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Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree

Simplicity - a message for the church

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Part VIII.

Well, now I was a part of ‘church’,
and felt it wise to go and see
the Annual General Meeting, since
no doubt they’d want to hear from me.
The minister was chairing it,
and after many long reports,
he called on all the members there
to speak whatever filled their thoughts.

A stern old man with reddened face
asked what had happened Sunday last?
The hall, he’d heard, had been in use;
he’d heard of no approval passed
for services of other kinds
than those that weekly carried on;
instead, all kinds of people came -
where had the church decorum gone?

Another rose, and said, if so,
insurance was an issue now;
if, as he’d heard, a hundred came,
this service we must disavow,
because the cost of any claim
would not be met, if fire broke out;
this service was catastrophe;
the church would close, without a doubt.

A third man said, we can’t make plans
when anyone can come and go
to seek our sacred hall each week;
surely the deacons ought to know.
A frowning man in suit and tie,
asked if the drinks were alcoholic;
was any thought of church repairs
referred to those who came to frolic?

Then there were angry shouts, as men
wanted to know, were offerings made?
What were the costs of using chairs?
Shouldn’t a decent rent be paid?
How could these people come and use
the things this church had paid for, yet
pay not a penny into funds
already sinking deep in debt!

The minister then summarised;
“Communion cannot be served.
Only the deacons may approve -
use of the hall must be reserved.
Worship must use the service book;
cost of insurance be defrayed,
rent for the hall at proper rates,
so forty silver coins be paid.”

Pilate and Judas, Caiaphas,
and every voice that shouted loud,
“Barabbas!” were inside that hall,
and so I thus addressed the crowd:
“Will you prevent the children’s praise?
Would you for money seal the death
of this, the church you hold in trust
for God, and those who gave it breath?

For generations, God has turned
his back on you, for utter shame;
the people of the town around
know who has earned disgrace and blame.
And yet, this month, the Saviour called,
his people back once more to win;
but all you cared about was greed,
and making others save your skin.

How will you last one decade more,
without a plan to change your ways?
Who will agree to build your walls,
when you have scorned them many days?
Why should the world owe aught to you,
since faith with all your forebears died?
Though all the words they sang you sing,
the music of your hearts is pride!

Here! From my pocket take the coins
you cherish more than faith or life.
Keep what you stole from those whose lives
were spent in godly toil and strife.
As for Jerusalem, the Lord
knew anguish, that it killed his kind.
So is his Spirit scorned today;
you are blind leaders of the blind!”

I flung the coins, and turned my back;
these people would have killed the Lord.
So out I strode, to sniffs and snorts,
for all the crowd had one accord,
except for two, who followed me;
dear Heather, and that same old man
I met the day I knelt in church,
and asked of God to send a plan.

He said; “I know a hall nearby
that anyone can rent for less.
And what is more, I’ll pay it all
myself, because I must confess
that this is just exactly how
this church began in years of yore;
Its founder left another church,
whose membership disdained the poor.”

Then Heather said, “How much I’ve longed
for anyone to stand against
the empty words and services
that church has many years dispensed.
For children have been raised in faith,
and then required to enter in
to vain religiosity,
that’s nothing more than pomp and sin.”

We’d walked a hundred yards, and there
we stood before an ancient shell,
long boarded up and vandalised;
graffiti bright said ‘eNteR hELL’.
“This was the church from which came those
who just condemned themselves to this,”
our friend said gravely. “What about
that show?” said Heather, with a kiss.

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