Yesterday I had a gentlerday. I drove to Invercargill, had a chat with a prospective ordinand, talked to a parish about a prospective new ministry arrangement, talked to a techie about a prospective change to the diocesan website and drove home again. In between chats I visited the soup kitchen at St. Johns.
Every Friday between 11 am and about 1 pm over 100 people drop into the old hall at St. John's Church in the main street of Invercargill. They are seated comfortably and given a free bowl of very good soup (yesterday: vegetable or pea and ham) a couple of bits of toast and a cup of tea. A small group of parishioners make the soup, serve it and clean up afterwards and some of them are, not to put too fine a point on it, not exactly spring chickens. They do it because, as in any other city, Invercargill has its share of vulnerable people and the regular as clockwork ration of nutritious food and a comfy place to sit for a while provides a little anchor point in the day for them. It is a safe place. A harbour for those who are more than usually storm whipped. I sat and ate my vegetable soup and toast with a young woman who could not make eye contact with me. There was a group of aged bikers covered in tats and a young man I guessed to be the victim of brain injury. A friendly bloke about my age seemed to be there as much for the company as the food. The staff seemed to know them all, and engaged in familiar banter as well as the occasional more significant conversation. It was hard work for them as they served these fellow children of God. "go forth from this place and preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words" is a quote whose provenance I don't know but whose fulfillment I saw being lived out yesterday.