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Religion: Panhandlers & the Church

1 minute read

Should a man of God ever give the brushoff to a bum?

Of course he should, and often, wrote the Rev. David Churchman Trimble, of St. Luke’s Church in Prescott, Ariz., in the Episcopal weekly The Living Church. “Call them ‘psychos,’ tramps, panhandlers, floaters or whatever you will,” he wrote. “They are the perennial problem-children of the clergy . . .” Rector Trimble warned his fellow clergymen: “Never give a stranger money or gasoline. Never endorse his check or give him yours. Never give him your personal card or reference . . . No matter how tough we are . . . the expert panhandler will probably outsmart us.”

The panhandlers found their defenders. The Rev. John Franklin Machen, vicar of Grace Church in Charles City, Iowa, denounced Trimble’s “suave, clever, cold-as-ice efficiency,” pleaded “the cause of the transients who come to the clergy’s door —the poor, the dishonest, the beaten . . .” Unworthy people will deceive the clergy, admits Vicar Machen, but ” ‘unworthy people’ must be sought by the Church . . . precisely because they are lost.”

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