Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Mission of the Mission and Questioning Authority, Part II

[ Part I of this two-part post can be found here.]

Joe Cambridge hasn’t (yet?) put a follow-up fb post online on what happened after his encounter with the Night Manager, but some of what happened has leaked out. So, using that – mission gossip – I’ll tersely report on the last of the Cambridge Caper and wrap up with the usual ramblings and blatherings about my days in the chapel seats.

From what I hear, Cambridge was asked to come to the Mission on Monday afternoon and was shown around the place by higher-ups and others and given the semi-official Mission view of things. He was taken into the New Building, which is where the highest-ups have offices and they and the merely higher-ups congregate and praise God and take care of all the business to keep the Mission operating. All went well. There was kindness and understanding, sweetness and light, and there was an overture for Joe to get his butt into the Mission’s nine-month Rehab Program. It is believed that Joe was negatory to the idea of going into rehab – he being successful on his own at taming what beasts he has -- but at the end of the tour, things were nice, hands were shaken and glad tidings were exchanged.

Sitting for the service

There are always rules about how the guys in the chapel seats are to behave. They have to do with removing one’s hat when the service starts; when it is permissible for a guy to dart to the bathroom; when it is OK to for a guy to address the preacher or otherwise contribute to all that is going on on-stage, in front of us. There are rules about what papers we can have in our lap to look at and how respectful we must be to those church groups that come to address us.

I confess that I think the firm rules (the ‘standard’ ones read to us before the group that’s come is introduced) and those that are mostly just learned as a result of seeing other guys and gals be admonished for bizarre behaviors are reasonable and judicious.

To my mind, it is understandable for the Mission to expect for the folks in the chapel seats to stay awake and listen to the message coming from the night’s preacher and the others who address those who are congregated for the event. After all, the Mission’s prime mission is to save souls and that happens during the service, not during dinner or while guys are showering or asleep. I would rather the sleepy guys didn't get punted, however. It would be best if a very very sleepy guy has a pal sitting beside him to poke him constantly. It is true that a very very sleepy guy with a forearm bruised with pokes won't remember any of the sermon, but at least he will usefully get some of the other mission services -- food; shower; sleep -- that he might greatly benefit from.

Many other guys aren't prone to falling asleep, but are dog tired by 7:30pm when the service starts. Many of us have been up since 6am and have spent our day walking a great many miles. Some of the guys will be exhausted from part-time jobs they have. And yet others of the guys will be pretty drunk or otherwise altered and can barely avoid falling out of their chair.

At one point in a dark patch of my homelessness, I was having trouble being alert for the service. Happily, my money situation began to improve such that a No Doze or Five-Hour-Energy drink in the early afternoon staved off sleepiness nicely until I could get into my dorm bunk bed and hope to lose consciousness as I faded into a blissful dream.

The retard thing

My favorite instance of a homeless guy behaving at odds with the rules in the chapel occurred one night when a preacher began pacing the stage admonishing the congregants for being “a bunch of retards that God couldn’t love.” I don’t think the preacher had anything specific in mind; his message was just an inflamed way of saying that we were responsible for ourselves and we needed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We were undeserving of any charity, blah, blah. We were men; act like it, blah, blah, blah.

A guy in the front row of seats stood up and told the preacher his son was a special-needs pupil and that the word “retard” was hurtful . He said he was sure that God loved his wonderful young son. At this point a bevy of guys in the Rehab Program, who act as ushers and security in the chapel, swarmed on the poor homeless fellow who had dared to speak up to address a preacher. The Night Manager came out and the man was escorted by several people out a side door. [When a guy is taken out a side door, it almost always means the fellow is thought to be rather new and not in full comprehension of the rules. He is just going to be warned, or brought up to speed with rules and requirements.  When, alternately, a fellow is taken out the door behind the chapel seating area, that is likely to mean the fellow is being punted for at least the rest of the night.]

The preacher then, again, launched into the fury of his sermon, lambasting us for being a bunch of retarded losers, undeserving of life, even – much less the protection or attention of God, Almighty! At this point, the side door opened and the Night Manager brought the weary father back in, to his seat. The congregation of dirty, [and worthless, in the words of the preacher] homeless people stood up spontaneously and greeted the father with a round of exuberant applause. [It was a magnificent moment, I thought.]

Later, in the shower dressing area, I told the father how great I thought he was in what he said and how wonderful it was that all the guys stood up and clapped for him. The father was blasé about the matter which disappointed me. I never saw the father again after that.

After that night, that preacher was never heard from again. I don't know, but I am pretty sure mission management called him and told him, politely, that his manner of preaching was not what what the organization felt was appropriate.


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