Today’s challenge is Praying for others. I decided to put on Facebook that I was praying while out walking and if anyone wanted anything specific to contact me. I put it on all 4 church Facebook pages plus two of the village pages. When I finished my morning prayer at 9.30am one of the churches had reached 41 people with 2 likes. I had a request during the morning to pray for someone who had died, so I message back thanking them and saying I would pray for them too.
I then got sent on a short guilt trip. I have learnt not to go down that road but nevertheless it does niggle. On one of the village Facebook pages someone wrote:
Praying is all very good, but visiting house bound parishioners, offering support of just a friendly face or a listening ear over a brew, is priceless x
Thank You!!! Nice One…. yes I would love to be the Vicar of Dibley or some other TV vicar who does nothing but sit in church playing the organ with lots of lit candles and just waiting for people to pop in. Or to wander around the village, loitering with intent. I would love to have just one village church. Instead I have 4 village churches, 3 church schools and am chaplain at a high school. It is not physically, emotionally or spiritually possible to be that idealised vicar from days gone by. I didn’t feel guilty for long. I toyed with the idea of getting a visiting list going – but….. I haven’t even managed to visit all my various PCC members at home, nor the congregation, let alone random strangers. I don’t feel guilty – I feel sad, I feel frustrated, I feel ‘not good enough’ but I know that is not true.
I typed several replies and deleted them all, including this final one:
I agree that visiting is a good thing to do Wendie. Did you have anyone in particular in mind? How many housebound people are there in the 4 villages that I have churches in? And if there are too many for the time that I have available (which there probably is) how do I decide who to visit and who not to visit?
I deleted it rather than posted it because I didn’t want to sound aggressive. Not fair to vent on her. I wondered if anyone who knows me would reply pointing out how busy I am. Or does everyone think that is what I should be doing. Oh well…. I went off to my second assembly of the day on St Patrick.
Upon my return I checked Facebook – another person added “so true Wendie” . After a bit of thought I called to mind the words of our Lord – forgive – pray for those who persecute you – (or words to that effect). So I did a ‘love’ response on the first and a ‘like’ on the second comment.
I do wonder if I should offer to visit once a week and get someone to arrange the appointments. It always takes ages to arrange a visit to coincide when I am free – especially at short notice. Oh I’ve got an hour or two to spare…. it would be lovely to do a quick visit… but who? And are they in? Even ‘housebound’ people seem to have endless doctors and hospital appointments, visiting family, carers coming in etc etc etc.
I paused for lunch before continuing with the day’s work which was sermon preparation. I felt like asking Wendie who she suggests I pop in and see this afternoon as I go for my walk round the lake.
During my afternoon walk I spiral downward into a low mood, despite setting out to simply pray as I walk. During the walk I muse about how I should perhaps set aside time each week for visiting and ask someone else to organise who. And then I feel angry and then guilty and then tearful.
Along the way I met a lady and listened to the latest on her family saga (a plot worthy of East enders) then round the lake I chat happily to a dog walker, then another lady who works at the school, stop off at the shop and exchange a few word with the man behind the counter who asked if I had moved in yet (I arrived in June?!?). Finally I stop and have a fairly lengthy conversation with my next door neighbour who I rarely see. I now know his name (which I had forgotten since meeting him at a funeral) and that he lives with his mother and brother and their sisters visit most days. So she isn’t a lonely housebound person in need of visiting. That would have really finished me off if I’d discovered that! We discuss the fact that I have 4 churches, 3 schools, 1 chaplaincy …. and he wonders how I do it. So do I. As I said to him, I would love to have just one village, one church, and then I could get to know the inhabitants and pop round to see people.
However as I walked I also remembered that in my previous parish I didn’t do loads of visiting, other than a large number of funeral visits. But what I did do was encourage the church members to recognise their gifts and talents and vocations. When I had arrived it had been the experience and expectation that pastoral visiting is the vicar’s job. When I left, I left behind a licensed pastoral worker who heads up a team of pastoral visitors who take care of baptism preparation, post funeral visiting and general visiting of church members. There is now a bereavement support group. I have left the parish, but the pastoral work continues.
As I was tidying away for the end of the day I had a phone call from a lady whose partner’s funeral I conducted a few weeks ago. She was returning my call from earlier in the day. She was pleased I’d rang and we chatted and I listened for about 20 minutes while she told me how things were as she is grieving.
Oh dear…. So much for my prayer time – I need to cook dinner so I can eat before my evening appointment.
I think I should tell myself, quite firmly, that I am doing as well as I can under the circumstances. I shouldn’t interpret comments as criticism. Perhaps tomorrow I will send Wendie a message and ask if there is anyone in particular she has in mind who is in need of a visit.