Angels in Disguise

As many of you will know, our St Mary’s community are coming to terms with a break in two weeks ago involving theft, minor arson and vandalism within the church building. Church buildings should be places of sanctuary and spiritual homes, and having our buildings disturbed will often disturb us, especially if we have worshiped in a place for many years.

Last Sunday was the first occasion the church met for its usual 9am worship service after the incident. We wanted to acknowledge what had happened, and provide space for emotional responses of anger and fear to be expressed. It was Ascension day too where the focus is on King Jesus who reigns in heaven, praying with and for us, having completed his work on earth, sins forgiven, death defeated. It was a hopeful occasion, a time to remember the bigger story of victory that informs our faith.

In addition, our service was also a chance to pray for the perpetrators, asking God for forgiveness for them (and for ourselves, perhaps, in view of our reactions to them!) and asking that they might be restored and drawn to God, maybe even revisiting St Mary’s for worship one day, rather than for vandalism. Who knows if somehow the person who did this could become an angel in disguise for us?

On the Saturday before the service, I felt it would be nice to have representatives of other Christian communities join us for the service, as a way of reminding ourselves we are not alone: we stand together, connected as one larger worldwide church of Jesus followers. A few from St John’s were there and Rev Elis Matthews, the vicar of St Mary’s, Osterley, kindly agreed to join us for the start of the service. What came as a complete surprise was the presence of yet another member of the clergy from a place called St Mary’s! Rev Jill, a South African, came to the service by chance as she was in Hounslow visiting her niece. Clergy rarely have the time to visit other churches on Sunday mornings. We had not met her before, and may not see her again, and so her presence and prayers felt more than coincidental. She described how she herself was linked to another St Mary’s Christian community. She may have been another angel in disguise, adding to this sense of the support of Christians from the worldwide church, reflecting God’s comfort to us.

David Maclure