By Stan Stewart
(This incident occurred some time ago)
I met a man at a party.
In a busy room, like me, unable to balance a sandwich and a cuppa, we shared a small table.
He asked my age. We were born in the same year.
He told me that in a few years he would die and so would I.
He was nervous about dying.
I said, “I am not”.
He wanted to talk.
He said he had been successful in business. “I have a big house with a great sea view. But, so what! My wonderful wife now has Alzheimer’s and I will die soon.”
How about you?” He asked. I thought he was enquiring about my business life.
I said, “Except for the kindness of a friend, in this country, I am homeless.”
He asked, “What was your work?''
I said, “For 50 years I was a Minister.”
Incredulous, he asked me to list the churches I served and I did.
“I am a Christian,” he said, “But I can’t stand to go to church except on Christmas Day. I go to please my relatives.”
He paused. “I think there is something wrong with churches. They don’t seem to match the God of the Bible or Jesus. What do you think?”
I said, “I agree”.
Surprised, he asked, “How can you say that? You have spent your whole life working for them. And now you don’t believe in them. Don’t you regret that?”
I replied “There are many great people in the church and along with others, I did my best. But in recent years I have grown increasingly uneasy with church politics. I still believe in Jesus; it’s the church organisation which has my unease.”
“Same with me,” he replied.
“In my opinion churches, denominations, want to own Jesus. They want to copyright him and put him in their box.” I said, “All religions do similar things with their god figure.”
He was puzzled.
I was wondering where this conversation was going.
I said, “The world we live in is a miracle, it is spiritual. Everything has a spiritual component.”
He didn’t quite get it.
I continued, “Young people don’t go to church, but many of them are searching for the spiritual.”
He muttered, “Yoga,” mindfulness, meditation - what is that?”
“Some of them sense that this world, the universe, is more than what we can see and touch”. I replied.
Our conversation lapsed.
He finished his coffee. Obviously he was about to leave.
“I have a dog at home. He’ll be waiting for me. He always gives me such an enthusiastic welcome home,” he said.
“That’s great”, I replied.
“Actually, he wants me to take him for a walk, “he continued. “I don’t mind that. My dog calms me down. But” and he paused. “There’s no avoiding the fact we are going to die soon, and that makes me anxious.”
I replied, “For what it’s worth, my sense is there is nothing to be afraid of. I believe the spirit that brought the universe into being is love - and that’s ahead.”
He was sceptical.
“Good to chat” he said.
We exchanged a handshake.
Maybe we will talk again?