Sanctuary Church – Part Four

This series of posts is my best, brief recollection of the first 24 hours of St. John’s as a sanctuary church after the Michael Brown grand jury decision.  It is a bit jumbled and definitely incomplete, but you will understand why once you read them.

It was sometime around 3:00 AM that Teresa+ stood on a chair and shouted out in her best preaching voice, “I am the Rev. Teresa Danieley, rector of St. John’s!  This is a sanctuary church and I just discovered five busted windows in the children’s section of my church and I am NOT happy!”

The place went quiet and all heads turned her way.  Her face was as red as her hair.   She held her phone up over her head and continued.  “I made a call to Chief Dotson and asked him how we were going to resolve this!  He said he’d pull back the police for 30 minutes if you want to get in your cars and leave!  Now, peaceful people are still welcome here!  But if you want to leave unmolested by the police, you have 30 minutes to call it a night!”

And, slowly, they began to trickle out.  I went outside to the sidewalk steps and, sure enough, there wasn’t a police officer in sight.  There was a tang of tear gas still in the air, but the streets were quiet now, crowds were drifting away, and out of the darkness strolled Susan Nanny+, still in her orange vest, alive and well.  She was greeted with large, long hugs, and escorted to the hall where we got her an even larger, longer cup of coffee.  Her anecdotes of being on the street throughout the night are a book itself, and impossible for me to relate here.  Perhaps she will tell her tale herself, one day.

We cleaned up a lot of broken glass in the Godly Play room and the Nursery.  We did our best to tape plastic over the windows, but they are large windows and the cold wind kept pouring in.  We decided we would be far more effective when we could board them up in the daylight, so we left them for the morning.  I remember seeing shattered glass in a crib as I snapped the lights off in the room.

I have a green button pinned to my pea coat that reads “Feed the Hungry”.  Hunger ministries is the field the bishop wants me to focus on, and I am eager to do so.  In the richest country in the world, we have millions of children that go to bed each night hungry.  There are many kinds of hunger, though, and not all involving food.  In one of the greatest democracies in the world, we have millions of people who go to bed each night oppressed, abused, and disrespected.  They hunger for dignity, justice, and peace.  At the commencement of my vocation as a deacon, I look forward to re-engaging in hunger and food ministries, but perhaps by helping run our sanctuary, I still was serving the hungry.

Sometime about 4:00 AM or so, either I decided that I was done for the day or someone decided for me that I was done for the day (I don’t remember which), and I went home to try and get some sleep.  My dear wife C had called me multiple times throughout the night, checking to make certain I was okay, or grieving over all the scenes on TV – it was obvious that Ferguson was burning.  I arrived home and crashed on the couch about dawn, after being in motion for 23 hours straight.  Yet, my phone rang at 8:30 AM with a phone call from a good friend who rousted me out of a deep sleep: “Hey!  You ok?”

And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


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