Where do you draw the line at christian charity, that of god in others, and safety? As a single woman in this day and age this is a question I have wrestled with before. However, in the last few months I have been presented with several instances where I have had to make those decisions immediately.
I worship with a small group of Friends in the heart of Baltimore's inner-city. One First Day in April, I knew that several of our regular attenders would not be coming to Meeting. It was a weird day were the Evangelical Black Church that meets in the same space as us was having an extra long service. As a result we had to meet in the class room building nearby. I placed a sign on the door of the Meetinghouse, and went to meet with the leader of the NA meeting that was finishing up in the class room building to make sure I knew how to lock up the building. It was a nice cool spring day. I decided to wait outside to make sure anyone coming to meeting would not be confused by the locale change. One of the guys from NA stayed around. He seemed to be carrying on a full-blown conversation with someone only he could see. I had a feeling he and his friends did not have anywhere to go.
I waited outside for about 25 minutes, no one showed. I went into the classroom building to read and optimistically hope someone would show up to worship. The building is older, and has few windows, even fewer people walk by it or come in during the weekend. It is very secluded in its own way. The man from NA came in and sat in the back, I figured he was as cold as I was and he seemed to know I was waiting for other church members. I figured he seemed pretty harmless. We sat in silence, with his occasional mutterings to his friends. Another man entered with some take out food from a chicken place nearby. He made himself comfortable at one of the tables and asked what we were doing. I explained that I was waiting for people from my worship group. He started talking about his divorce, but it was in that way to say, "I am single and you are pretty." It was getting close to an hour of waiting. The man finished his food and began to ask me questions about myself. I continued to talk about the worship group. I was getting increasingly uneasy.
I texted "Elizabeth Bathurst", asking where the line was between christian charity and safety. She replied, "where three are gathered in my name…." but then added that if I was uncomfortable I should leave. Part of me was rather irritated with our regular attenders, no one had showed up and I was alone in a situation such as this. That there is an expectation that since I am "clerk" I have to show up every week and they can show up as they choose. That as a result of this I as now alone in what could be a dangerous situation, though, thus far it was fine.
I decided to ask the guys in the building with me if they wanted to learn more about Quakers and perhaps participate in Worship together. They both said no and both got out of the building pretty fast after that. I had a twinge of guilt for putting the guy from NA out on the street, but I also couldn't just sit there all night.
Maybe this was an opportunity to minister to these men and I did not follow through due to my own fears of being alone with strange men in a secluded building. Does this make me a bad Christian? Or am I a bad Christian, because I decided to go to my favorite bar/restaraunt for dinner and a drink afterward?
This weekend I had the strangest day I had in Baltimore in a long time. I walked by a man twice, we said hi both times. The second time he noticed my tattoo and suddenly we were engaged in a rather deep conversation about spirituality. He was homeless. Though he made a comment about how men with men made him uncomfortable and half of our attenders are gay, I invited him to worship. Should he ever find himself down that way on a Sunday afternoon. He seemed like he wanted to have more discussions about how the spirit manifests. I felt like the cosmos were testing me. However, then he started telling me how he could fall in love with me. Why does it always devolve into that? Kindness is often mistaken as weakness or as sexual invitation.
So now what do I do if he comes to Meeting? And what do I do if I am in a situation where it is just he and I in Meeting? Do I assume that God has my back? How does one tread that line of Christian love and charity, finding that of God in others, and staying safe?