A while back, two Quakers appeared at my door. They gave me the usual pamphlet and story, and while they were talking I thought of playing a gentle trick on them. I was wearing a black jumper over a white Tshirt, which gave me a 'dog collar' appearance. Friends have told me that I do have a clerical presence, so I pretended to be a Catholic priest.
When I announced my calling, they looked uncomfortable. We talked and I gently chided them for losing the true way of our first born Christian church. This had an effect. They started to back away down the garden path. As they got to the gate I made the sign of the cross and said solemnly 'Pax Vobiscum my children'.
Good grief, they reacted like they had been sprinkled with acid! One actually jumped over the gate and they both hurried down the road, almost at a run.
What to make of this? I didn't mean to scare them, just to try a kind of behavioural test, and it certainly worked. I can't remember a time when my words have had a more profound effect on a couple of people. It was not the encounter with an unbeliever that had upset them so much, but an encounter of a very different nature.
What was going on??
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