I’ve just been away for a few days  on a retreat with other deacons (hurray!  my tribe wot speaks my language !!) – well, not exactly a retreat, more a mini-conference with quiet bits.

Anyway, the thing that characterises deacons all over the world is the desire to reach out to those in need, and to offer hospitality to those who are on the margins of society.  So far so good.

Then this morning on the radio I heard a discussion about the ‘safety’ of clergy.  It’s probably true to say that clergy are almost the only professionals to live in the place where they work, and for those who’ve followed this blog for a long time, you’ll know that when we were living in our ‘Benefits Street’ parish we had a lot of callers at the door:  most just trying it on (no, we don’t give out any money!!  but we will walk you over to the shop and buy you some basics …) but a few who were in genuine need.

However, with the number of drugs going down in the vicinity sometimes these encounters could be quite threatening.  So the diocese put up  closed-circuit television so we could see who was coming to the door.  I found this very reassuring when I was on my own in the house.

But there’s the dilemma.  How do you offer hospitality when there is some likelihood that there might be personal violence? 

It’s something I never fully resolved.


14 thoughts on “MORAL DILEMMA

  1. I agree, don’t stop helping, but be aware and wise in how you go about. I have to work with some very difficult people and I find that honesty with a hint of ‘I’m tough so watch your manners’ doesn’t stop those in need but maybe protects me from people with another agenda. i feel I have a radar for this now but it was a long time coming. By the way I only need to be like that on a rare occasion because honesty is 99% of the time enough.


    1. Exactly. Clergy develop that radar too! And also, callers at a vicarage door in an inner-city area with lots of social problems is very different from those who call at a country vicarage in the middle of a little village … so it’s not one size fits all, it’s being aware and wise while continuing to help people.


  2. I completely get this issue Gilly, many a time when I was a social worker I had to have a police escort as violence against us was actually the norm. In my day I have been threatened with a gun, knives, men’s fist and even used needles…’s a hard call. Thirty years ago it was probably easier as drug use was rare but now it’s a major major problem and as it is so mind altering, you can’t rationalize with a person under the influence. I remember going into a house one day where there were about ten blokes out of their minds and all the time a six month old child had cried in a cot and been ignored for three days, I was amazed it was alive…I had to call the police that day too as the men wouldn’t let me take the baby to hospital. I think you have to keep yourself safe to be able to actually help people….it’s a sad call though but the world is


  3. One of the talks we have had was on personal safety. Some of the advice was good – torch, high-vis jacket, tire-weld etc. in the car, but some of it was telling us to be unfriendly and untrusting. This is ministry training: surely we are in the business of reaching out, not of shutting out! Afterwards, our little group agreed that we must have been doing something right to survive pretty much unscathed for an average of over 55 years, and we all had stories of lifts we had given to strangers, people we had invited into the house and usually fed, and many, many delightful chance encounters with interesting strangers. I read your other post today – making tea for the burglar sounds a good course of action to me. Let’s stay in the business of loving our neighbours.


  4. I heard that item on the radio too. I think there is always a danger when in a caring role that some people will try to take advantage.
    I am not in a caring role but I once answered the door at night to find a man asking for help. I asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had. I told him I was going to call someone who would help him and said that I would need to close the door while I did it. While he waited I called the police. Their job is to protect life and property and I explained that I was concerned for the man’s welfare. I knew I could not help him and that someone professional was needed. They came out to him. It’s a tough call. We all want to help others but need to look after our own safety at the same time.
    I recall the radio programme said that some churches provide safety training for their staff, but most don’t.


  5. it has to be a very tricky thing to solve I mean you may want to help people but if in turn you are to be threatened or harmed by the same people is it right to help them? hmmm a difficult choice :yes:


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