Oh, man. What an adventure! One does not expect to have an adventure at church. Maybe a small mishap, such as spilling communion wine, or a bungle, such as mispronouncing part of a reading, but adventures are not expected at all.
Ash Wednesday service at Grace Church is usually a very simple thing. Some readings, some hymns, the priest marks the people’s foreheads with ashes (which is cute, because she’s short and has to reach up), and then Communion. It usually takes about an hour. I took Tirithien with me, because he liked my church when he came up on Christmas Eve, and the evening services are pretty much the only ones he can get to.
We got there almost late, and sat down in the back pew, but it was taking a really long time for the service to start.
One of the altar servers came in and asked if I would watch her purse during the service, and whispered that some strange guy was wandering around in the back of the church. Then she went back out. A little while later, the parish coordinator came in and apologized for starting late, then asked us all for our safety to stay where we were. It was, of course, the “for our safety” part that freaked everyone out. We were all looking around at each other, wondering what was going on and whether or not we should go out and help, regardless of what we’d been instructed.
So some of the choir members there got everyone singing hymns to calm down and distract. Meanwhile, this guy who absolutely reeked of alcohol staggered in and sat down in an empty pew. The service started, and everything seemed normal, until the guy stood up and started mumbling, “I can’t take this, I just can’t take this,” and staggered back out. Two of the men followed him out, and we could hear them all talking loudly through most of the service. As it turned out, the guy had come in WITH A GUN, brandishing it and demanding food!
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had been one of the ones out in the lobby preparing for the service, my instinct would not have been at all to invite the drunken gunman into the service with his gun, but instead to distract him while someone called the cops! He was threatening my friends. This is simply not done. But the church leaders, as far as I know, did not call the cops. I am not sure what happened to the guy. I think he just walked away. One of my friends insisted it was just a toy gun, but another said it was some kind of BB gun or pellet gun—something that could still cause damage at close range.
Needless to say, this was a rather traumatic experience, but at least no one was hurt. It was really the most disturbing church service I’ve ever been to, and it’s an experience I hope I never have to repeat!