‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…’ Lords Prayer (early version)
I still had one Jesus Army flyer left. Light-headed by now from the appropriateness of what I was encountering to my own personal story, I moved down through the backstreets and into another small square, where there was a mini salsa festival going on. I danced for a while among the crowd – aware of dancing as one of my favourite free gifts ever. Then I popped into a pub with my flyer in hand, where a crowd of relatively tanked up and meaty football fans intently watching a match swung round to look at me and my Jesus Army flyer. That morning I had seen a crowd of Liverpool fans on the station platform at Lewes where I live, and I asked them who had won the match. ‘Game was on Wednesday, love, they’re probably still down there robbing!” They asked me if I was a time traveller and did I want a drink? If not, I had better get back in my tardis, then. Ok. I left, sheepishly deciding against trying to gift the flyer to them as a goal seemed on the verge of being scored..
I found a café inside a mall, at this point really wishing the whole thing could be over. I was tired. In the table in front of me was a plastic stand-up menu holder. The size of the holder was the exact size of the Jesus Army flyer, so I slipped it in on top of the menu, leaving it was as a ‘gift’ for someone who wouldn’t know it. All done, I thought.
Heading back towards the Bluecoat, I came across a very angry-sounding fundamentalist Christian on a megaphone challenging anyone who would listen to repent.. Behind him, a young Philippino guy stood with the PA and ‘Repent Now!’ poster, incongruently beaming at me as if welcoming me to Disneyland.
Two young guys started a conversation with the megaphone guy, challenging him on just about everything he had to say. I felt compelled to join in. They were arguing him about the concept of sin, with which I personally have a huge problem. In the face of some of the other encounters I had had, especially outside Northern Rock and the Jesus Army earlier, it seemed relevant, if futile to engage in the current discussion as to why he thought that a child who had been raped and hadn’t repented their sins would go to hell but those who had raped her and had repented wouldn’t. But kind of in keeping with what was coming up. We stood there for about 20 mins arguing vociferously but playfully with him, then I swung round, and there stood a stray member of the Jesus Army, beaming at me. She told me she had noticed me earlier in the procession and wanted to talk to me about her community, which was a lot more forgiving than this man’s version of her faith. I had all kinds of thoughts spinning in my head around debt, sin, repentance, guilt and shame… and I poured some of these out, conceding that her version of the Christian faith seemed bit softer than the megaphone mans, as I really found the idea of being born with sin and burned in hell if I didn’t repent just beyond anything I could accept these days. She smiled sweetly at me, telling me that yes the JA are into love and joy and community, but that the Bible DOES say that the wages of sin ARE death, and would I like to come to one of their gatherings? I declined with a smile and said I had a 5pm deadline, hastily accepting her card and heading into the Bluecoat. I still have the card to this day, so not all gifts were circulated!. I think I was at that point saturated but had been given more than enough clues as to the direction of the work:
Gift, debt, sin, guilt, absolution, payback, here were the headlines of the work I knew I had to now develop over the next month.