Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Glowing at night - at the Treehouse Hotel

Twas the eve of Palm Sunday.
My friends and I had been in meetings for two and a bit days. We had another day to go.
We were tired and the day had held many serious and deep conversations. We had prayed and worshipped. We had held each other’s stories. We had shared our heart for the nation and the faithful.
We looked for an hour to relax over a quiet drink.

We walked down the hill to the pub. We were in a city area and the pub was reasonably upmarket. Of course, five ministers/pastors walking into a bar sounds like the beginning of a particularly complex joke, but... we did it anyway!

I had been chatting with one of our number and the others had gone straight in to claim a table.
My friend held the door for me and followed in, passing me as the bouncer stopped me for a word.

“You can’t drink that in here”
“I’m sorry - what?”
“It’s policy that you cant have that here”
“I beg your pardon?”
“If it’s going to be a problem you can leave.”
“What problem, I dont understand?”
“You can’t drink that here.”
“Oh - my water bottle?”
“Well - it’s a flask - it could be anything -  and you cant have it here.”
“It’s my water bottle.”
“Is it a problem for you?”
“No, but”
“You can get water at the bar”
“”Yes - but I carry PH water - it’s alkaline”
“If you have a problem, you can leave”

And (to my friends)
“If any of you have a problem, you can leave”

One of my friends starts to get up...
“No” I say “No problem - it’s just a water bottle - if you dont want to test it, I’ll put it in my bag.”

We sit and order a drink and some food.
A great conversation ensues, but not before each of the friends catch my eye to make sure I am ok.
“Nothing we havn’t all dealt with before” I say.

And there it is. I know that each of my ministry friends has had dealings with bouncers. They have each been turned away or picked on or singled out. Does this happen to everyone? Or only those who are Aborighinal or Tongan or their yellow (Chinese) friends?

This was what I will remember of the last Assembly Standing Committee of the 2015-2018 Triennium.

We were not wearing collars, nor high heels and sequins. We were simply a small group of casually dressed quiet people - obviously not partying, simply some friends, seeking a place to enjoy each other’s company. We were bringing in business.

I wondered if the bouncer thought we were undesirables. Then I began to wonder if the ‘white’ bouncer was responding to us being people of colour. It shamed me to even consider the question. Some might suggest I was reading too much into it. I don’t go to bars very often - I would have no idea what a policy about a water bottle involved. It reminded me of some particularly surly welcomers at some worship services!

Lol... It reminded me of a ‘welcomer’ who recently passed away. He had a heart of gold and worked incredibly hard for the church I was once at. But - any congregation is probably going to face some challenges if the ‘welcomer’ is on the spectrum and struggles to relate to anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of who should be let in. May he Rest In Peace and may he find good welcome at the gates of Heaven!

I feel for the bouncer - he missed out on the blessing of my friends. They spent their money and were gold-class clients. No trouble. Just good people.
We have a long way to go as a nation. Now, more than ever, the country needs a multicultural church... not one that pretends racism doesn’t exist, but one that acknowledges that only by walking together can we create a different kind of community foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven.

I cannot begin to explain the respect I feel for my friends. They are heros and heroines in my eyes. They bear the slander and shame of racism with the Passion of Christ. They laugh and joke and share a drink at the end of long complex days, knowing it is easier to walk away. They offer companionship on a pilgrimage of faith. They sing loud and dance (when others do not). I love my faith friends.

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