It was an interruption in my schedule, but at this time of year, with the economy the way it is, I wanted to help. 

It was obvious that this woman, who called herself "Angel", was not a "normal" person: there were signs of mental instability, if not mental illness. Yet she told me a story that tugged at my heart, so with church funds I paid her electric bill and bought a Walmart gift card to buy food and gas for her car. It's one of the best "perks" I have as being a priest -- being able to make a difference in strangers' lives. 

Most every church has one or more people living with mental disabilities. At St. Paul's, I guess we've been insular, or not blessed, because we haven't had anyone during my tenure that isn't simply your average, every day Christian (though we have been very blessed with having a few really saintly people). Now we have been blessed with Angel. She has been with us each time the doors have been open for worship.

Although she has caused a bit of apprehension with young parents of little ones because she loves babies and wants to touch them (as well as their parents), Angel is harmless and a loving soul. She's quite inappropriate at times, and as a result has interrupted my schedule frequently, but the most wonderful interruption was in Adult Ed yesterday. In our discussion, Angel suddenly raised her hand, asking permission to speak (though she didn't need to ask -- no one else does). She proceeded to explain the Hebrew meanings of our text, and explained the spirit behind what was written! After class, two of our members thanked her for her words. It is obvious that underneath her mental problems, she is quite bright, and has a lot of knowledge.

God interrups our lives in many strange and unexpected ways. Angel (though that is not her "real" name in the sense of the world) has become an angel to our congregation. May she continue to interrupt all our lives at St. Paul's, bringing our compassion to the fore, as she brings her life into our midst.

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