Posted: June 14, 2007 in Peace

When I teach a class, I always want to give my students some interesting experiences in addition to what I hope to be the challenging, informative discussions we have when we gather as a group, but unfortunately the experiences often get passed over. But when I launched the new “Forty-Something Class” this past May, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t leave out the experiences. So each week, we have a goofy homework assignment.

The problem with this, of course, is that I need to participate in these goofy homework assignments, too. Lead by example, you know?

Well, this week’s assignment flows from the Parable of the Good Samaritan that will be our major text this Sunday, and I asked everyone to go somewhere they would never go and meet people they would never meet. You see the connection, I’m sure, to the Jew-Samaritan relationship – or, better said, lack of relationship.

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, until you have to do it, it’s pretty cool.

I cycled through a lot of ideas before settling on going to a mosque. I thought this would carry with it about as much shock value as the original Jew-Samaritan example, but I wasn’t exactly sure where you’d find a mosque in South Mississippi.

Turns out, Biloxi.

I drove to the Biloxi Islamic Center today with the full intent of getting to know some folks there, but it turned out to be an older house in a poor part of town with a hand-painted sign out front instead of a gold-roofed temple. I drove by once (partly because there wasn’t any parking, and partly because this is the kind of homework assignment when you drive by once. Or twice. Or more…). I circled back around, parked my car, walked through the residential gate, and went to the door and knocked.

Nobody was home late this morning at the Biloxi Islamic Center. (I did not, however – for the record – pass by on the other side.) Oh well. Maybe some other time.

So time was running short on this week’s homework, and I needed a Plan B. Which came to me on the way back to Ocean Springs. I decided to go to the Fort Bayou Saloon, a biker bar in spitting distance from our church’s building.

I pulled into the parking lot, and, since there was just one car in the parking lot at 11am (and no motorcycles), I was brave enough to get out and walk in. When I walked in (add your own sound effects: western music, or maybe the revving of a Harley), I was met by the imposing figure of…

Well, turns out there was a nice lady named Angela there serving as bartender. And she was on her cell phone.

She asked me what she could get me. I fumbled something out that let her know that I was weird and not really interested in a drink. So she excused herself from her cell phone conversation to concentrate on what this strange bald man had to say. I simply told her that I had come in to introduce myself. Told her I was a preacher at the church next door. Told her I had been there eight years and was a pretty bad neighbor since I had never introduced myself.

She smiled. I told her my name was Al. She told me her name was Angela.

That was about the size of it.

Nothing earth-shattering, I guess.

Except seismologists report that the Berlin-esque wall that stands between the people in the Ocean Springs Church of Christ and the people in the Fort Bayou Saloon felt the slightest of tremors.

  1. Jeff says:

    Al – What a great way to spend your day! I love the idea – get out of theory and into life!

  2. Al Sturgeon says:

    Thanks, Jeff.

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