A&Q17: Keith Barber

Advices & Queries 17

by Keith Barber

#17. “Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

I used to work as Outreach coordinator/manager of a charitable soup kitchen in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

There were many former soldiers, war affected people, people struggling with persistant and severe mental illnesses, and Aboriginal people who were strubggling with finding work in a city which is still often predjudiced against their culture. Every day was supposed to start with a devotional from the baptist clergy person who worked with us (in an Anglican Church) but one day I posted a welcome composed by the guests there facilitated by some student volunteers on one wall beside the door to the kitchen, and Advices & Query #17 on the other wall beside the other lintel of the door. Soon after the clergy person read them and we ended up starting each day with a reading aloud of the welcome and the query and that set us up at the right angle to serve the day in an often surreal place of big needs and strange conditions put on meeting them.

One day there was an very loud argument between one man who thought he was the messiah returned and another man who was certain he was an angel sent to earth to write down all he saw, they were a moment away from a punch up and had each other grabbed up by their shirts. One of our volunteers ( a retired German autopsy specialist who was there almost every day) had the sense to ask their opinion of query #17 and they read it over and considered it together for a while and drew others into the conversation decoding and discussing it, and were quite pleased by it, and later left as friends holding eachother’s bag lunches and juice boxes while they shook the mud off their boots (indoors) before leaving for the day.

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