First Sunday after the Ascension of Saint Jack

We sit in a pew three empty rows from the front where the
reverend is sure to spot us. I am here to satisfy my wife’s
desire to find a church I will tolerate. I have my spiritual
side. I seek the truth, I seek compassion, I seek justice. I am
my brother’s keeper, but I am not religious. I cannot be
religious given what is done in the name of religion.
Nietzsche was right, god is dead or, at best, no longer cares.
He has moved on to populate another place with his
offspring. By Zeus I hope it works out for them.

The protestant priestess of this well appointed church offers
the usual incantations and exhortations and, passing on to
the homily, she fawns and gushes over a prominent member
of the church sitting in the front row like a peacock. She
adores him and asks him to read. His name is Mathew but
he reads from John 6. The irony is lost on all. His suit is
French, his shoes and tie are Italian and, I suspect, his car is
German. He has gone far on pocket change.

It’s been a week since Jack died. Poor and penniless, he
thrived on a pension of crumbs and love from the flock he
tended, those for whom The Word was paramount. No one
was unwelcome at his table and no one lacked shelter from
the storm. His tent could sleep a multitude if required and
while his shoes sank into the mud from the holes in them, he
would have walked barefoot willingly.

I look down to hide the tear rolling down my cheek. Jack
would not be welcome here. The Word is not worshipped
here. Yet I recognize the language rolling effortlessly off the
silver tongue of the Mathew reading from John, he has his
reward. I know this church, they would shut and lock their
doors to the homeless at night. Next week my wife will ask
me to try yet another church. I pray for different results.


Steve Glines is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Wilderness House Press and Wilderness House Literary Review, an online quarterly. In his past lives, he has been a general assignment reporter, a political commentator, a technical writer with two monthly technical columns and half a dozen computer science books to his credit. Today he writes poetry and fiction. In 2016 he was awarded the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award and a lifetime achievement award from the Massachusetts State Democratic Party. He is a member of the Robert Creeley Foundation and is a past Assistant District Governor for Rotary International.

Jennifer Matthews’ poetry has been published in Nepal by Pen Himalaya and locally by the Wilderness Retreat Writers Organization, Midway Journal, The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street Press and Boston Girl Guide. Jennifer was nominated for a poetry award by the Cambridge Arts Council for her book of Poetry Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors. Her songs have been released nationally and internationally and her photography has been used as covers for a number of Ibbetson Street Press poetry books and has been exhibited at The Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeehouses, Sound Bites Restaurant in Somerville and McLean Hospital.