Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Placement: Day Two

Due to my IT incompetence, this wasn't actually posted.....better late than never!

Wow! What a day. I can’t give huge detail about this morning, but it was an eye opening experience. I accompanied the Parish’s Pastoral Assistant on their sick communion round. Our first visit was the eye-opener.

I was told in advance that it might be best not to accept an offer of a drink and that there would be a nasty odour......what that was, I wasn’t prepared for. The door was opened in a fog of cigarette smoke and odour, but I was actually probably quite relieved as I could live with that as it probably disguised a number of other nasty smells. The only way I could describe the dwelling was something out of the reality programmes where one sees the local council go into a home that has been left to decay and people have lived in squalor. I’ve never seen anything like it. That and the three dogs, clearly well looked after, but allowed to use the floor as their toilet.

The invalid to whom we had come to administer to was chatty, but softly spoken and it was an effort to hear and understand. A space was made on the only available clear surface, his wheelchair and the pastoral assistant careful laid out a cloth, candle and the Blessed Sacrament. She passed him the service book and he found from his pouch his rustic cross which he clasped. It had clearly seen some use over the years. He then went into his own meditative space as the prayers began. I observed and prayed with them whilst fending off his very friendly dogs; with one, at one stage relieving itself in the hall.

Communion received, the small make-shift altar was packed away and sweeties doled out to the dogs. We departed, but not before one of them again left a ‘gift’.

I had not seen anything before like it and it shocked me. Here I was face to face with squalor and poverty. Posters of semi-clad young men adorned the bedroom walls. It was a sad state of affairs, but one that I was assured they had lived in for sometime, this couple (gay), who had been together for many years.
Beneath all of this, though, and away from the odour, Christ shone through in the bedridden man. He was a devoted servant of the church and through his sickness he was unable to continue this. He did, apparently get out, but I’m not sure how often. It brought it home to me that it would be Christ that would be more concerned in places like this than the predominantly white, middle class suburbs of my home-town. He was needed much more in this situation. The two elderly gents were welcoming, accepting, friendly and had a smile. If I was in that situation, would I be the same? I can’t say that I would be. There was real emotion in receiving the sacrament, it clearly meant much to him, this visit. I don’t have to do this every week. The church here does and I have immense respect for that faithfully witness to Christ in this community. I struggle with that ministry and I pray that I have the strength for it.

This afternoon we visited the local crematorium and had a ‘back stage’ tour. Absolutely fascinating how things happen behind the closing of the curtain. Saw how everything went on, as well as the humour the team have.
The day ended with my Placement Supervisor and me saying evening prayer together in the quiet of the Lady Chapel in church. A great way to end the working day. 

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