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Steve Bouman tells the story We began to find our power as a congregation in New Jersey as a matter of being a place where you can go when there’s no where else to go. When you invite the poor and the homeless, they do come such as Edgar. He is by anybody’s standards a strange character. He lives alone in the nearby welfare motel better known for drug addicts and prostitutes than for the righteous. For some reason, he adopted our church and there are times when he pushed our understanding of what we mean when we say that all God’s children are welcome. I mean he would sit in front of me in the first pew and if he didn’t like what I was saying in the sermon, he’d kind of laugh, "Ho, ho, ho! You don’t mean that, do you?" And I’d have to tell him, "Edgar, chill out!" He was rough around the edges. Some of the social graces had been rubbed raw from years of trying to survive in an inhospitable world. To those who do not know him, he can be kind of scary. On occasion, he got loud and demanding and if the truth be told, my heart sank on Palm Sunday when he was waiting in the sanctuary for me after a full day of sermons, and pastoral duties. I know that when he’s waiting for me he wants something--a ride, some of my time--and he’ll often complain about this and that. And this is my confession to you. I was the first son in the parable. Okay, Lord, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to go home. But by the grace of God, I became the second son. On the drive to his motel, he talked my ear off and I prayed for patience. Yet something strange and wonderful began to happen as I pulled into the parking lot of the rundown motor inn by the George Washington Bridge. A door opened and an elderly woman emerged. She knocked on another door and another elderly woman emerged. They limped toward our car. Others waiting at the edges of the parking lot followed. They had been waiting for us. I was in someone else’s church now. For the first time I noticed that Edgar Lee Hill’s hands grasped a bunch of palm fronds which he had gathered at in our Palm Sunday service that morning.. He had promised them that he would bring them palms from our service, tangible evidence of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Well, mothers and their children, addicts, prostitutes, the mentally ill, those who came to the temple after Jesus cleansed it, gathered around the car. The first lady was by the door. Soon the car was surrounded. I looked at Edgar. Jesus said to them, "Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you for they believed in Him." I looked at Edgar. This man was the only one who has ever passed for a pastor in this backwater parish of broken souls. There could be no more fertile soil for church growth, spiritually understood, than this concrete parking lot and its waiting children of God. He gave her a palm through the window. This lady knew her pastor. She just clutched her palm as if she had been given the most precious gem and called the waiting group over to the van. "Get out of the car," said Edgar. I could only watch in awe. He thrust the palms in my hand. "Give them the palms!" And I distributed them among those waiting. “Bless them," Edgar demanded. I prayed with each one. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I caught a glimpse out of my rearview mirror of this continuation of our Palm Sunday service as a grumpy old man walked back to the motel with a group of children of God who are mostly forgotten and despised.



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