Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Hand of God

I don't have the Christian Century in front of me or I would reference the article and the author. But a recent edition of the magazine printed an article about the ritual of ministers shaking hands at the church door after the service. And the author observed how much ministry goes on during those few moments and also made an observation that really put the whole of the minister's task in context for me. He said that when he tries to remember parishoners names and stories and say a caring and compassionate word about each person as they come through the line ("I'm so sorry to hear about..." or "I'm so happy to hear about...") that the point is to represent to each person not that the minister is a compassionate person but that God is a compassionate God.

The task of ministry would be overwhelming if I thought it had to be about me responding fully to every situation that arises in the congregation. To even attempt to do so would be a vain attempt at overvaluing my own power and gifts. Very often it is a only little help from the minister and a referral for a lot of help from somewhere else (human or divine) that is required. And given that in my finitude I would inevitably fail, the real failure would be that I hadn't helped the parishoner strengthen their own relationship with the holy and thus minister to themselves.

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