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Church Without Walls

by Glenn Romprey

"A church without walls," I said to the Rev,
Who purchased my burger, some fries, and a coke ...

It must have been winter some several years back;
I was out on a lunch date with dear Pastor Jack.
His dream was quite big, and kind were his lips
When he asked me this question between thoughtful sips:
"Glenn, I care for the homeless - I actually do.
I'd like them to come and fill up my pew.
I'd like to build a new church, you see;
One for the poor to come and hear me."

I said to the Rev - with no thought at all -
You put up a South wall - they will not stay;
An East and a West wall will keep them away;
Maybe a North wall to hang high your cross;
But your four solid walls will not save the lost! no extra mouth within my church walls

He looked at me a bit aloof.
"That's right, Jack," I said, "you can forget the roof!!
They've begged for a roof for a hundred years.
You watched in the rain with crocodile tears.
You let them come sit down and dry -
Then ran for the exit, when they came by!
For every drunk in his personal Hades,
I hope you found mercy for all the bag ladies.
It's too late for a roof, Rev. Thanks for the lunch."
He looked at me thoughtful and nodded a bunch.

A year had passed. Jack moved up the street
To a wonderful church where the wealthy folk meet.
Far up in the hills, too far to walk,
Where theologians love to talk.
I visited them. I ate their rich food.
But I was a stranger and seemed kind of crude.
I smelled back then. My clothes, they were old.
Yet into Jack's church, I came walking - bold.
"Pastor Jack is busy, sir, please wait by the wall" -
Knowing they'd rather I'd not come at all.

Wonderful walls, painted up halls, clean toilet stalls inhabit each floor.
A fully stacked kitchen. Lord, what a score!
So I fed myself well, not knowing when
I'd ever get to eat there again.
And I had a few words with dear Pastor Jack.
But I was crazy and not welcome back. ...

Some years have now passed and I've cleaned myself up -
I found me a church with a communion cup.
I do not agree with all of their views.
I'm somewhat upset that they rearranged pews!
We never sing my favorite hymn,
But, by and by, I've become part of them.
I quit condemning their violet walls,
But every chance I crowd in their halls
Homeless bums and smelly feet -
Those who need a place to eat.
Crazies, roughly pushed away;
They are the ones I want for to stay.

And now my church is heaven bent,
Forgiving men incontinent.
Chairs can be cleaned - carpets, too.
I love the homeless. How 'bout you?
They hide and they sleep outside our wall.
I wish they saw no wall at all.
'Cept for Josh who likes our wall;
He found a place where he can crawl.
One night it plunged past 25.
I worried he would stay alive.
'Cause if he froze outside our wall,
would that impact my church at all?

Hmmm. I often think of Pastor Jack.
You think that he would take it back?
If you head up-class, there you may find him.
Give him my love - and then remind him -
No need to say my name at all.
Just whisper in his ear, "No Walls."

It is the expressed intent of the author that persons reading this poem will give a donation to assist either a homeless individual or a ministry to the homeless. Memorial gifts may be directed to Eugene Mission in memory of Glenn Romprey (October 3, 1964 - May 6, 2007).

Eugene Mission
P.O. Box 1149
Eugene, OR 97440

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I called on the king, but he made me wait in his hall, and conducted like a man incapacitated for hospitality. There was a man in my neighbourhood who lived in a hollow tree. His manners were truly regal. I should have done better had I called on him.

--Henry David Thoreau, Walden


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