I have been in Edmonton for 15 years now and note how seldom my office telephone rings. It has steadily decreased to about 3 or 4 calls a week from members, mostly elderly ones. E-mail still dominates, but even that’s changing. I used to not give out my cellphone number, but I have changed that habit. My text traffic has increased dramatically, but even that phone hardly ever rings.
Saturday I had dinner with six Meadville students ranging from early 30’s to my age. I recounted this anecdote:
A few weeks ago in Boston, I had significant interactions with two parishioners, one over SKYPE sms (instant messaging) and another by text message. The first was with a member roughly my age (but with young adult children). The other was with a 24 year old. The first transpired over an hour, the second lasted about 10 minutes. Both felt good and effective, which was later confirmed by the two people involved.
Some colleagues were a bit shocked that ‘real’ pastoral care could happen in such a way. Not sure what they meant and failed to ask. Too removed? Too ‘not face to face’? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was called to do ministry in a different way from what I anticipated…
…like that’s the first time that’s ever happened!
It wasn’t my learned way of doing things, but when did the minister’s comfort zone become a critical part of the pastoral equation? I remember my CPE trainer’s lesson. In the hospital room, the minister’s religion doesn’t matter…it’s the patient’s religion that counts, and that’s all that counts.
Our job is to figure where and how we can meet people’s needs. These encounters were immediate and useful. Far better than asking them to wait a four days until I got home.
I’m happy to say that our next generation of clergy colleagues got it. They had little trouble with the viability of text and sms pastoral care… though one or two may still see me as an old fart.
That’s okay. I am 🙂
So I wonder how clergy colleagues of my generation, new and future ones feel? Lay folks too – does this seem wiered to you or does it make sense?