Down the block, we spotted my friend Pastor Steve, the proprietor of a storefront church on an otherwise entirely abandoned block. Driving by, I’d noticed the motley assortment of characters hanging out front and an unruly garden taking up much of the vacant corner lot next door, and eventually I stopped by and introduced myself. It turned out that most of the folks out front were struggling addicts and prostitutes and criminals from the neighbourhood.
Pastor Steve had gone through his own period of felonious hard living ”“ heroin, pills, booze, glue-sniffing, bank-robbing, you name it ”“ before being saved and then called to the ministry. A rangy white guy in his early sixties, Pastor Steve had an obvious love for a certain era of countercultural accoutrement which had somehow managed to survive this spiritual journey intact. He had a bushy handlebar moustache and flowing grey hair, the curly ends of which spilled to his chest, and favoured cowboy boots, earrings with topaz beads, and the sorts of silver rings you might buy at a Native American souvenir stand. On his motorcycle, a parishioner had painted a picture of Chief Joseph, “who was one of the main, awesome Indians”, in Pastor Steve’s words. He continued, “After we’d been here a while, I got stories coming back to me that people in the neighbourhood thought we were a motorcycle gang. They saw me, saw the Harley, and they thought the building was filled with weapons and we were here to take over.”
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