I’ve been writing monthly articles in my church newsletter about my approach to various aspects of congregational ministry – worship, sacraments, weddings, funerals, and so forth. In my experience, pastors have widely varying approaches to responding to emergencies, and congregations have widely varying expectations for their pastor’s ability to respond to personal emergencies. I wrote this article in our August newsletter to clarify my approach to responding to emergencies.
To see other articles in this Pastor’s Approach series, click on the Church Newsletter category link.
In May and in June of this year I was involved in several funerals – three in just over a week in May, and five in two weeks in June. Some of these funerals were for members of Grace. Others were for family members of members of Grace. And one was for a member at a nearby church, where I was providing emergency pastoral care while their pastor was on vacation.
In most of these situations, the people who were grieving were apologetic for reaching out to me in the evening or over a weekend. “I don’t want to bother you, Pastor Chris, but …” While I appreciate the concern that some have for my time, let me be clear – it is no bother. As your pastor, one of my responsibilities is to walk with you in your times of suffering and grief, to proclaim God’s Word to you in those moments, to offer care, and, if necessary, conduct funeral services or other rites of prayer, healing, and blessing following a traumatic event.
The truth is, however, that I will not always be immediately available. I will be on vacation at times. At other times I will be tied up with family or other church-related responsibilities. Yet most of the time my schedule is flexible, and I am generally available to be with you and your family in your time of need. If I cannot respond immediately I will let you know. I will spend some time with you on the phone, and arrange to be with you and your family as soon as I possibly can.
So if you find yourself grieving the declining health and imminent death of a loved one, or if you or a loved one show up in a hospital unexpectedly, don’t hesitate to call me – at church, or on my cell phone. I will make every effort to be with you immediately or soon thereafter, or I will spend some time with you on the phone and schedule a time to see you.
Though I do not publish my cell phone number in the church directory or in the bulletin, you can call the church office and our secretary will give it to you if you wish to reach me during an emergency. Or simply take note of my cell phone number here – (*** ***-****). Always call the church first, but if you have an emergency in the evening or over the weekend and you would like to reach me, please call my cell phone.
Emergencies come up. Loved ones die, we get sick, accidents happen. I am glad – no, I am honored – to be invited to walk with you in such times.