For many years, a dozen or so panes of glass on the east side of the chapel at Austin Seminary were noticeably different. Tall, opaque glass windows bathed the chapel in light. Each individual window was composed of six inch by six inch squares of glass. The glass had aged since the building’s construction and the milkiness of the glass had increased, except for the new panes that dotted the wall of light.
It was hard not to notice the difference, especially if the chapel services got boring and your mind and gaze drifted. Through three years of seminary, I had not heard the story of how the glass was damaged until nearly the last service I attended there. Apparently, a few years before I got to seminary, a homeless man came in the middle of the night and threw rocks at the chapel. A passerby stopped him and called the police. The seminary would not allow any charges to be filled against the man, and later that day a worker came to fix the glass. None of the glass they could find matched the glass that was installed, so for years the differing glass was a reminder of the night the homeless man threw rocks at the church.
I have always wondered why he did that? Was he mad at the seminary or the church or God? Was he drunk one night or in the middle of some sort of mental break down? Was this the only church he defaced?
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has always been a crossroads kind of place for seminary students, but also for the Austin community and the homeless community that calls Austin home. All of them move like ants across the web of sidewalks and roads that cover the campus. It is an amazing meshing of worlds at particular times during the day. It can also be instructional if we listen.
What would a passerby or a neighbor say about your church or ministry if we asked them? Would they even notice the church building as they walked or drove by? More than that, would we know why they were throwing rocks at us if they stopped to break out a window? Too many times in the church, we dismiss criticism or fail to hear it constructively. In doing so, we tend to fail to hear the true needs of the people in the community around us. What are they saying? Are you listening?
Rev. Tim Blodgett