In the PBS show Call the Midwife, it’s usually clear when to call the midwife. Nature is pretty good that way. “You’ll know when to call,” the professionals tell expectant mothers, and they do!
Getting in touch with a minister is very much the same process, when you want us, just call! You’ll know when.
There are so many reasons to call: You or a loved one find themselves suddenly in the hospital, wanting a visit. There is something in your life that has thrown you off balance, and you’d like a listening ear or spiritual support. You’ve experienced a significant loss, or are having an experience you don’t feel you can tell anyone. Maybe you’d like to let the community know what is happening in your life and don’t know how to get it into “Joys and Sorrows.”
Sometimes people don’t call because they think the minister knows, or should know, what is happening, or they hesitate calling because they don’t want to be a bother. First, it’s never a bother. Second, when a community grows to a size like ours, it’s impossible for any one person to track all the individual needs of our church. We are making changes to do better, and in the fall we will have a more robust, and of course secure, database system to tracks calls.
My heart breaks when I learn that someone wanted a call or visit and I didn’t know until it’s too late. Unless you call the church and speak with a staff member, don’t assume that information has been passed along, or that I know how often you’d like to talk or visit. I, or someone on our lay or professional pastoral support team, do try and call when we suspect there is an issue. But it’s true: In a church, ministers are the “first or last to know anything.”
Sometimes there are good reasons members don’t want calls or visits, so I never assume anything. They may be private people, or there may be an overwhelming amount of covenant group support (I hear this a lot, and it’s a good thing), or they prefer quiet to conversation. I never take it personally when people don’t want to see me.
Sometimes things fall through the cracks. I might miss a Facebook post, or a Caring Bridge post winds up in my spam folder. Both of these have happened this year, and connections were missed as a result. Please, if you want a minister or pastoral care team member to call or visit, do let us know.
How? For a response within 24 hours, you can call the church office or my Google voicemail, 773-800-9550, which sends me your message. If you want to call my cell phone for immediate contact, the front office can provide that information to members of the church. A note: I usually have my cell phone in sleep mode after 9pm (which automatically drops calls to voicemail), but if you call twice in three minutes, you get around that feature and can reach me 24 hours a day. I trust you’ll use that feature mindfully. I have had to block one or two folks over the years who’ve repeatedly used that feature to call me about church business at 11pm. Nope. It’s there for when you need it.
Once we’ve made contact, we can arrange for a hospital visit or pastoral counseling in my office. I’m often asked, how does pastoral counseling work? Pastoral counseling is different than therapy or clinical counseling in that ministers don’t diagnose mental health concerns. A minister is trained to listen and be a spiritual guide. Sometimes that means we may be more direct than a therapist when you ask for advice. Sometimes our role is less direct than a therapist when you tell me you just want a listening ear—someone with whom you can share a story. Pastoral counseling is also not on-going. The expectation is that after three or four sessions, a member is ready to move on or be referred to a clinical therapist. During grief work following a trauma or significant loss, care might extend for a longer period—but always with the expectation that the member will be getting “therapy,” if needed, by a mental health professional.
The bottom line is this: If you want a minister to call or visit, just let us know. So … coming this fall to PBS … It’s “Call the Minister!” (Not really…)