Pastor’s Friday Comments (06.19.20)

Back in the old days, like four months ago, when we used to stay in hotels, you might come into your room at night to find that there was a blinking light on the telephone. It was an alert telling you that you had a message.

In pastoral care class they taught us that people often send out alerts that are only a little more subtle than that flashing red light, but that convey a message to which we need to pay attention. Someone might be visibly upset or appear unhealthy or they might get angry over something relatively minor. Maybe they stop coming to church for a while without an explanation or a member of a couple could show up alone. You might not know exactly what the message is that they are sending, but you are pretty sure there is something going on. Maybe it is a reason for genuine concern or nothing significant, but it isn’t something to ignore.

These days people are probably sending out just as many messages, but they are harder to notice. You can’t tell as much about how a person is feeling on a Zoom call. If you run into someone on the street, you can’t read expressions very well behind masks. If everyone is worshiping in their own homes, you don’t know who is showing up and who isn’t. With the level of outrage on social media at an all-time high, it is hard to tell if someone is showing an inappropriate level of emotion or just feeding off the frenzy of the zeitgeist.

This complicates our job as a family of faith. For the time being (however long that may be), we’re going to have to exercise a little more initiative to ensure that we are taking care of one another. If you’re stressed out or struggling with something, you can’t count on anyone noticing. If you don’t feel like being part of the worship service, who’s going to know if you don’t tell us? It isn’t reasonable to expect concern if you aren’t sending out the alert.

At the same time, the rest of us are going to have to pay more attention. Sometimes emotional distress can be perceived through a phone call. Simple questions like, “Did you participate in virtual worship this weekend?” or “How are you holding up?” might give you a wealth of information. Now, as always, it’s just a matter of paying attention and really listening.

Some of us, the deacons and staff, understand this is part of our role in the church, but it is the responsibility of all of us to take care of each other. If you’re hurting, you need to let us know. And when you do, we should be paying attention.