This guy scares me. In seven years involved in ministry in Poplar there are two people that scare me. Ray is one of them. Phillipa the other - both unpredictable, both volatile, both impossible to reason with, both known to carry knives. We've cadets (trainee SA officers) with us leading our morning service. They've got the kids doing all kids of things and all is going well - however I pick up an element of panic. I can see it in the eyes of Alex just along from me. It is enough for me to turn around and there is Ray. I haven't had this feeling in my stomach or my legs for two years. We haven't seen him for ages now he is there at the back of our church - a time bomb.
Actually it turns out ok. He is only after a change of clothes. Ok he's after money but after many a hard fought battle over that one he knows nothing is going to happen on that front. So with the sounds of worship in the back ground Ray and I set about sorting him out with a change of clothes. I find out that he hasn't been around for two years because he has been locked up in HMP Wandsworth. He stabbed a tourist in a drunken rage. He tells me about Alan a Salvation Army Chaplain who was the only person that visited him for two years and I thank God for Alan Norton a fellow colleague Officer at Wandsworth Salvation Army. I also thank God for Dean who periodically pokes his head around the charity shop door to make sure I am alright!
He talks about dying and his funeral. His biggest fear that no-one would be there. We laugh as I promise to do his funeral if he gives me enough notice. He gives me that mad look and growls "only cos you f**king want to make sure I've gone...!" "Well Ray.... frankly yes!"
This interaction has been ok, friendly even amiable. He slaps me on the shoulder and thanks me for his new coat, trousers and shirt and as worship comes to a close he limps off and I breathe a breath of relief.
Later that evening the TV is on and there is a feature on the staggering church growth of Hillsongs UK. It is beautiful, the worship, the singing, the presentation, the people it is all so perfect. But hard as I look I can't see any "Ray's". Ray may scare the pants off me but you know I have to thank him for reminding me that I am so fulfilled in what we do.