Monday, 5 January 2009

Z may have to Accost an Intruder

I think we may have a lodger at the church. It occurred to me, after I'd written yesterday's post, that I might - incredible as it seems - be an awful idiot and, while thinking I'd set Saturday night's heating at 7pm-7pm (that is, not to come on at all) I might have put it to 7pm-7am, without noticing. So I went to check. I'd turned it to 'off' rather than 'timer' yesterday, so I knew it wouldn't have been on even if I'd been really silly.

But it had. I could feel the warmth as soon as I walked in, although it snowed last night and has been very cold all day. I touched the pipes and they were warm. Now, the thing is, the matter of the door being unlocked could have been a red herring. There's someone who goes in the church on a Friday or Saturday evening, no doubt for a quite legitimate purpose, who has access to the keys but who leaves the big doors unlocked. I haven't been able to find out who. But, and keep this under your hats please, there is a way of circumventing the lock and opening the door anyway (there won't be for much longer or I wouldn't write it down at all) and so it's quite possible that the person leaving the door unlocked and the person turning the boiler on are not one and the same. The only reason I can see for having the heating on overnight regularly is to warm the church to sleep in.

Yes, I've told the Fellow (or rather, as he's at work, his wife). And I've told the Sage. And I will go down tonight and check it out, but not on my own. I'm not timorous but I'm not incautious either. Actually, I suspect the Fellow will insist on going - though I've asked his wife that he should not go alone either.

And you know, I feel quite annoyed. I'm sorry if someone needs a place to sleep and has to go in the church and not unsympathetic to their situation. But spending a lot of someone else's money to heat a large building in that way is not on. If the person really needs shelter, there is a warm (storage heated) and carpeted room that he or she could use and I'd probably not even have found out. It is a matter of some importance to us that we give out the message that the church is open day and night and everyone, whether Christian or not, is welcome there. That importance leads us to accept the risk of vandalism or, indeed, the use of the place as a doss-house. But there's a limit, you know, and theft goes beyond it.

14 comments:

Penny said...

You know I would never have ever thought of it as theft, as I suspect the person using the sanctuary probably does not either. It is, when it comes down to it, yes. But, I wouldn't have seen it like that until I read your post.

Be kind to him/her, Z. For someone to seek solace in God's house, this is a good thing. It may not be allowed to continue, but perhaps you could offer a suggestion if you find the person, or have it mentioned in service. Remember that God might be working here. ;)

xoxo Love to you.

Dave said...

Having had similar issues myself in the past, there could also be insurance problems about allowing (I know you haven't, but if you did) someone to sleep in the church overnight - if one of their fags burnt the place down, for instance, or if they walked off with the rood screen the insurers might not meet the loss.

Dave said...

What one does, of course, is point them in the direction of a hostel/night shelter (I believe there is one in Norwich).

Dandelion said...

Well, dave, it's good to be cautious, but firstly, churches are made out of stone, which doesn't burn. Secondly, I suspect the insurance is nullified anyway, if they are going about leaving the place unlocked.

And thirdly, I think that's pretty harsh, z. It's one of those things, but I don't think it's right to blame the poor person, or to call it theft.

Dave said...

Pews, rood screens, hymn books, roof beams - and, indeed thatched roofs - all highly flamable, Dandy. Insurers are well aware that churches are open in the day, and firms like the Ecclesiastical are happy enough with that - but draw the line at inviting people to stay overnight (and you mustn't lock them in, for in the event of a fire they would be trapped). I know this, because I've had a discussion with insurers when we had someone who wanted to use our church for his lodgings.

What else is the taking of electricity/gas/oil without consent, then, Dandy? And who else is z to blame, but the individual taking these things without consent? Society? Gordon Brown?

Dandelion said...

Maybe so, dave, but I was querying your suggestion that the person might "burn the place down". I still contend that this is highly unlikely in a building built out of stone.

With or without consent, dave, where do you suppose the person "took" the electricity to? As far as I can gather, no electricity left the premises.

Unless you're prepared to say that someone leaving the church heating on overnight by mistake is also stealing, it strikes me that the only thing you two are objecting to is this poor person's need. And that is not very Christian, to my mind.

Z said...

Sanctuary, goodness yes, Penny. I'd turn a blind eye. But it costs a lot of money to fill our oil tank - look, I'll have to write another post to explain. Thanks, D & D, I'll come back to you.

Dandelion said...

I mean, I'm not saying it's right. I'd agree that it is definitely Not On, and if I were in your shoes, z, I'd be Right Browned Off.

I just don't think it's theft, either in spirit, or in the letter of the law. As Penny says, I don't think the person doing it has the luxury to be thinking in these terms.

Z said...

It is, though, in the letter of the law. If he came into your house in the night, lit a fire and grilled his pork sausages, it would be theft of the fuel you were paying for. I've given him my phone number and I'll help him if he contacts me. If he goes to the Rectory, the rector will help him. This isn't Oliver Twist with its workhouse, help is available from social services as well as from charities and churches. A fuller explanation is in the next post.

Dandelion said...

Well then the law is an ass. It can't be possible to steal something you can't see or touch, or that doesn't even belong to you until after the point of taking.

If someone grilled their pork sausages while I was out (fnar fnar), I firstly wouldn't mind a jot, because if they'd have asked, I'd have said yes anyway, unless they were a pervert, in which case I'd have said no, so I suppose it's fair enough for him to skip the permission. But secondly, I wouldn't say he'd stolen my gas, and I'll tell you why.

Until he lit the gas and started using it, it wasn't mine, because I hadn't paid for it yet, had I? It was just sitting there in the pipes, belonging to British Gas or whoever.

On the other hand, if I'd bought a log of wood for the fire, and he nicked it, that would be theft. But if he just set light to it, then that's damage to property, isn't it, not theft at all. Theft means taking, and if it isn't took, then it isn't theft.

Unauthorised fuel consumption is more like fraud if you ask me, and who amongst us hasn't been a victim of that?

I just really do think, it's like the responsibility we have to keep our passwords and PIN numbers safe. If we take reasonable steps, then we're not responsible for fraudulent use thereof, are we?

If someone buys a plasma tv for themselves by knowing my bank details, you wouldn't say they've stolen my tv, would you? The same thing applies here, I really really do think.

Right. Now I'm off to write an essay on your next post.

Penny said...

Actually, you Can steal things you can't see.. intellectual property, as one blatant example.. music, patents, writing.. heat, for sure.. in fact, if you dump your garbage in someone else's bin, you are stealing a service (here, in Canada, anyway).. water & power(neighbors who use their neighbor's water to water their garden's when their neighbor's are away.. or who plug their cars in to their neighbor's outlets in the winter).. there are many, many stealable intangibles..

I just don't think that the man/woman who is using the church would consider this.. if someone is at the point in their lives where they'll sleep in a church, they aren't thinking about the fact that they are stealing heat.. and, whats more, a person in that state may very well take the communion bread and wine or pennies from the collection without too much thought, because when you are that hungry, theft isn't defined the same.. the things you will do when you are hungry.. truly hungry and cold and tired are beyond measure.

I see the problem of the church, however - especially when it comes to fire-regulations, insurance, and paying for heat..

Thus, my suggestion was to carefully, so as to leave any dignity this man/woman has left intact, suggest in some way (a note, the service..) an alternate to what he/she has been doing.

Because there Are places for people to go. But, you know what.. they aren't very warm or safe, either...

My guess is it's a man. And homelessness may be harder on women, but it's harder for men to overcome.

My other point was that this may be an 'opportunity' that God has laid out. For whatever.. for the man to come to God, to see God working as the body of christ (people of the church) act to care for him, for people to become aware of this social problem for whatever plan God has.. a butterfly has flapped it's wings..

I didn't mean any harsh judgment to you, Z. You just sounded a bit put off, understandably.. but, I was hoping to encourage you to be gentle, that's all.

heybartender said...

I am with you, Z. One has to be practical No matter what your spiritual beliefs, there is a responsibility to everyone here, and by everyone I include the people who pay for that heating fuel. It would be lovely if you could find this person another place to sleep that was already warm, and that's exactly what I suspect you will do. Good Luck.

Z said...

Funnily enough, there were a few coins in the unlocked collection box that hadn't been taken. I'm gentle, and so is the Fellow (who is a volunteer prison visitor). Actually, he's lovely and a much better person than I am. We met, after dark, outside the church, and if anyone had seen us they would have just thought we had a job to do, even though we're both Hot and Lovely. Which we did. Nice to have someone to work with who is so great as to be above suspicion.

Z said...

BTW, Dandelion, there have been cases where someone has made use of someone else's phone line or electricity and the company has held them liable. If it's on your bill, it's your problem unless you can prove otherwise.