There were many friends of God in Pinellas Park.
I’ve already mentioned Tracie. She was very kind, and her devotion to godly servanthood was obvious. On Saturday, I bumped into Thomas Bowman, my friend from Kentucky. He had once again travelled long hours from home to stand for God’s truth. Thomas communicates the word of God through his music.
Monsignor Malanowski was very gracious; he and I spoke a couple of times for several minutes, and I could see the clear love he had for Terri and the Schindler family. Brother Hilary and I briefly spoke a couple of times also; his strong support for life was also evident.
My travelling companions were Steve and Jeff, friends from the Huntsville, Alabama area. Jeff had travelled down on Wednesday. Steve and I travelled down together on Thursday evening. Sunday morning, Jeff and I drove back home while Steve stayed another day. These two great men of God have before stood for truth on other important issues. I was honored to be with them in this fight for God’s kingdom.
On Friday, I met Tim Bayly, a Presbyterian pastor who, with a fellow minister, was blogging from outside Woodside Hospice. Tim and I talked briefly and greeted one another a few times afterward. He invited me to join in a service on the grounds Friday afternoon but I was, unfortunately, detained elsewhere during the appointed time. Saturday, I watched as one of Tim’s associates, David Currell, was arrested for attempting to go in to save Terri from starvation. When a handful of protesters became shrill and venomous toward the police officers, Tim reminded us all to respond in love.
Saturday afternoon, a local man named Jeff came by with an offer to marry Terri. He saw this as a solution to the problem by giving him status as her guardian. I explained to him that there would be two problems with this idea: 1) Terri was already married and to marry Jeff would make her a bigamist, and 2) Terri wasn’t able to giver her consent to the marriage, even if it weren’t bigamy. Jeff gave me his phone number, anyway, just in case something worked out. While this may seem a bit strange, it is only a small example of how much people were willing to help save Terri, a person few of us had met but all of us cared deeply about.
Sunday morning, I went to an early interdenominational service on the grounds. The sun had not yet broken through the clouds when two Protestant pastors led us in singing, Scripture reading, and prayer. The two pastors, whose names I don’t recall, had decided that they were going to attempt to take the Communion elements in to Terri; Father Malanowski had been rebuffed the day before when he attempted to give her Communion. The two pastors went inside a small tent for private prayer together while the thirty or so others of us prayed. We broke off into groups of four.
It was during this time that I prayed with three Roman Catholic friends. One man had been a constant figure on the grounds, frequently carrying a crucifix against his shoulder. The lady, whose name was Mary (if memory serves correctly), had a sweet composure and was obviously seriously concerned with the horror being witnessed. The third prayer companion was David Vogel, a musician and singer. I’d seen him around a couple of times, once while he directed traffic in and out of the area where the Schindler family was stationed. He was one of the first arrested for trying to take water in to Terri.
Our group prayed earnestly for several minutes: the Hail Mary, the Our Father, and other prayers. We finished and looked up to see the police handcuffing the two pastors and placing them in a police car. David shared his deep concern over the horror but also expressed his great joy over the unity of Christ’s body in standing for the value of life.
Indeed, there were Christians from all traditions present: Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, independent, etc. From rosaries and crucifixes to tambourines and plastic buckets, from highly charismatic extemporaneous prayers to traditional liturgies, the hearts of God’s people cried out for his mercy. Even though our obvious man-made divisions didn’t go away, in the eyes of God, we all stood as his people.
There were many other friends of God and friends of Terri who were present. My memory doesn’t serve well enough to name them all. But, of those whom I can remember, the Ledbetters were among the crowd; Mr. Ledbetter was one of the first to be arrested in Montgomery in the summer of 2003 for standing for the right to acknowledge God through the public display of the Ten Commandments. Also, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney arrived on Saturday evening to lead us in a prayer vigil; he had been on site earlier in the week but had gone to Tallahassee to plead with the governor to intervene.
There was also another fine Roman Catholic man who told me of his arrest experience at the hospice and of his 3 1/2 years in jail for protesting abortion. There was also the professor named George, with whom I had extended conversations in person and via phone about the value of life, the vulnerability of the disabled, and the appropriateness of civil disobedience. George and I will meet again, I am certain; and we will be more prepared.