It was 10:55 on Sunday morning and I went upstairs to enter the sanctuary in order to be ready to greet the congregation in a few short minutes. “Did you know there’s a situation in the sanctuary?” someone asked. No, I didn’t, but I soon learned that a dear lady was in the sanctuary grasping the baptismal font for all she was worth. Several ushers were there with her, as was Susan, our Associate Pastor,talking with her.
She insisted she had something to say, but would not speak up to say it. There was movement going on…..people were talking…..she spoke softly, as did those talking with her.
EMT’s arrived. They were as gentle and patient as our ushers. No progress in getting her to move. By now there was a hush in the sanctuary. I think it was a holy hush, filled with silent prayers.
Finally there was nothing to do but force her to move. Thankfully, with a bit of nudging from the EMT’s (a policeman had also arrived) she was placed on the gurney and rolled out quietly and respectfully. As she was rolled up the aisle, she found her voice to speak out, quoting John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…..” Susan reminded us of this at the prayer time later in the service, as we prayed for her and others. She told us the lady’s name is Carolyn.
I was relieved to hear later that her son found her as they were loading her on the ambulance, so felt good knowing she was getting the help she needed and that her family was there for her.
Today (Tuesday) her son came by the church to tell me that he and his mother had recently moved into the neighborhood. He had gone to the store and returned to find, to his horror, that she was gone. As he rushed outside to look for her, he saw the ambulance and concluded rightly that it was for his mother. She is now in the hospital, doing much better, with no memory of what happened.
He said he had come to apologize, and I quickly told him there were no apologies necessary. I thanked him for the update, as we have been wondering about her, and told him that he and his mother are always welcome here.
We say we welcome ALL, and sometimes it’s difficult to live that out. A true welcome is more than a few words uttered with or without feeling. A true welcome adjusts to a person’s circumstances and accepts a person as they are. A true welcome says that even people who don’t look, think, or act just like us are still embraced.
In reality, this dear lady was not all that difficult to “welcome.” She was quiet and non-threatening. She gave us an opportunity, in fact, to practice what we preach. And in the end, just maybe she was a blessing for us, as she called forth prayers, some tears, and reminded us of the all-important truth, “For God so loved the world…..”
I really hope that she and her son will return.