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Thursday, January 06, 2005
Hospital Visits and Waiting Rooms
I'm tired and so this may be disconnected. (I can hear my husband's voice saying 'So, what's different?') I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning. I showered and did the morning thing and left even before my husband and children woke up. I got to the church and my senior pastor and I got into his car for the very long drive to Emory Hospital. It was grey and raining and we were both tired and not really wanting to go. There’s been tension and stress for the last few months with Advent, holidays, staffing, personality conflicts between some leaders and what not. Tension that comes from a church growing from 150 to 1100 in attendance in 4 years. His internal tension that come from operating well and confidently in a paradigm called “Small Church” and having to transition to “Big Steeple Church” in 4 years with out much growth in staffing and lay leadership. There’s going to be more tension occurring as we build buildings, programming and leadership and I think he’s getting tired. He was off the week after Christmas and for the first time in a long time he was able just to sit and relax and think.
“Big Steeple Church” is going to be different. What do you give up? What do you keep on doing? We also talked about some staffing changes that might occur this week – more stress is coming. How do you plan for it?
Anyway, I was up and out of the house before 6:00 – off to Emory for 2 surgeries. I went to one hospital room and he to the other. By the time I got to the surgical waiting room, J had gone onto surgery and the family was in the cafeteria getting breakfast. I decended into the depths of Egleston (ok, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, I can never get used to this – too many words). When I got to the basement, I found J’s mom and dad with our children’s minister and youth minister. They weren’t required to come, that is, it was not their day for hospital visits, but they both are such caring individuals that they couldn’t think of doing anything else. I feel that pull – to come and sit and wait – I’ve been in that waiting room myself.
I remember too many times when I had to wait by myself – times when I didn’t know if my husband was going to be OK or not – times when I had to sit alone with a doctor when he told me I needed to sign a DNR. Too many times. My mother’s last surgery, Father Doug sat with me and I will never forget that – there is truly a ministry of presence. Not much needs to be said – your words probably won’t be remembered anyway. My friend P says it this way: “Don’t just do something! Stand there!” And these are words of wisdom.
So today I say with J’s parents and L’s husband and mother and father. And I made small chit-chat. I listened while L’s mother told me how she and L’s father met. I listened to how J’s father ran into a truck with his bike in front of the biscuit shop and the lunch crowd stood and clapped. I listened to the stories and listened to the anxiety and we waited. We talked about God and suffering a little, but mostly we just told stories. They were not earthshattering, thunderous stories of might and glory, but small stories told in quiet voices about little acts of love and small graces and we were in the Presence.
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Thanks from one pastor to another for your faithfulness. I found your blog through a random search (next blog) and as I read I found our stories to be much the same only the names and faces have been changed. Keep up the faith work.
I can relate to all of this except tensions over fast growth. I am doing redevelopment of a tiny congregation in a small town. Our issues are slow deliberate growth so as not to frighten the long-timers as well as keeping our spirits up. The growth of your congregation is amazing.
Take a nap, girlie! Blessings to you!
I can so readily identify with your thoughts on the ministry of presence, the ministry of waiting. So many times I have done the same, often dreading it all the way to the hospital. Yet time after time, I have found the experience to be deeply meaningful and rewarding. Relationships are built strong and fast in a hospital. Illness and crisis tear away all pretenses and most barriers. "Just" being there - what a precious ministry. Of course, it's exhausting, too. So sweet dreams, Reverend Mommy!
Thanks for the encouraging words -- ministry can be lonely sometimes. I have a couple of "support groups" -- one dictated by the conference that doesn't work too well and one spontaneous one. This blogging stuff is seeming to work that way, as well -- so, thanks!
Egads! 150 to 1100?!?!?! That's borderline traumatic! Take good care of yourself.
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