Discovering the Spirit in the City 2

“Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with a cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there” (Zech 8:4,5)

The second time I did this exercise was with a group of Presbyterian people who were concerned about mission in the business district of Belfast. It was a long and interesting night. But towards the end one older minister raised an intensely practical issue that at first, before we saw where he was heading, made for some momentary embarrassment.

He talked about getting old and how he finds it difficult at his age now to walk for any distance without planning his route. The reason, he confessed, is because his bladder is not what it once was, so he needs to have ready access to public toilets, or at least to know which cafes will allow non-customers use the facilities. Since, he observed, Belfast city centre is now devoid of public toilets, it effectively means he is excluded from the city, as indeed is anyone who suffers the same affliction.

An aspect of shared space that we have ignored obviously.

Once the group saw the seriousness of what this brave man was saying it opened all sorts of possibilities, not the least of which was the intriguing idea that in some cases it would be a valid kingdom act for the Church to open public toilets in the city. This would serve to open the city to its older residents and integrate them into the diversity of its life.

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