Open Air: Shock Row Horror Flares As Bible Booted

No, not really. But since a few folk have enquired about last Wednesday’s little incident, I will turn on the GoPro, and we will see what we can see.

We’re coming towards the end of our time, and I’m most of the way through “Seven Steps To Heaven”. It’s warm enough, but overcast. I’m on about false idols. “But many people have this dream, this false idol that they worship: their own importance, their own prestige…”

As I speak, I can see Peter and Brendan over by McDonald’s; on my right is Stephen, in conversation with a tall man, oddly dressed and given to exaggerated gesticulation; and on my left is Jason, who has kindly offered his assistance this afternoon. He’s talking to two young men. I press on. “You love yourself, you worship your own image…” You can take it from there, I’m sure.

Stephen has had enough of Mr Oddman, to judge by his expression, and he steps away to get on with his tracting - but no, the man picks up his carrier bag and follows him, trying to continue the conversation, while I suggest that we stop listening to liars and heed the warnings of Jeremiah, and…

And it’s been fine so far, with few catcalls and many more words of encouragement - in fact, here comes a middle-aged lady in a red anorak over a floral skirt, who commends my account of being adopted into God’s own family. I thank her.

Eventually, Mr Oddman gives up on Stephen and heads towards me. He’s quite a sight: long, greying hair bushing out below a large, peaked cap; old-fashioned glasses with heavy frames; a scrubby beard; a longish black jacket over an olive thobe (or is it a kaftan?); and black tracksuit bottoms over open-toed sandals. I’d say ageing hippie, but he’s a bit too young for that…

What does he want? He wants what they always want: he wants me to stop preaching and he wants me to give him all of my attention. As I try to explain that it’s my turn to speak and he has four other folk to whom he can address his questions, he goes into motormouth overdrive. No wonder Stephen wanted rid of him. As his voice rises, I ask him to remain courteous. The speaker is still on, and my words are more for the benefit of onlookers than for him. “I’m being courteous!” he screeches, and absolutely insists that I stop preaching. “No sir, I am not…”

The GoPro shows it as one swift sequence: without warning, he bends (because he’s a foot taller than I am), strikes the bible from my right hand and boots it across the pavement. It ends up yards away, just past where Stephen is standing. “Hypocrite! Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite!” he shouts, although he doesn’t know me from Adam. I suppose he wants it to sound as though I’ve done him some injury.

I’m pleased to note that my voice is calm, and my face conveys no more than mild concern. “A violent reaction, sir! You don’t like the bible?” “I don’t like you! Hypocrite, hypocrite, this man’s a hypocrite!” But he grabs his bag and moves away as he sees Jason and Stephen approaching. Stephen pauses to pick up my bible, so Jason gets to him first. Mr Oddman points at him. “This man’s a hypocrite! He’s the king of all hypocrites!” “And in what way?” I ask. “Well, look at the waistline! Gluttony! That’s one of the Seven Deadly Sins! This man represents Jesus himself, they’re all hypocrites!”

Several people have stopped to stare. They do not seem to be sympathetic towards him. Stephen hands me my bible. “I shall wipe my bible off,” I say. It’s a little dusty, so I use my sleeve - rather ostentatiously - to do so. “That’s a first for me, having my bible knocked out of my hands and kicked across the road! I will continue…” Again, it’s for people who might be puzzled as to what it’s all about, as Mr Oddman rants on.

Where was I? About here, I think. “We’re talking today (© N. Green), despite the opposition, about the way to get to God. It’s a way of peace, and not the way of aggression and violence. Here is the next step on the way to get to God.”

On I go, as I said I would. Mr Oddman wanders away, returns, tries to talk to Stephen, who blanks him, and ends up bending Jason’s ear for several more minutes. Jason - with an equanimity born of long experience - listens patiently and answers calmly, until a friend of his arrives and embraces him, at which point Mr Oddman finally takes his leave.

And there you have it. “No animals were harmed during the making of this GoPro video” - and neither were we. My Open Air bible shows a slight scuff mark on its cover, but my notes are intact - Blu Tacked, in fact, and ready for our next outing.

We will be there again next Wednesday, God willing, and whatever challenges there might be, we will do our best to continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Stephen is on holiday, so if our Lord puts it upon your heart to do so, then please feel free to join us on the edge of Piccadilly Gardens at the usual time. If you can’t be with us, then please support us in prayer. I’m sure that we could never have continued thus far without the prayers of His people.

Many thanks to Brendan, Jason, Peter and Stephen for their invaluable help, as so often.

Every blessing!