Monday, December 7, 2009

The ministry of visiting

Something has been lost when pastors are no longer involved in the everyday lives of their parishioners. A guest blogger at Internet Monk, a hospice chaplain, writes about what it is he does, which is what most pastors once did:
.... My work as a hospice chaplain involves visiting people in their homes every day. I also visit people in the hospital, in assisted living apartments, and in extended care facilities (nursing homes). Our entire team is a visiting team. We meet people on their turf. We enter their world. We do not ask them to make appointments and come to us, to an office somewhere. We get in our cars, check the directions and make our way around the city to find them. We park in front of their homes, walk up their sidewalks, knock on their doors, introduce ourselves, and wait to be invited in. We sit on their furniture, pet their dogs and cats, breathe their air, look around at their pictures, their messes and their treasures. We come as guests and servants, to hear their stories, to learn about their faith, to assess their needs, to assure them of our goodwill and desire to help them, to minister to their pain, to embrace them when they weep, and laugh with them as we consider life’s quirks and absurdities together.

Sometimes I read Scripture. When asked, I’ll bring my guitar and sing a few favorite songs. I almost always pray, with their permission. On certain occasions I speak a word designed to give them perspective on what they are facing. Mostly I listen. When I speak, it is usually to affirm that what they are going through is just plain hard, but we are there to support them in addition to their family, friends, and faith community. And…that God loves them and promises his comforting and strengthening presence.

The ministry of visiting…it’s what I have the privilege to do.

I think it is what pastors and Christian people used to do, what they were expected to do. But something changed in the church. .... [more]
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