Shortly after arriving at Park Avenue UMC, a young man approached Lefty and me as we stood having a chat in the center aisle of the church. I had seen him around, most often at the 9 o’clock Sunday service. One day, he approached the altar as I was sharing the homily and began speaking in a loud deranged manner. I assumed that he might not have been taking his medication and motioned for the custodians to remain close by – just in case. In appearance, he was poorly dressed by most standards; disheveled and my suspicion was that he suffered from some sort of mental illness and was counted among the homeless who sleep on the streets of our city or in a nearby shelter most nights.
At other times, he has appeared to be in total control. He enters the church quietly and sits on the back pew for a while before heading out on his way. One day I saw him offer Lefty an envelope and the two of them started up a lively conversation. It was clear to me that this was one of many and they understood each other perfectly.
Curiosity got the better of me and when the man left, I asked Lefty about him. This is what I learned: His name is Arthur. He has been coming to the church for years. He disappears for a while but when he returns, he always makes out an envelope including his name, address, and a financial contribution of at least $20 or so. I was told that one year he gave over $250.
Needless to say, I was floored. By all appearances, the church should have been giving Arthur money but here he was making his contribution and proudly so. He had found a friend in at least one other person (Lefty) and they had been looking out for one another. Arthur continues to worship with us occasionally and appears to be engaged in the worship service.
It might have been easy to miss Arthur in the whole scheme of things but how honored I am to be his pastor. And what I know for sure is that he is as much as any of us, one of God’s most likely children.
Grace and peace,