Living Into the Unfolding
Such as it is this summer. July was to be my vacation month, with the main agenda being to settle into my apartment and this area – along with, of course, resting up for the demands of a new church and new ministry. Now I am facing 4 memorial services. Five, actually – one of the deceased will have a smaller service this weekend and a large service in August. Of course much pastoral care goes along with the deaths of beloved members of the congregation. And I’m thrown into the logistical elements of memorial services in a church where I do not know the customs, traditions, expectations, or even where to find the right people to help with the receptions, ushering, and all the etceteras that go into well planned services.
Some have said to me, ‘What a terrible way to begin your ministry with us!’ ‘What a shame that you are not even due to begin and all this is happening!’ There would have been times when I would have complained loud and long to whoever might listen. But that doesn’t change what is, that doesn’t bring back the failed plans and assumptions, and complaining takes much more energy than it’s worth. Not to mention the spiritual costs – one is then prevented from living into the unfolding of life, from the nudgings of the spirit -- God.
I’m looking at the blessings that present themselves even though I’m short on sleep from a few days of hospital vigil for a tragic death. A blessing in this case was the magic transformation of the family and close friends as they spent 6 hours together with their beloved as the respirator was turned off. It was a healthy and heartfelt goodbye process. Many in our culture cannot relate to the special blessings of being present in death, but many health care folks and ministers in particular (chaplains especially) know what I mean.
I am blessed to know who really runs the church even before I start!! Sometimes it takes a long time and many mistakes before this awareness dawns. I found out after only making a couple of mistakes and only stepping on a few toes. And once I ‘officially’ start (which in this case now means, when I get paid for my ministry here), I will be a more familiar face who has already begun to walk with the congregation in the midst of tragedy and sadness and grief.
I am also lucky to have some great friends and relations who can hear my grumblings and not chastise me for having moments of pique. You all know who you are, and I am eternally grateful and blessed to have you in my life.