During my time not working, I’m doing a lot of things I often wished I could do when I was full time employed. One of those things is called verging. It is the act of staying in the church during business hours, so it can remain open. It also allows informal ministry to homeless, as well as people who pop in for a prayer or a look.
There is a formal roster, but I let the convener know I had availability until some unknown time, and would happily fill in should someone be sick or unavailable as a one off. I mentioned this on Sunday, and not ten days later, I’ve been trained and done two shifts! Training is simply a tour and a guide to the keys and where different things are stored. Given I regularly do flowers for the church, and have served refreshments after church, I’m pretty well versed on what is where.
Yesterday, I did an afternoon shift again. I took in my phone, laptop and a magazine. The laptop never left my bag, similar to the first shift. Yesterday’s shift had far more interactions – more people who asked for a sandwich or a coffee. It seems that the homeless know what services are where. Others, come in for some quiet and come to see what’s on offer and when they see they aren’t the only one, are happier to accept the hospitality.
One gentleman, who I’ll call Sam, came in and asked if he could sit in the chairs beside me. I welcomed him. He was of a Catholic faith – our church is Anglo-Catholic, which to me, means we’re Anglican but you’d easily confuse us for Catholic with the details of our church – candles, copes, incense, Hail Marys. Sam admitted to mental health struggles with paranoia, but also indicated he worked in building and labouring and painting. He asked hundreds of questions – really deep, thoughtful questions. Did I believe in Hell? Would this person or that person go to hell? What about people who follow other faiths – do they go to hell? These sorts of conversations I LOVE! I will admit that some of my responses were tempered by the conversations we had around men, whether they were more sinful. I said, they are definitely more violent. We reflected that more men are in prison. So I didn’t want to have a response that I felt might trigger a violent reaction, given his disclosure about his mental health.
I realise that this time off work, it’s been golden. To have these chats. To help the community. To help those closer to me – babysitting for friends. Dropping off excess meals to a friend with a baby. Baking again, and visiting friends. Working out. Enjoying slow coffees. Feeling entirely unhurried in life. But still contributing to my community and my society. It’s quite lovely.