Looking around, I hoped to see Claude, the next door neighbor to the Walshes, whom I had invited to attend the services. However, he was nowhere in sight.
Several people stopped by our pew and shook our hands, welcoming me. Apparently they were already acquainted with the Walshes. Before long, Preacher Butler came by and shook hands with us as well.
After the congregation sang several songs, the pastor mounted the steps to the pulpit and proceeded to read the scripture for his sermon.
He chose scripture from the gospels about Peter's denial of Christ, when Peter's courage had failed. He then closed the Scriptures and continued, speaking of the bravery of so many young men fighting and dying to keep our country free from oppression. He spoke of those young men who, either through cowardice or simply choosing not to serve, were fleeing to Canada.
Then he spoke of the price many soldiers paid, either with their deaths at the hands of the enemy or coming back damaged, some seemingly beyond repair. Yet, they returned to vilification by the very people they represented. No heroes welcome for them.
He went on to ask, "Where is our hand of Christian fellowship when it comes to these poor battered souls? Jesus later told Peter to 'feed my sheep', meaning to reach out to the lost and share the Good News with them. Jesus has come to save people from their sins. He has given us the charge to help others, not beat them down farther into the ground. Now, as His people, we must reach out with love and compassion."
He then closed in prayer and a hymn of invitation.
I observed the looks on the faces of the congregation. Some of them looked like they had been pole-axed with a two by four piece of lumber. A few had sour looks on their countenance; the rest simply appeared sorry for past behavior.
On the way out, I thanked Preacher Butler for his thoughtful sermon. He told me he'd been considering it for some time, but my visit had spurred him to take action.
We walked back towards the boarding house, and I stopped once again at Claude's house while the others continued on. Once again, I knocked loudly, calling out his name. No reply came, so I went to the front window again. There on the couch, I could see his profile. He did not appear to have moved at all in the past two hours.
It looked like we might have to call the police once again.
(To be continued)