A few weeks ago I had a bit of a mishap, which landed me on the couch for a few days. Coming home one night, a suicidal deer decided to do some minor remodelling to my car. Word got out quickly; not just because I’m the clergy, but because I live and exercise ministry in small towns. Everyone hears everything in a small town!
The response didn’t really surprise me: there was a deluge of calls and cards, visitors and emails, and countless assurances of prayers. Some people brought flowers and treats, some started unloading their spare cucumbers (I couldn’t fight them off!), some offered rides and car use and grocery shopping trips and anything else I might need. Many just wanted to assure themselves that I really wasn’t terribly injured, and convey concern and love.
So why does this not really surprise me? Because this is the type of response that is normal within these communities. This is the type of response that everyone gets. People really embrace the notion of being community; of giving and receiving, of being exactly as the church should be.
This means helping out when someone needs it, from taking out the garbage to picking up the mail. It’s making a quick phone call to say hello, to let someone know they are being thought of and appreciated. It’s picking the sweet peas or raspberries to hopefully bring a smile to someone’s face. It’s being present, in tune to how the other person is doing; keeping visits shorter if a person needs rest or longer if a person needs company.
It’s basic: loving and serving neighbor. It’s exactly what the church should be doing.
Yet, this type of church visiting is not always as prevalent and expected as it is here in this parish. Some parishes have pastoral visiting teams, others do not. Some folks will insist that only the clergy can do church visiting, as lay visiting “doesn’t represent the church.” Some parishes have a regular calling list, while others have members on a daily prayer cycle.
I’m curious what others’ experiences are? What do you consider to be a church visit as opposed to a friend visit? Have you been a parish visitor? Have you received a church visit when you’ve been ill or injured? What do you expect from the church when you’re in need? How do you communicate those needs within the church? Do people know and/or feel comfortable to call the church to request a visit, or do they expect to be left alone if they’ve not called?
It’s been an interesting experience to be receiving church visits, when normally I’m making church visits. It’s been lovely to see how things are going well here – knowing that the community I serve takes being community very seriously indeed. I pray everyone might know this type of community from their church!