Monday, September 04, 2006

Being ready to be a pastor

Something I'm becoming more and more convinced of is this: if you have a pastoral call, you will instinctively act on that call.  At least, that is how my own experience works out.

I preached yesterday at a small church that I am fairly familiar with; this particular church holds their corporate worship service at 9:30am, and Sunday School following.  We didn't stay for Sunday School, so we arrived home earlier than we usually do-- and, it is safe to say, earlier than most church-going Christians on Sunday morning.

As we pulled up to our house (around 11:45am), I noticed that there were more cars in front of our next-door neighbor's house than usual.  Then I saw her daughter out on the front lawn.

My next-door neighbor, Gladys, is 93 years old.  She has severe dementia, and she's been in the hospital and nursing care facilities for most of the summer because of hip replacement and other troubles.  So it's never a surprise to see a member of her family at her house.  But she was brought home on Friday, and we were told that she was enrolled in a hospice program.

As we unloaded our family from the car, Marcie went over to the daughter and spoke with her.  When I got closer, I could see that the daughter was crying-- and had been for a while.  Marcie was discreet, but let me know that Gladys had died that morning.  We went on into the house, and Marcie and I tried to explain death to our four-year-old.

As we were going inside, I wondered if I should keep my suit on.  Should I go next door and sit with the family?  Who is their pastor-- and how long will it take for him to free up from church responsibilities (after all, he may still be preaching!)?  Should I try to stand in as ad-hoc pastor until then?

I saw someone else-- a grandson, himself an Elder at a local church-- in the yard outside.  So I went out to talk with him.  He, too, was crying, and also on the phone, so I kept my distance for a minute.  He came over and we greeted each other.  We had never met before, but I knew who he was.

I told him I was so sorry for his loss.  He thanked me, then said he had been praying that she would go quickly-- he knew she wouldn't want to go on for long like this.  I agreed-- "she was way too feisty for that."  He laughed a little, and his tears lessened as he told me the story of how she had been walking around the nursing home two days after her hip replacement surgery.  Sometimes just listening and remembering together is the best ministry in this sort of situation.

I asked if there was anything I could do?  He assured me there wasn't.  I invited him to feel welcome to knock and ask if there was.

Going back inside, I thought I might call the one person I knew from his church-- also an Elder-- and make sure that folks knew about his loss.  After talking with that friend, I was confident that my neighbors would not go unattended.

We didn't really know Gladys that well.  We met a couple of her children in passing, but never got to know them either-- or their children.  I don't know why I felt compelled to act that way, other than to say my pastoral calling urged me to do it.  Maybe I'm pre-disposed by that calling to be burdened for other souls.

What do you think?

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