One of my commitments to you as your minister is to pay attention to the areas where I need to grow and develop. Among those areas is in pastoral care, where I am trying to do better to be responsive to your struggles and sorrows. I am notoriously bad at phone calls, and it is more and more obvious to me that sometimes you need to hear my actual voice--notes and messages and texts are simply not enough. I've heard that feedback, and I am trying to do better.
In response, I hope you will grow with me. And part of that involves looking at the institutional and personal barriers to reaching out for help. If you're wondering why you haven't heard from me about something that has happened in your life, you might ask yourself if I even know about it. If you've heard from a member of our Lay Pastoral Care Ministry Team, they're reaching out on my behalf--and it's OK to tell them you'd like it if I called or visited.
Among my guilty pleasures is following the Twitter account of the anonymous clergy colleague who goes by the pseudonym "Unvirtuous Abbey." Most of the time, they post funny things about life in religious institutions. Sometimes, they engage in humorous theological banter (humor being subjective, after all). Sometimes, however, they make pointedly accurate observations, like recently, when they replied to a thread about things that bother them in their ministry with this tweet: "I once heard from three people (one of whom was from another church) that one of my parishioners said I hadn't been in to visit. She told everyone but me that she wanted a visit. When I visited her I told her this and she said, 'But you're so busy, I didn't want to bother you!'"
It's funny, of course, but also so true. I shouldn't have to hear about dissatisfaction with my pastoral care ministry in an evaluation from the Board--we should be able to talk to one another about these things. I'll promise to do my very best not to get defensive if you promise you'll be honest and direct, even if that honesty has to be blunt.
Our relationship as minister and congregation is nearing the end of its twelfth year, believe it or not. One of the beautiful things about healthy long-term relationships is that growth is an ongoing thing for all parties involved. This relationship is no different.
I hope to continue to grow as a person and as a minister. I hope you'll continue to grow as members and friends of our congregation. I hope our Fellowship will continue its growth as an institution. Together, we will learn new ways of being with one another that will serve us well into the future.