The Neighborhood Sanctuary


I knew it wasn’t going to be a normal Sunday because he wasn’t wearing a shirt. 

He looked like he was wearing it on his head tied into a do-rag. He was clearly agitated and it looked like he had been running.

“Is this like a church?” He said.

“Yes, we’re a church” I told him.

“Do you have a shirt I can use?”

I remembered that we kept some clothes backstage for people who wanted to spontaneously get baptized, but apparently not many people want to do that, or they are  fully prepared for the immersion so we have a bin full of unused shirts. I told him to wait for me but he followed me down the hallway and backstage. It made me feel a little precarious based on the style of his entrance and his appearance but I went with it.

“What size would you like?” I said like I had prepared for just such an occasion.

“A large if you got it.”

I did.

He slipped on the black shirt and exhaled as he relaxed into the backstage couch. He asked for some water and I gave him some. We walked back down the hallway and he asked me if we could speak in private. I said that we could. 

Probably against his better judgement He told me that, first, he had done nothing wrong but the police were looking for him and there was a dead body in his house. Then he told me that he wanted to turn himself in but he was coming down off of heroin and he wanted to know if there was anyone who could drive him to a methadone clinic where he could get treated first and then call the police. I asked if he was hungry. While He ate a bagel, I looked for someone who would be willing to take the risk. 

I’ve learned that, many times, situations like this are not always what they seem. There is no way to know who this person really is and what the actual truth of the situation might be. Just how dangerous is he? What does he really want? Do I need to worry about the safety of the people in the church? Will I, in some way, need to protect them from him? As I usually do, I create a story around him from these questions...

By the way, there was a moose in my neighborhood this morning. 

Crazy right? A moose! Who knows how he got there. He wasn’t supposed to be there... only two blocks from my house. He should have been “out there” in “the wild.” He must have been running for a long time. He was big and scared and dangerous. The police where trying to isolate him to one street because Emerald Elementary school was a few blocks away and everyone one knows that moose and children don’t mix. 

I watched news footage of him frantically looking for an exit or some kind of sanctuary as he was surrounded by a bunch of people who didn’t really know how to help him. My neighbors pulled out their phones and cameras and shot at him. This, of course, only frightened him more. He was scared to death to be there. I’m sure it was the last place he thought he’d be... but there he was. Practically on my doorstep hounded by police and spectators making up stories about where he came from and how he got there. There he was desperate and in need of a little assistance... maybe even a lift to a methadone clinic.

I asked one of our most faithful church volunteers Paul if he could help me find a way to help Chris. We reviewed the story again with Chris and Paul agreed to drive him to the clinic if someone else would go with him. I asked Nanci and she asked Dave. I shook hands with Chris and told him we were praying for him as he walked to Paul’s truck with Dave. 

During the middle ages criminals could find protection by running inside the walls of a church. The tradition was called claiming “sanctuary.” 

Chris Made it to the clinic at Denver Health ok.

They tranquilized the moose.