Monday, May 8, 2017

What life on the margins can teach us.

“Off the page” How the Holy Spirit works?
I am amazed these two paragraphs from “The Ministry of the Whole Church” written in the spring of 1955 continue to influence approaching age 93. Writing the paper set the course. Granted the words have been modified but the direction remains. Now I would add the words “intention” or “intentional” or “intend” or “tend.” Tendare in Latin means to care. Pastoral Care is nurtured by these words and I was nurtured by the givenness of doing the paper as part of my seminary experience. The words covering 68 years became intentional.
This paper is not a conscious attempt to correlate three years of theological education. I thought about such an endeavor. I came to the same conclusion as Doc in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, “I want to take every thing I have seen and thought and learned and reduce them and relate them and refine them until I have something of meaning, something of use, and I can’t seem to do it.” This paper is an attempt at a perspective or an agenda for beginning the ministry with the vision of the ministry of the total parish. I say it is an attempt, for it is merely an experimental beginning. I hold to the validity of the endeavor, but I do not hold with any great validity the conclusions reached in this endeavor. The paper is Baptismal in character, “more is begun than complete.” Nor is the conclusion that it will come off in a few months. This is the beginning of thinking about a perspective for ministry; the perspective will be changing as it is in dialogue with the actual situation and the will of God.
In mechanical drawing every perspective has a point at which all the lines converge. Likewise in the perspective of the ministry of the whole parish, all the lines converge on our Christian Faith: the revelations of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. Such a perspective has a paradoxical nature. One aspect of this paradox is that it may be only the clergyman who is explicitly aware of this perspective of the total ministry of the parish, and yet this perspective does not depend entirely upon him. This perspective is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people in the community. God is the center of the perspective: Judging, purifying, and guiding the work through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Such a relationship is a dialogue between God and his people. The clergyman is a prayerful listener who helps people see the meetings of God and man. (Opening paragraphs to “The Ministry of the Whole Church.”)
The vantage point in a three dimensional drawing is always off the page. Eleven years into the ministry, and my second full year as a certified hospital chaplain of the College of Chaplains, the mechanical drawing perspective became a conscious way of working. And Mavareen’s request to do something about the Auxiliary rule, “do not speak to patients when you take the notions cart around” was off the page. In other words, “Don’t get into a conversation with a patient. Sell the candy bar and leave.” Her saying that patients want to talk reminded me of the Scripture verse “out of Egypt have I called my son” because “off the page” and “out of Egypt” became the words  describing our way of working, the words for the way we listened.
Beginning with the Befrienders, we added the Grief Resource Group when we determined most patients were sharing some kind of grief story with the Befrienders. In our discussion we discerned the need for a Grief Recovery Group. To bring everyone on board we sponsored community workshops. Then a Befriender, on vacation, visited St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. Upon returning she observed we had all the elements of hospice except the medical part. We invited doctors to the Resource group and Hospice of Scott County came into being. To grow continuity in care between Churches and Hospital, the Umbrella for Caring with lay visitors from the churches began. More recently, I can report the Grief Recovery Group of Genesis Hospital is expanding. The CEO’s own experience with the loss of a child is making a difference.
My revised paper would now read, instead of “The ministry of the Whole Church,” “The Ministry of the Whole Community.”  
An article from the Harvard Business Review intrigued me, “How to Build a Culture of Originality.” The approach seems to be of the same mindset as working “off the page.” Still working “off the page” I am happy to report people are joining me in the latest “intentional” effort. We have a Healthy Reads book discussion group where a former Befriender said, “My niece gave me a book on Being Mortal.” That became our first discussion book. It led to a panel discussion at St. John Vianney and a presentation to the parish nurses at Genesis for CEU credits. We are now reading Dietrick Bonhoefer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Come join us.
Enjoy the Harvard Business Review article from their internet web site. Learn how to grow your Aha’s!

Marlin, BCC
Founder of the Befrienders, now celebrating 50 years of discoveries and story listening.

I look forward to reading your comments. Just click on comments to receive a box to write your comments. To be continued.

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