Sunday, October 02, 2005

Moving the Fence

Today I was reading an interview in The Advocate with the Bishop V. Gene Robinson. He related this story that I found very intriguing. It's been going through my head all day and I thought I should share...

During WWII a man died and his two friends desperately wanted to give him a decent burial. They found a cemetery in a nearby village. It happened to be a Roman Catholic cemetery and the dead man had been a Protestant. When the two friends found the priest in charge of the burial grounds, they requested permission to bury their friend, but the priest refused because the man had not been a Catholic. When the priest saw their disappointment, he explained that they could bury their friend immediately outside the fence. This was done.

Later, they returned to visit the grave, but couldn't find it. Their search led them back to the priest and, of course, they asked him what had happened to the grave. The priest told them that during the night he was unable to sleep. So he got up and moved the fence to include the dead soldier.

As a pastor's kid, growing up in the small town of Beloit, Kansas I recall visiting the town cemetary often. The Protestant cemetary was adjacent to the Catholic one. One day, I noticed along the fence of the Catholic cemetary there were little metal markers with names on them. These names were made with those label making tapes. Anyway I was told that these were the babies that died without getting baptized. Because of this (although most Protestants believe babies are born without sin), these babies could not enter heaven but were in Limbo or Purgatory. Hence why they were buried along the sides of the cemetary, by the fence.

It occurs to me that we are in the position to move the metaphorical fence that keeps out people that should be included in our churches. The Church was founded to include all of God's children and who are we to exclude those on the fringes?

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