We have a new music group forming at Chalice: “Notes of Comfort,” a compassionate music program. The idea is that congregants who are ill or otherwise struggling might receive a visit from this group, to be cheered and comforted by song and music. (You will hear more about this group in future newsletters, as they get up and running.)
At their first planning meeting, they asked me about how often I receive requests for pastoral care. Half-jokingly (but half not), I told them, “Oh, nobody at Chalice needs pastoral care. Instead, everybody is worried that somebody else needs pastoral care.”
This is, of course, not entirely true, as many of you are good about reaching out to me to request meetings and visits to talk about what’s on your heart. I am always grateful for these requests because I’m glad to be of service. It is one of the greatest privileges of my role as the minister that I am invited into your lives this way. Wanting to be of help to people is why I became a minister.
But it is also very common for many of you to come to me to let me know that you are worried about the struggles and crises of your friends. And perhaps I am imagining it, but in these moments of hearing that such-and such has happened to so-and-so, I feel that the person sharing the news—the worrier—expects me to do something.
It has taken me some time, but I have come to be at peace that my response to concerns that come from worried friends is not to reach out to the person in crisis. Ours is not a faith tradition where your minister forces herself into your lives uninvited. And many of you are not only surprised, but also uncomfortable to realize that (well-meaning) friends have been talking with the minister about your problems. “Concern” can feel like “gossip” to the person being talked about.
What I have come to focus on in the moment of news-sharing, is that it is actually the worrier who needs care, even though they may not realize it when they come to me. It is the worrier who is anxious and wants their anxiety soothed. It is the worrier who doesn’t know where to go and what to do with their deep concern for their friend.
As you know if you have come to me worried about a friend, I am likely to encourage you to be sure and let your friend know how much you care about them, and that you are there for them if they need you. People need their minister, yes. But they also need their friends.
And if you strongly feel that your friend needs to talk with me, encourage them to do so! You can always check with them: “Is it okay if I ask Rev. Sharon to call/visit you?” Then when you bring your concern to me, you can tell me that your friend has asked for a call. So then I know that my reaching out is invited and welcome, not an imposition.
When to call the minister?
- Been diagnosed or living with a serious illness
- Going into the hospital
- Relationship is in trouble
- Coping with a personal loss
- Had a death in the family
- Want to discuss an addiction issue
- Struggling with mental illness
- Want to talk about your spiritual journey
- Have vocational, ethical, or religious questions