Saints on the Street
Rev Chris Duffett
NINE o’clock on Sunday morning and I’m wrestling with a sofa, trying to get it on top of the car. It’s stubborn and heavy and I’m hot and bothered, and to top it all my wife, who is rather grudgingly helping me, isn’t too pleased with the whole idea.
With a sweaty brow I begin to question whether my idea of taking a large sofa into the centre of Peterborough was really such a bright one. However, with the sofa finally loaded and tied on I set off with the hope that it doesn’t fall off and cause some kind of horrific traffic jam, and that I will be able to meet hundreds of people throughout the morning and early afternoon to share something of my faith.
As well as my sofa, I am armed with a graffiti board and a box full of face paints, expecting to meet many people eagerly anticipating the England/ Germany game who want to get in the mood with a face painted red and white. I also have a generous pile of Mark’s Gospels with me. At 10.30am the sofa is on the street and covered with a white sheet and an England flag. I’m quite chuffed to see the spectacle it makes. I’m joined by a deacon from the local Park Road Baptist Church, Stuart Matthers, who is a youth worker in the city. With shoppers giving us some curious looks and happy
smiles, we sit on the sofa and pray for the day.
At 11.30am, an hour in, we have painted a dozen or so children’s faces and explained to some families that what we are doing is encouraging people to think about God. The response has been positive, and two teenage girls asked if they could help us. Even though neither had painted anyone’s faces before they were keen to give it a go. The result wasn’t too bad, a bit smudgy but overall not bad.
It’s 1pm, and suddenly we’re inundated with people! Groups of young people take turns to sit on the sofa and talk, and two ladies ask for their picture to be taken on it. They stay for 45 minutes and talk and talk. They have so many questions and are confused about what to believe. I listen. When they ask I talk about Jesus. They talk some more and I listen. In the end they agree that we should pray together and in the middle of a city centre, on a settee we pray for God to draw close to us and I pray that he would show how much he loves them.
When they leave they are happy, and they take a copy of Mark’s Gospel with them too.
While I have been listening and talking, Stuart has had a constant queue of people wanting faces painted. As he does
so he talks with people about Jesus and why we are in the middle of the street on a Sunday with a sofa.
The reception we have had has been awesome. People seem so happy to talk and take literature, and ask questions and write things up on the graffiti board.
It’s 2pm. Two groups of young people have hung out with us for some time now. It feels like we have made friends as we talk about life and what’s been happening. Stuart is able to advise one young lad who has been kicked out of his home and point him to support services for housing. We swap Facebook details and arrange to meet up again soon.
At 2.30pm it’s time to pack up. The football starts soon and the street has got much quieter. We have a final sit on the sofa and give thanks for the people we have met and the conversations we have had.
Then once more I head off home.
Rev Chris Duffett