Two Cripples and the Locked Cathedral

Yesterday ambling around downtown Syracuse with my friend Bill who is a wheelchair user, I thought I’d show him the magnificent Episcopal church, because, well, it was a sunny day and we were in admiring moods. The church was locked. We circumnavigated it. All the doors were locked.

I won’t say we needed to go into the church. Bill is a recovering Catholic and I’m a fair weather Christian and mostly what we were after was beauty which if you’re Jungian means we were feeling spiritual but as anyone who’s read Philip Larkin knows, you can love a church for its lambent emptiness.

It was Friday. It was a national holiday. It was the middle of the day. The big church was locked.

“Well,” I thought, “that’s the high Episcopalians for you. Nothing’s more tasteful than a locked door.”

Syracuse is a tough city. Poverty is high. Homelessness is plentiful. Surely it makes sense to lock a downtown church on a holiday. Then I said to Bill: “Well they could let the homeless sleep in the church and show people around when the need arises.”

I invented a homeless man named “Slappy” who has a cot beside the boiler and a bottle of muscatel.

I felt bad for making jokes.

But I also thought, “Jesus would do this.”

Jesus would not understand homelessness and locked churches.

Then I thought, because the church was flying a rainbow flag above its locked door, “there’s pain in the streets every day.”

The locked doors were very red. There was fresh mulch in the flowerbeds.

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