Let us Ramble: The Ministry of Presence

“Hey, Pastor Rob! What does a pastor do when it isn’t Sunday morning? You don’t just work an hour a week, do you?”

Well, no, intrepid reader—I don’t just work one hour a week. Like many other clergy, as a pastor I do a lot of things behind the scenes. Some of them are often quite boring. Did you know who often gets called on to get that basket from the top shelf in the kitchen when there’s a church meal? Yeah, that’s me. Do you know who often takes first crack at getting the sink running again in the bathroom? Yup, that’s me. Do you know who sits in on most of the meetings as a resource, resident theologian, and guide? Yeppers.

I do a lot of things from preparing messages and Bible studies, to working towards completing my work with the Academy for Spiritual Formation through readings and covenant agreements, to writing notes and letters, to praying for a brighter future, and working to make those dreams a reality. A lot of what I do has to do with the future, but occasionally I am gifted with the ability of fulfilling the promises of the past.

This morning I walked into a worship service at a Nursing Home. Years ago, nearly three of my lifetimes ago, a pastor baptized a child on a Sunday morning and spoke about the role of the church in caring for this child of God. Today, in his stead (I can safely say “his” given the time-period of her baptism), I came into a worship service and pulled up a chair with a saint who lived out her life in the midst of her church.

She did not like to sing in public, so sitting by her side, I sang on her behalf to tunes on a CD player recorded at least two keys down from the way they are written in our hymnal. I coped (poorly, I’m afraid) with the shift and sung for and with the other ladies in the room. Everyone looked at me at one point or another. It was then that I realized that I not only had the youngest voice in the room, but I had the only male voice. To reference one of my favorite silly movies, I brought us down a whole octave!

We prayed together, I listened to the sermon, and I shared communion with all of the wonderful women gathered in that place. After the service I introduced myself to the chaplain, paid similar compliments to the ones I hear Sunday morning, met my church member’s friends, and then walked her back to her room for a chat.

It seems silly, but as I look back on all of the small things that I did today for the ministry, that moment of sitting with this saint (in the role of pastor and as fellow human on the same path) was probably one of the most sacred things that I did today. Yes, I made a few encouraging phone calls. Yes, I provided dinner for my family. Yes, I prepared for meetings tomorrow night and I did visit other folks in other facilities, but there was something sacred about sitting with a parishioner with no greater expectation than to be with her for a few minutes as we worshipped side by side. There is something holy about being present on behalf of a community that is simply holy.

I hope that my parishioner knows how sacred I found our time together today. In fact, I think I may just have to end this blog post to go write a letter!

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