It’s been six months. Six months since hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living began restricting visitors. That means I can’t go to the hospital. Or the nursing home. Or the ALF. I cannot go when the phone rings and I hear,
- “Pastor, we had to call 911. They’re taking him to the emergency room.”
- “Pastor, I’m having surgery next week.”
- “Pastor, they moved her to hospice care.”
- “Pastor, we just had a baby girl!”
- “Pastor, I haven’t had communion for three months.”
In a pre-2020 — pre-CoVid-19 — world, my weekly schedule would include pre- and post-surgery visits, monthly nursing home rounds, homebound communion visits and emergency room prayers. It’s all part of pastoral care in a congregation. I cannot do any of those things now. It feels like you cut one of the legs off my stool.
A lot of visitation and prayer has been replaced by phone calls. It is a gracious alternative, but let’s face it, it’s not he same. It’s not the same as holding a hand for a prayer. It’s not the same as communion at a bedside. It’s not the same as one final face-to-face conversation. It’s not the same as reading scripture to a long-time friend struggling for every breath. It’s not the same as making the sign of the cross on a forehead while speaking words of benediction.
In the past two months, I have been able to visit some of my members in their homes who feel comfortable with an in-person visit. For many, it is the only contact with another person for months.
Others have decided to wait. For a vaccine. For a cure. For the number of positive tests to decrease. For their family to tell them it’s OK to have visitors. I’m always available, but I always respect their wishes.
This reality leaves me feeling like I’m not doing my job. Yes, you can watch me preach on YouTube. You can watch my bible class. You can pray with me on a phone call. But it’s not the same, is it? Pastoral care was designed to be analog, not digital. In person, not remote. Face-to-face.
In the past I have often sighed as I headed out the door for yet another hospital visit. Now I am looking forward to a quick prayer of thanks for the opportunity to do that again.