Well, another tale that emanates from a church night once more. It seems to be becoming something of a theme. I was rather taken by a message in the weekly Sunday Message bulletin in Mass last evening at Saint Barnabas Cathedral in Nottingham. It read as follows:
“We have got used to people begging around the Cathedral. How do we deal with them?
This is our advice. It is far too easy to give money. The Clergy never give money. We or the sisters, will direct people to Emmanuel House, (local shelter supported by the Cathedral) arrange transport, give food or drink, advise about shelter, light a candle or pray for them, or just listen to their problems. Giving money may subsidise a serious addiction and encourages them to return to the Church to pester others.
A look at the Gospels will confirm that Jesus gave time, energy, advice, food, healing and much more: but he never gave money!“
I have to say this is another issue I’ve wrestled with for a long time, not just in the context of people begging outside the Cathedral but all over the city. Currently, to my eyes, Nottingham seems almost overrun by people begging with individuals stationed at practically every cashpoint, outside the major stores and just generally roaming the streets. The problem appears of almost epidemic proportions these days and many complain about the situation. At certain periods it seems almost impossible to walk any distance in the city without being accosted, often several times.
I do feel for these people – yes even those with their various addictions, for what are we if we can’t show some compassion with those in such a miserable and lost state? At the same time I know that some feel intimidated by their presence and occasionally aggressive attitude. More worrying are the ‘organised’ groups of beggars I have seen operating, on some occasions at the Cathedral but more often elsewhere in the city. Perhaps not an organised racket as such but certainly there seems more than an air of cynicism about them.
To return to Saint Barnabas for a moment, every single week there are people begging at both entrances of the building, before and after Mass. It was always a slight trial for me personally and judging by the Cathedral’s message, has been for others too. I don’t want to feel that I’m some hypocritical and uncaring individual that who, once setting foot outside of Mass, would ignore those who appear to be in dire need. There lies the dilemma, one understands that the people begging are in some ways playing on ones conscience but at the same time ones feel the need to help in some way. It is very hard dealing with a pleading face immediately after the happy and refreshing time we have hopefully had inside the church. Dare I say it can almost spoil the moment and experience of something that is very personal.
I am encouraged by the guidance offered in the Sunday Message. What’s more I believe it’s really good advice for us all generally, not just those of faith. That’s why I share it here. I’d be really interested to hear other’s attitudes to this problem?