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From Winter 2010 Issue

Beholding Specks But Not Planks!

- By courtesy of Sandra Murphy

What a luxurious cinema is The Strand in Belfast; and how privileged I was to be offered employment in it, along with the assurance that I could have all my Sundays free so as to worship my Lord! Through grave unemployment in those late 1940s Ulster folk were lucky themselves to be in employment; and whereas they begrudged those from Eire coming up to work for a pittance, they were more charitable towards the few who came across from the UK. For myself, the offer of work as one of the seven projectionists seemed an answer to prayer. A Baptist Church not too far away, had welcomed me in to their fold. “You are a young single man with Bible Training qualifications; and whereas there are no pastoral vacancies at the moment, soon a vacancy will occur”. Yes, the Minister was most impressed. “We’ll in the meantime remember you at our weekly prayer meeting so that you’ll get just a temporary job until a pastorate for you becomes vacant!”

The only temporary job I’d previously been offered was that by a Christian ‘brother in the Lord’ who owned a large lace mill. “The only job I can make for you dear brother is that of cleaning all the windows on a rota system. You will not be required to stand on a basket to be hoisted up to clean the outside ones. You’ll just need to clean the high windows from the inside. I trust you are OK on heights? I have no other job to offer, but I’ll create this one for you as you are a fellow believer” Such were the kind of words he uttered, but the size and colossal heights of those mill windows just about gave me vertigo as I thought of climbing up high step ladders at the side of them, and of looking down at the street far below To the dear gentleman’s disappointment I turned his kind offer down. I would work in the luxurious Strand cinema instead.

On a following Sunday I returned to my newfound place of worship. Entering the vestibule, the Minister spied me “We’ve been praying for you Brother Thompson!” “Thank you!” I replied. “The Lord has answered your prayers and I’ve got a temporary

job” . “Thank you Jesus!’ he said with eyes partly closed. Then he opened them. “Will you let us in to the secret bro.? “Yes, it’s in the Strand cinema as the 3rd projectionist; and I’m assured I can have every Sunday free, plus a weekday as well!” Then, as I turned to look at him for a joyful response, he walked away to talk to other believers. I was left on my own in the vestibule and eventually vacated the building.

But then, later in the week – via a reliable ‘grape vine’! - I learned from a fellow believer of the funniest of jokes that one of the churches Deacon’s had heard in years.. “Listen to this:” said the Deacon: “ A young man has approached our Minister. He’s an ex Bible student, claims to love The Lord; is anxious to secure the pastorate of some Baptist church, and – wait for it!! – he is actually working in a cinema. How can he be ‘born again’ when he works in a cinema? It’s the funniest joke I’ve heard for years!” Yes, such was the gist of the gossip concerning me after having been left standing once the minister had moved away.

The Minister had been shocked; he’d then discussed my situation with the church officials; and one of the Deacons had considered me sufficient to be a spiritually mixed up young man: anxious to become a fulltime minister of a church; yet temporarily – of necessity - rather than be ‘on the dole’ - has accepted work in a building of vice. Indeed, ‘an occupation of debauchery’ as some films screened would be sexy and some might even be sordid; not to mention sadistic! Yes, admittedly, not the healthiest of occupations, so that particular Deacon of the church – with a stretch of imagination! – may have had legitimate concern.

However, it so transpired that this ‘pillar of virtue’ within the church was also the local butcher! While he cut open the carcases; the blood trickling down his apron, he may well have been found singing: ‘There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins!” Yes, of his type our blessed Lord would surely have said: “Why do you behold the speck in your brother’s eye, yet fail to see the plank in your own?” Mind you, he was not alone in his distorted lifestyle.

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