Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sabbatical report

AKA “How I spent my summer”

Going in to the Sabbatical Period I had three main goals:
1) Do a bunch of reading with two focal points to be Congregational/Community Development and Pastoral Care
2) have some “down time” and some family time
3) be intentional about physical activity
Other possibilities included watching some TED talk videos in conjunction with goal 1 (that did not happen) and getting some stuff done around the house and yard (which largely also did not happen).

Goal 1:
Books Read: 18 (11 in Hardcopy, 7 on KOBO)
Fiction – 4
General Spirituality – 1
Congregational/Community Development – 8
Pastoral Care – 5
Then there were some random articles on various topics that I read, usually as a result of them popping up on my Twitter or Facebook feed.

So I averaged roughly a book a week, which I am pleased with. As I finished each book I wrote a bit of a reflection on it as a way to help refer back to them as time progresses. Over time I need to synthesize the concepts in this reading and discern how best to apply them to congregational ministry. Some of the books I found very applicable and helpful, some of them were not quite what I thought they might be. I did find that in order to focus on reading I needed to go to another place (often Starbucks was where I ended up) where there were less distractions than at home. My book reflections can all be found at:

Goal 2:
There was certainly down time. And there was some extra family time – whether this is a good thing may depend on which members of the family you ask. The interesting thing was that I am still unsure if I ended the summer any more rested than I would in a regular summer. I think I was somewhat more refreshed at any rate. And I did a better job than I thought I would at leaving thoughts about what was happening at the church/with church people behind. The only time I really read and engaged with church e-mails that popped up on my phone was around the flood, the rest I deleted pretty much unread. At the same time I learned that it is likely I should have more contacts in town that are not work-related.

Goal 3:
I am satisfied with how well I did on this one. The weeks we were in town I was able to get over to Eastlink 2-3 times a week quite reliably with some other walks with the dog added in. I had hoped to get one or the other in every day but in reality that was probably overly optimistic. The challenge on a continuing basis is to find a way to continue this level of activity now that life is back to its normal busy-ness.

I went in to the sabbatical not knowing what exactly to expect. Now that I have taken one I am not sure I would do it again unless there was something specific I had to accomplish. I am glad I took it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pastoral Care....some rambling thoughts

From the beginning of my first internship I have found one thing to be true.  The part of ministry that I find the most challenging is Pastoral Care.

There are a variety of reasons for this I suppose, but it remains the truth. The biggest block is the so called "regular" visit. I am never really sure what the purpose of these visits is. For visits with a clearer purpose I am much less uncomfortable.

Further complicating matters is the fact that for many of those who are home-bound it often seems that the biggest need the visit is meeting is that of social companionship.  While that is certainly valued, I am not convinced it is the task of the clergy person to provide social companionship to people (interestingly when I asked one Board Chair that question the answer was a quick "yes" as if it was a strange question) -- particularly when said companionship can be provided better by people who have more of a shared history.

Then this summer I read two articles that were not helpful to someone who tends to do less visiting than he would like. One is called How Pastoral Care Stunts the Growth of Most Churches and the other is Fifteen Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Not Visit Much. Both authors make some sound  arguments, though I believe they may overstate the case. And of course context is key in any of these sorts of discussions, what is a norm in one place may seem odd in another.

And at the same time a very common comment in many congregations is that the minister does not visit enough...

But it brings me back to a key question I have been wrestling with for 20 years now.

What is Pastoral Care? What is it not?  What parts of the broad topic are best taken on by the clergy and what parts are best taken on by the whole congregation?

I think that everything we do as a church has at least a touch of Pastoral Care to it. Worship, Christian Development/Faith Formation, Community Building events, Fundraisers (I always counted the many hours I spent helping make apple pies in my settlement charge as Pastoral Care time), even Council and Committee meetings are part of how we are "church" together and so how we care about each other. But obviously there is a more focused piece as well...

In a Facebook discussion this summer some clergy were discussing who in the congregation gets a monthly visit and why. Some said none except in exceptional circumstances, some (myself included) said that there were some (usually "shut-ins") who it was a priority to try and see monthly.

Whose job is it to maintain contact on behalf of the church?

At the same time there is a little matter of choice.

There are X number of hours in a week. And so a finite number of things that can be done.  How do people know who to go and visit? What responsibility is it of the visitor to know who needs a visit and what is the responsibility of the person wanting a visit to make that need known?

Coming back from Sabbatical it is my hope that I can only be in the office in the mornings and maybe one afternoon a week. This leaves the other afternoons available to visit folk. Mind you I have tried to get that going before and it has yet to be successful.

How do you define Pastoral Care?

What do you think the "Pastoral Care" piece of the ministerial job description should mean?

If you are clergy how do you define it?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Book 23 of 2016 -- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As a final book for the Sabbatical period, I decided to by myself this one when at the mall yesterday.

Then I had to read it quickly because the daughter really wants to read it. Well that and once you start reading you are drawn in and want to continue.

It is an interesting extension of the story. And I admit I do like stories that explore alternative histories, the "what if this had gone differently" plot device.

It largely fits well with what we know from the earlier books (unlike for example the Star Wars prequel movies which do not fit with what we learn in the original trilogy). As I was reading the first act I was trying to determine who the cursed child was (thinking of a curse as in a spell).  But I think really there are 3 cursed children in it -- and none of them because a spell was cast upon them. And of course, as with the original books, this play pushes us to think about relationships and choices.

Though I must say it seems like a really expensive script to put on stage....