The following are excerpts from Rev. Sharon Wylie’s sermon “We All Need Care” offered on March 5, 2023. You can watch the full sermon on Chalice’s YouTube channel.
Our tendency to insist we are fine when we are not reminds me of animals that hide when they are sick or dying. This is very primal behavior, the instinct to hide our vulnerability.
Dementia patients are often able to hide their confusion and their debilitating symptoms, even as they experience cognitive decline. Our ability to give the appearance of being well can stay with us, even when we are not well at all.
I see this behavior in our congregational life in a couple of ways. The first is the tendency for some people—not everyone!—but for some people, the tendency to stop attending church when they are facing personal losses, crises, or challenges. This is the opposite of what we would hope, that people come to church MORE often when they are facing hard times. It’s that same instinct, to hide our vulnerability, to give the appearance that all is well.
Sometimes the only way to give the appearance that all is well is to stay away from people.
I know there are a wide variety of reasons that congregants watch the service online on Sunday mornings, and I hope that people who might be feeling the impulse to retreat from community find that they can still watch online, while still preserving their privacy and honoring the desire to stay home.
The second behavior I see in our congregational life is the tendency to insist that everything is fine and no extra care or attention is needed.
I do hear a lot from congregants who are worried about other congregants. Worried that I don’t know that XY or Z thing has happened to so-and-so, and so I should probably reach out to them.
If you have said something like this to me, you know that I often respond by saying, YOU should also reach out to so-and-so. Because you are the friend that is worried, and your care and support is important too.
My preference when congregants come to me worried about other congregants, is that you’ve asked the person you’re worried about if they would like a call from me, or a visit with me, so I know that my reaching out is welcome.
I know there are those of you who assume that anyone would appreciate a call or a visit with the minister, and that may be true, but not everyone likes knowing that people are worried about them and talking about them…
Why am I telling you this? Because I need you to know, every one of you to know, that even with a minister who might be considered gifted in pastoral care, there are still congregants who don’t want care from the minister, and that is why the care and support you offer to each other is extremely important. That is why when you come to me with worries about a friend, I encourage you to reach out to your friend.
You need to consider that the care you offer a friend might be the only care that they are open to receiving.
Blessings and love to you,