There is no doubt that ministry is multifaceted. In a sense, it means being all things to all people. It encompasses being available if only to show support. This weekend as I was on call at Huguley Hospital the idea of presence presented to me an area I had yet to experience. On the one hand, my presence was to extend joy to a joyful family. On the other hand, joy was hard to find yet presence became paramount in the ministry that was set before me.
As I started my tour of duty early Friday morning I met a family near the labor and delivery unit of the hospital. I could not help but hear the talking and laughter. Using my position as chaplain I thought it reasonable to go speak with the people that were in a light form of celebration. I was so glad I did because the family did much for me. This was particularly true see how this was a military family with a young lass being born on the Fourth of July. What joy! What celebration! What a moment to be in the company of those who celebrate life while the tending to the presence that was learned in the first week of CPE.
And as the day went on I continued dealing with a number of issues. Then came a dramatic call late in the morning while I was being present with another patient. It was a “code blue” in the emergency room. A lady suffered a heart attack. By the time I arrived at the emergency room the patient was already deceased. I met the doctor as he explained the situation to me. We walked together with a nurse to the family room. To say the mood was somber is to place a major understatement on the matter. I sat quietly while the doctor explained to the loved ones what happened to the patient.
The doctor spoke to the family for a couple minutes as they began to grasp the fact that the person they loved would be no longer with them. The eldest sister was most expressive. She could not believe what had transpired. To my surprise, the doctor offered to pray with the family and the family accepted the offer. So, the doctor and I got on one knee each in front of the grieving group and the doctor prayed a prayer of comfort. Meanwhile, I had said very little but that my presence was important not only to the family but also to that most compassionate doctor. My perspective of doctors changed more positively as I simply maintained presence for the loved ones as well as the clinical staff.
There was much more that had to take place with those that loved the decedent. There was a need and desire to spend time with the one they would no longer be able to talk to. She, the decedent would no longer ride her horse. Her voice was silenced forever. The family dinners would be met with an empty chair. Things just would not be same without this precious one. So I joined them in the room with the decedent. Again, while I did speak to the family I said very little. I simply was present. I was there just in case they needed me for something. And they did need me for a few things and I helped as much as I could to aid this grieving family. And I did just as the family asked me. I ran a couple errands and I grieved with them as much as I rejoiced with the family having a baby.
Hence the two sides of ministry are introduced. Scripture clearly teaches that the Christian is to weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice (Romans 12:15). These two sides of ministry coupled with the idea of presence lend considerable credence to ministry. You see, many are under the impression that ministry is the continual onslaught of scripture coupled with homiletic diatribes that usually do little but inflate the ego of the one engaged in a senseless soliloquy. Laughing with those that laugh is a wonderful tool of ministry. Crying with those that cry is just as significant.
Certainly, there are other sides of ministry yet the two sides described above show that the minister cares about those that he is ministering to. The fact is that people really don’t care what you know if they don’t know that you care. Ministry is more than an act of compassion rather the compassion is coupled with care. And while the terms “compassion” and “care” are often synonymous I would like to use some creative license to show that these two sides of ministry coupled with presence do more for those being ministered to than can be imagined.
In order to minister one need not wear the ecclesiastical cloak of the clergy rather all that is needed is the robe of concern and love for fellow men. With that, I would urge all to minister not with head knowledge per se but rather from the idea of being present and willing to be quiet in that presence as we sharpen these two sides of ministry.