Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday Sabbath (of a sort)

You never know what Friday will bring. For me, it's my sort of day of rest. I say "sort of" simply because it's usually when I finish the sermon for Sunday. Other than that, I stick to non-church stuff as much as I can.

But sometimes I get slapped in the face with something that brings me back 100% to thinking about my work. It may be a pastoral emergency. It may be something happening in the diocese. Or it may be the story I read today about a troubled homeless man who walked into a church in a neighboring diocese and shot the parish administrator and the priest. The administrator is dead, and the priest is in critical condition in the hospital. The alleged perpetrator shot and killed himself nearby after he had shot the two women.

Often, at our church, it is only me and Fantastic Secretary in the building. People come and go as their various activities come up at church. Sometimes we have people in need who show up looking for funds. Sometimes they appear a little scary. After 2 pm each day, if I'm in the building, I'm there alone. Fantastic Secretary locks the front door when she leaves, but I cannot see the front door from my office, so if someone knocks, I get up and go see who it is...and if it isn't the UPS or FedEx guy, it's someone looking for help. And once I'm there checking them out, I can't NOT open the door to them.

It makes me nervous, but I feel like part of the call is to respond to the sometimes scary people who show up at our door, broken by the world or by life or by alcohol or drugs. And even if I am not alone, there is always risk in this work.

I suspect that some of the folks in my parish would prefer that I never let any scary people come in the door, because they might steal something or hurt me or someone else. And if they hear of the story I linked to above, they will be even more inclined to suggest that I never unlock or open the door when I'm alone. I get that they are afraid for me and for the parish, and I want to honor that.

But I also feel like if I'm going to do this work, I have to face the occasional scary moment. Jesus did a whole lot more than that. And of course, it was the supposedly "safe" people who took his life, not the scary people with whom he had dinner and to whom he preached.

I went to a church a couple of years ago that had an intercom system at the door to the office wing. You had to be buzzed in during office hours. Suffice to say, not many scary people got in. But it didn't feel like a place that welcomed people who weren't "like us," either.

I continue to be of two minds about this. I want to be safe, but I want to minister. Where is the balancing point?

Any ideas, friends? What do you do in your church?


Martha Spong said...

When my secretary is alone, she keeps the door locked. We have a doorbell and a note about ringing it. But I am often at church, door unlocked, alone. After hearing this scary story, I wonder about the wisdom of that.

Rev Dr Mom said...

My context sounds very similar to yours. When the buzzer rings after 2pm and I'm not expecting anyone, I try to look out a window if I can and see who is there.

I too am of two minds about this. But safe church guidelines remind us that we need to be cautious about being alone in the building with others for MANY reasons, whether people seem scary or not. So it is a hard call.

I also live right next door, and there have been occasions when people knock on my door looking for assistance. I am even more wary about opening the door under those circumstances, something I also wonder about.

Betsy said...

We used to have an open door approach when one of us was alone in the building. Then one day the rector walked out to the main office and found an unknown man rifling through the secretary's desk drawers. It all turned out okay, but the vestry was very clear that our security needed to change. Now we lock the door when one of us is alone, and we have a buzzer/intercom system. I hate it, but I know it is probably a wise precaution.