Monday, October 30, 2006

A Ministry of Presence

Part of a pastor's "job" is the ministry of presence. There are special times when it's important for the pastor to just be there. In youth ministry, it was important to make it to the kids' games, plays, races, recitals, etc. - even if just to make an appearance. They knew I cared just because I showed up.

More important than that, however, was showing up when bad stuff happened. There was the time when I was able to be there for a family making final decisions about a comatose family member - when I was talking with the family member who was in the youth group, I told him, "I would love for ministry to be all about the good times: ropes courses, retreats, the first half of lock-ins, and so forth, but this is the truth: ministry happens in the tough times."

I'll stick with that assessment.

Today was no exception. I was working on next Sunday's service when I got a call asking me to go to the hospital. A member of the "other church" in town had taken a turn for the worse - this could be it - and P.D. was over two hours away making hospital visits. Could I go?

I am pleased that we have developed a good enough relationship that he could ask me to do that. I'm not so stuck on denominational stuff that I miss the truth: that we're working on the same team, that Church has a capital C, meaning Church Universal, that this is a small enough town that we don't have enough room to bicker, that we should uplift and encourage one another and help each other out in ministry.

Anyway, I was there when the Church member passed away and was able to give comfort to the family. I didn't do anything remarkable. I didn't tell them anything they didn't know. I didn't say much, to tell the truth. I sat with them and said prayers with them. I found out that he and his wife met as high school freshmen and that his blue eyes captivated her from the first time she saw him. I learned that they had been married 58 years. I learned that at a tent revival meeting in Dayton he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.

I think that's what a ministry of presence is about.


Mary Beth said...

I never felt so inadequate as I did in those times where I was called to a ministry of presence. It was so difficult for me to just sit with a family, knowing that I couldn't say anything to make it better, but that all they expected was for me to be there.

My first pastoral visit in my first appointment was to the uncle of one of my parishioners. He had just passed away, so the visit was actually to his family as they were saying their goodbyes in the hospital. The uncle went to another UMC a few towns over but his pastor was on vacation so my parishioner called me. It wasn't an easy first visit to make but because I was standing in for another pastor it helped me feel like a part of a team.

I'm glad you could be with the family today.

Big Mama said...

And you are so good at that kind of ministry. You are particularly gifted in "being there" for people and in the-is there a spiritual gift of "empathy" ? You have that!