This is a story written by Hannah, a member of our Open Table community, who has dedicated it to the community at St Bride's in appreciation for the hospitality she has found here:
Once upon a time there was a little church, and in this little church there lived a family of mice. Every Sunday they would gather at the back of the church where no one would spot them and they would listen to what the preacher had to say.
Having never read the Bible, or had it read to them, the mice had many questions about the things they heard, but they had no one to answer them. However, one dark night, one brave little mouse crept out of the mouse hole and went to find the preacher and get the answers they were all searching for.
Because it was so late, the little church was dark and silent, and the little mouse was scared, but she still continued her search until she found a man tending to the candles and sweeping the floor while singing some of the songs the mice had often heard on a Sunday.
She approached the man and squeaked a tiny squeak, and although it was the smallest, quietest and most terrified squeak, the man still heard and looked down.
"Good evening, good mouse, would you care to share supper with me?" he asked while taking a small loaf of bread out of a bag that rested at his feet.
"Oh no, thank you sir, but I was hoping to find the preacher so I can ask him some questions."
"I'm afraid the preacher has gone home, but perhaps I can answer your questions for you." He was not surprised to hear a mouse speak to him as he knew that all animals may speak if they so choose to.
"But you are just a cleaner," the mouse squeaked.
"Ah, this is true, but even cleaners have answers if you care to listen to them. Ask your questions and I shall try to answer them as best I can."
The mouse rubbed her paws together nervously and gave a small squeak of anxiety, then took a deep breath and asked, "Why does God hate so many people?"
"God does not hate anyone. Sometimes He is saddened and troubled by the things that people do, but he does not hate."
"But the preacher says..."
"Ah," the man smiled in understanding, "The preacher is human and many humans, even preachers, make this mistake. God does not hate, only humans can do that, but when a person hates another, this begets anger and fury and other unpleasant emotions inside them, and humans can become sick with anger because they were not built for this purpose. In order to feel better and reduce these feelings, some humans will say that the hate they feel is God's will and therefore acceptable and right."
"And is it?" asked the brave little mouse.
"Not at all. The Bible teaches us to love each other and to treat them how we wish to be treated ourselves; if we love all people as we were meant, then there is no room for hate."
"If God does not hate, why does your preacher say that men who love men, and women who love women, and those who love both equally will go to hell?"
The cleaner looked sad. "Because he is human and makes mistakes. People abuse the word 'love' until it does not mean what it is meant to and that in turn hurts so many others. Love between people is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and those who feel it can achieve so much. Even the Bible tells us that love is the greatest thing. But then the devil tried to trick us and some humans believed him."
"How did the devil trick them?"
"The devil could not create love, as that is God's domain, and so instead he created lust, and he made it feel good and so many humans mistook it for love and did terrible things while saying that they did them in love, when really it was lust, which faded as soon as the bad times came."
"I don't understand," said the mouse and the man knelt down so that he was closer to her.
"No man nor woman would sit at the bedside of one who is sick or dying unless there is love between them, and none could support a failing partner without love. When a relationship is underscored by abuse in any of its many forms, then the love has gone from that relationship, if it was there at all."
The mouse thought about all of this in silence for some time. She had never been in love, but she had watched many humans as they came to the church with their partners and their children, and she felt that she understood the difference the man was talking about.
"Do you have any other questions, sister mouse?"
"But two more, then I shall return home."
"Then ask and I shall try to answer."
“On Sunday just gone the pastor talked about men who dress and act like women and how they are evil and sinful, but how is that evil? And…” the mouse looked fearful “is acting like a woman a bad thing?”
“Never,” the man replied softly. “A woman is a wonderful thing to be, and to be able to run, throw, fight and live like a woman is never something to be ashamed of. As for the other part, I tell you this; a mouse may act as a lion, and a lion as a lamb, and similarly a man may appear to be a woman and a woman a man, but regardless of how we appear on the outside, it is the inside that God sees. If you love other people, treat them well, as you would want to be treated, and see all people as deserving of love and forgiveness, then you shall be blessed by God.”
The little mouse smiled and felt much happier.
The man then pulled out a piece of bread from his loaf and pulled a few grapes out of the bag beside him and handed them to her. “Here, take these, eat, and remember all that I’ve taught you.”
The lion-like-mouse squeaked her thanks and ran back to the mouse hole with her gifts, and she told all of the other mice what she had learnt.
The mice continued to listen to the preacher on Sundays, but they did so now with new knowledge. The brave mouse often saw the cleaner in the church, watching the people who came each week, and she was often confused by how few of those people who came so often to the little church didn’t even seem to realise that he was there.