Little Malvern Priory
(Church of England)

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I was a stranger

 

The snow was falling thickly and quickly.  The ‘phone came alive as 9.00 O’clock struck.

“Are we going to cancel the service?  The snow is quite thick here.”

“No.  It is supposed to be turning to rain.  I will go to the church in case anyone turns up.”

Another call:  “The snow is quite thick should I come?”

“No.  Stay put.  It’s not worth the risk.  We may have problems with the car Park.”

“If you get stuck I’ll walk over with a shovel and dig you out.”

Every 30 seconds I kept looking at the weather, willing it to change.  “Why do you have to do this, God, on your day?”

We set off early.  The roads were heavy with snowy slush.  The temperature was 0.5 0C.Now  there was more rain in the snow.  There was already a car in the car park when we arrived.  The organist and her husband were sitting, waiting.  We set off along the path leaving them to follow.  There were footprints on the path, almost hidden by snow.  Whoever had come had arrived quite early and as there was only one set leading towards the church they must still be in the church.

There was no-one in the porch and no lights were on.  In the nave though was the owner of the footprints.  He was huddled against the radiator.  I’ll call him Adam.  That’s not his real name but it seems rather appropriate.  He’d been living with his girlfriend in Tewkesbury.  They had fallen out.  He’d taken his belongings to some friends and then set off to walk to Worcester where he hoped to find shelter through the British Legion.  Adam had been in the army for 12 years and so he was hoping they would help him.  He’d spent the night sleeping under a bridge.  The temperature would have dropped to around freezing.  He had no map and was unfamiliar with the area. 

As he continued his trek to Worcester he made a mistake and found himself heading for Little Malvern.  He saw the church and prayed it would be open.  Not only was it open but the heating was on.  He made himself a cup of coffee and settled himself against a radiator to dry and thaw out.

We started to acquire a congregation.  Two 90 year olds arrived and a couple in their 80s.  Someone else who had traveled from some distance away.  We learned that there was no snow in Upton upon Severn.    We gathered in the monks stalls and managed to sing the Epiphany hymn “Brightest and best of the sons of the morning”.  Well, we needed cheering up and we had an organist and the organ was now working again, so why not?  Outside the rain was falling onto the snow and the sky was darkened by the heavy cloud.  We shared our Holy Communion and Adam sat against his radiator getting warm and dry.  His faith, he said, was non-existent.  He did not believe but then he did not disbelieve.  We gave him another cup of coffee.  Someone passed him £10.  We took Adam to Worcester. There was no snow around Worcester.  It had been Malvern’s turn to be blest with it. 

A very nice young lady at the Maggs Centre for the homeless agreed to look after him. 

Adam’s presence for our service was a blessing.  He gave us an opportunity to express our faith in real terms.  What the service meant to him we will probably never know.  In mediaeval times a congregation would participate in a service simply by being there and watching. 

Perhaps that was what it was for Adam.  Before he left he said “Thank you for your friendship.  None of you judged me or made me feel that I was in the way or wasn’t wanted.”  We may never know the rest of Adam’s story.  That doesn’t matter.  He gave us so much just in the short time we spent together.

We were only a handful in number and much older than Adam. We had very little to offer him but we shared with him what we had.

 

God teaches us so much though through experiences like this.  They prompt us to think about the lad with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, the widow who gave so much through giving so little and the two men who were walking from Jerusalem just after the Crucifixion and asked Jesus to stay and share a meal with them.  So God took our bread, broke it, blest it and shared it.

 I suspect that none of us will forget that Holy Communion.

Thank you Adam.                                                                                                                          Eric

 

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