Thursday, October 23, 2014
Random thoughts on a random day. . .
Sitting with a few shut-ins puts some of these things into a slightly different perspective. One couple spends too much of their time shuffling from one doctor appointment to another. They are not overly busy but overly tired -- weary of the endless litany of ailments, tests, diagnoses, and pills. They know what is wrong with them. They are old and old age brings a certain unpleasantness that is unavoidable (no matter what the pleasant mythology of aging tries to say). This is a wisdom which they wish they had not learned. They have found their length of days a mixed blessing -- as it surely is -- but they are wonderfully happy to spend time with their Pastor, who has come to inquire about them, to speak God's Word to them, and to feed them upon the body and blood of the Lord Jesus.
In the same day, another set of shut-ins finds a slightly different twist to their day. Time moves ever so slowly during the day but quickly through the months. One is suffering from the ever increasing ills of memory loss and his world grow ever smaller with each passing day. His wife watches with a measure of sadness and relief -- sadness that their golden years have lost some of the shine and relief when he wakes, when they manage to get through the day without falling or some other household trouble. They are also happy when their Pastor stops by to break the routine, bring news from their church and church family, and listen to the measure of the day so far. Visitors do not stop as often as they would like and come more often because of need and not simply to say "hi". The memory lost has not yet left him unable to speak the Our Father and ask to receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus but he does have trouble swallowing and receives the Sacrament from a spoon.
The ministry of Word and Sacrament is all that but it is also a ministry of presence. Amid the press of time, the urgency of a thousand problems, emails, phone calls, social media alerts, lessons to prepare, sermons to write, parish calendars and publications to prepare, etc... there is time just to sit, to talk, to look around, and to look into the lives of those entrusted to your care. It is not always the kind of stuff that seems urgent or the kind of stuff that fits on a report or the kind of stuff that leaves you with statistics to share... but this is the stuff of a Pastor's day.
How we care for the youngest and for the oldest within the church is often a truer measure of the church's life and health than the raw statistics of attendance, giving, visitor follow ups, etc... that supervisors want to see. How do you report these indicators of faithfulness also essential to the life of a Christian (Lutheran) congregation?
So after spend about half the day with shut-ins, there are still some phone messages to hear, calls to return, and a 90 minute youth catechism class to teach (finishing up a unit on baptism). At the end of the day, it is sometimes hard to point to concrete accomplishments ("This is what I made/did") -- but there is purpose, value, and importance to it. One of the great lessons of pastoral ministry is learning that pastoral care is not glamorous, it is hard to chart on your schedule, and difficult to report but it is often one of the most valuable things you will ever do.
PS... The phone calls were about baptisms to schedule (5 so far) and new families to bring into the family of faith hat is this congregation. These things are easier to chart and report. So at the end of the day a little something for the statistics after all -- though it is a darn shame to characterize the great mystery of water and God's Word as a statistic!?!