Ten minutes after the others, Father Pat arrived. The greetings had all been made and the formalized, friendly handshakes had all been given.
Each of the men had taken their usual seats in the small circle, ready to start. It was Pastor John’s turn to host the meeting and the curt edge to his voice belied the polite words.
“Thanks for coming gentlemen, let’s pray, shall we? Heavenly Father, we come before you again this week and ask for unity of the brethren in this city, where you have placed us.” The words, prayed so often flowed like oil from his lips.
A short pause, then Reverend Billings took up his turn. “Yes Lord, you know the need in this city for unity. There has been so much friction that only you can bring peace.” He seemed well enough pleased with his contribution and left it rest at that.
After each man had prayed his usual prayer, they chatted together and talked of the weather, the despair of some of the locals at the ongoing drought and the difficulties surrounding some of the teenagers on the streets. Then they went their own way.
Every Tuesday evening, these six men of the cloth had come together, for years now and prayed for unity in their city.
“Oh, Pastor, did you hear about the Ronaldson boy?” Mrs. Phillips enquired.
“What’s he been up to this time?” Pastor John asked.
“Same old, same old,” she continued. “Joy riding in his mother’s car and put an almighty dent in the passenger door.”
“If Ron Billing was the strong leader he tells everyone he is, that family would not be doing the things they are. It is a terrible witness to non believers.” He responded to her nodding approval. “They should be looking a little closer to home to be sorting out some of their problems. I heard that Billings daughter actually hangs around that Ronaldson boy all the time. There will be something nasty come of that, you just watch.”
Again she nodded her agreement and continued on her way.
The rumors ran from one household to another, some had a fair share of truth others grew a life of their own and really didn’t even resemble the truth; but they always had an eager ear.
When Father Pat was stopped by the police for a routine road check, it was very quickly When Father Pat was stopped by the police for a routine road check, it was very quickly news that he had been picked up for drinking; again!
On and on it went, spreading out into the lives of those in the care of each of these men.
Every Tuesday, they came together, shook hands, spoke civilly to each other and prayed their prayers for unity.
The third Tuesday in November; Father Pat was ten minutes late. The other men were sitting in the small circle and Ron Billing opened the meeting. He had only uttered a few words; when his voice changed and he was whispering, almost to himself at first.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“I beg your pardon?” An uncomfortable response came from one of the other pastors.
“I have been so two faced and I can’t go on like this.” He choked out. “The stupid thing is I do want to see unity in this city, but I have been as big a stumbling block as any thing we ever pray about.”
The barrier was down; his words fell now onto stunned hearers. “Will you please forgive me?” His voice almost gagged by his tears.
The others reached out and touched his shaking shoulders. One by one they spoke of their wrong attitudes and cruel and dishonest words. They knelt together, huddled together, understanding the fullness of their weakness and they prayed together.
They prayed for kindness, they prayed for compassion, they prayed for truth and they prayed in unity.
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