Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Being with people...

I have a problem. What is ministry or chaplaincy? You see this morning I went with our church walking group on their walk. I dawdle along... most are either in their eighties or nearing eighty... talking and listening. But is it "work"? I go over to St John Ambulance and have my lunch and talk with various people. I listen, I share, I joke and sometimes some serious stuff comes up and we get into "in depth" discussions. But is it work? I went to the brewery the other day and the engineer was telling me with great pride how he solved the problems in the machinery. He was obviously enjoying telling me about it... I appreciated it and admired his work, being an ex-plumber. But is that "work"?

I have been to supervision and my supervisor reminded me that it is. I know it is, but it is soooo hard to quantify or value properly. The image I have in my mind that helps me justify my existence is the image of what one does when someone is struggling with hypothermia. You put your body against theirs under a blanket or in a sleeping bag. The warmth from your body helps heat their body and keeps them alive. I think that's what happens in such "ministry". You sit alongside people in the journey of life, and the warmth, the "life" from your journey helps sustain their journey, .... and vica verca. In my better moments I realise that. Playing pool or table tennis at the drop in, talking, joking, greeting, listening just "being" with people and allowing them "to be" is an important "ministry". And ... anybody can do it! and.... to use the words of a song... "that's what friends are for!" I have realised in the last couple of weeks that an extremely valuable part of friendship is having some people in the midst of life with whom you can "be". It is a life-giving, life-changing, simple, low key yet powerful part of friendship... someone who just simply allows us to "Be".

Existential theologian John McQuarrie speaks of the "letting be" of God. This it seems to me, was the essential nature of Jesus. I hope you enjoy "being" and "letting be", and value it! (Photo: the Church walking group on a winter walk)

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