I’ve spent more time in the phone in the past month than I have in years.
Pastoral ministry to a “sheltering-in-place” congregation has been an interesting experience. Generally, over the course of a month, I would see and talk with most of the members of the congregation in worship, bible classes, meetings, nursing visits and visits to those sick or recovering at home or in the hospital. But when everyone, including myself, stays home for six weeks, that whole dynamic of church life is gone.
So I blocked out a few hours of time each day and called just about everyone who affiliates with our congregation, about two hundred families, over the past month. Here are some things I learned in the process.
- Everyone was doing well! Yes, some had been sick or been recovering from a surgery, but no one had contracted the CoVid-19 virus. Our congregation has been blessed and spared so far.
- Folks are notorious for not reporting new phone numbers, email addresses and even changes of address. I had to do a little detective work to find some folks, but now our records are up to date.
- Many were thankful for the chance to chat with someone. The conversation always lasted longer than I expected. And more often than not, all I had to do was listen. For many, the church fills an important social as well as spiritual role in their lives, and they were thankful for a time to connect.
- More than a few finally dipped a toe into 21st century technology. Some watched their first YouTube video ever when we uploaded holy week worship services. Others dusted off long neglected Facebook accounts to watch livestreams. A few learned how to contribute to the church online. A number finally began to read the weekly email I’ve been sending out for years. A good number learned how to be a part of a bible class via video conferencing.
- I learned that for the most part, I have a positive relationship with the church family. Most wanted to know how I was holding up. They were glad to hear that I and my family are doing just fine. The majority also expressed their gratitude that I had delayed my retirement for another year.
- With each call, I asked what they needed and what they needed help with. This first time through, no one had any immediate needs. Most wanted to help someone else. We’ve been very, very blessed.
So now I’m going through the list a second time. It’s been a month, and we’ve got new joys and sorrows, blessings and needs to share!