Last week, the leader of our congregation stood at the pulpit at the beginning of the meeting and made an important announcement. The substance of his message was that there have been a lot of car break-ins and thefts occurring in the church parking lot during church services and other church-related activities, and that we should all be careful about what we leave in our cars during meetings.
The best part was when he was trying to introduce the situation delicately. He said something like, "As you know, this church building is located in a neighborhood of Tucson that...(rethinking)...in this area, there are lots of...(rethinking)...well, this neighborhood has its share of problems."
It certainly does. We have to have people sitting out in the foyers during church meetings so that ill-meaning stragglers don't walk in off the street and cause mayhem or worse, steal things (this has happened). There are also members of the congregation assigned in pairs to circle the building during the meetings for similar reasons.
One time, during the third hour of church, when we had split into our men- and women-only meetings, something "interesting" happened. First, you have to understand that the windows in that room face the rear parking lot, and offer their view to the audience facing the teacher. One Sunday, we were quietly having our lesson when I looked out and saw two scruffy men wandering around. They were partially behind the dumpster, which meant that they were out of view of the parking lot (and thus the patrols), but were in full view of us class members. We looked on, mostly in curiosity, as they kicked around and did nothing much. In the meantime, the lesson was proceeding as usual.
But then one of the men - and neither of them looked the picture of health - pitched over and started vomiting violently onto the ground. I think there was an audible gasp from all of us audience members who could see it happen. It was disgusting, but also hilarious because the teacher had no idea what was going on. Eventually, the parking lot patrol caught up with them and had a discussion about other places where they could go, and the men left. But it remains one of the most interesting things that has ever happened at church, at least in my experience, and at least in America.
It's sad that we have to worry about these kinds of issues when we're attending church, of all places. But it is necessary.