Madness reigned at The Salvation Army Brunswick today - and God was deeply present. I've never known anywhere else to be quite such a collection of 'the fish John West reject', society's discarded people. I actually sat on the edge of my seat on the platform during the sermon wondering whether I could leap over the holiness table if I needed to suddenly restrain a young man who was off his rocker today. Fortunately Michelle came up with a more subtle solution and went and sat next to the man, her presence seemed to keep his behaviour in check for a while.
Given the sometimes volatile mix of people who are affected by mental illness, drugs, alcohol (or some combination of all three), it is often a good idea to be proactive and defuse situations early on. This can mean that your awareness is often divided between several things going on in the room at any time. It's a challenge but a worthwhile one in my opinion.
I drove a woman home today who is slowly dying before our eyes. She has a chronic addiction to inhaling paint, is now unable to keep any food down in her digestive system and is losing weight at dangerous levels. She is often disruptive to our church services, rude to the staff and other members of the community and almost needs a dedicated cleaner to follow her around. Yet, despite these difficulties she knows that she is cared for by those at The Salvation Army Brunswick. On her best days she will admit to this and express her gratitude. We do the best we can on the other days.
I believe that God is deeply concerned for people like this. I believe that those who want to worship God are challenged to enter into an uncomfortable discipleship that means making friends with those who are otherwise friendless. This is why I believe God's presence was tangible today - because I saw it in action again and again.