Crusty noted previously that Morning Prayer began with an auspicious Psalm for GOE takers: "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!" COD called for an allegorical reading, in part because the allegory can always change according to context. To whit: Let the GOEs' enemies be scattered! After a Set 1 Question that left Crusty perplexed, they have come roaring back with an intriguing Set 2 Question. To whit:
Set 2: Theory and Practice of Ministry
Thursday, January 3, 2013, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
NO EXTERNAL RESOURCES
For three years you have been the clergy person in charge at St. Christopher's Church, a congregation in a populous community. You receive a phone call from a chaplain working with one of the local hospice programs. She shares with you that a 12-year-old girl has been admitted into the hospice facility with a terminal disease. She is being kept as comfortable as possible but is approximately a week from death and is unresponsive.
The family has indicated to the chaplain that they are members of St. Christopher's. They say they have been inactive at St. Christopher's for at least five years and do not know the clergy person there, though they still consider it their spiritual home. You do not recall ever meeting the family. The chaplain tells you that she would be willing to continue to minister to the family but also feels it important to at least let you know of the situation.
In an essay of approximately 1,500 words, clearly identify and explain the theological, pastoral and practical issues that inform what you choose to do or choose not to do. Include in the essay any other people or resources you might consult to help you reach your decisions.
Very interesting question, in that it captures in many ways the complex nature of some pastoral interactions. When Crusty was a young seminarian, doing his required clinical hospital chaplaincy rotation, he encountered an impossible pastoral situation -- he won't go into it, because all clergy have similar stories, but it's one that makes the one above look placid by comparison. The next day, debriefing with his supervisor, Crusty half-huffed in exasperation, half-moaned from feelings of inadequacy, "You kno, I didn't ask for this!" To which his supervisor replied bluntly, "Nobody asks for these things. Unless you want to deal situations nobody else wants to deal with, get into a different line of work."
This question, in Crusty's mind, is an good one in terms of asking for demonstration of competency.
1) For one, it touches precisely on those impossible situations which drop form nowhere and at the most inopportune times. As F Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "In a real dark night of the soul, it's always three o'clock in the morning." (I will leave it to you to figure out what it says about COD that the Fitzgerald book he loved the most and read over and over was not Gatsby or Tender but The Crack Up, a series of essays chronicling his personal and emotional breakdown.) To be more true to pastoral form, the question should have read, "You get a call at 11 am on Saturday just before your 9-year-old son's birthday party" or "You get a call on 4 pm on Sunday just before kickoff," or "You get a call on your cell phone from the parish administrator while you're drinking a martini at your favorite bar," in order truly to capture the reality of pastoral emergencies. All too often they seem to crop up at inconvenient times, out of nowhere. But hey, Crusty is still in this line of work, so I'm not complaining; I made my peace with this line of work a long time ago. All COD is asking for is a little more verisimilitude.
2) It captures an important dynamic in shifting pastoral realities: people may affiliate with churches in ways different from previous generations -- Crusty is intrigued by what different understandings of "inactive" might mean. Maybe this family doesn't come every week and fill out a pledge card and have the Mom on the Vestry and the Dad teaching Sunday school. Does that mean they can't consider it their spiritual home? Besides, just because the clergy person doesn't remember them doesn't mean they haven't come at all; the questions says "in a populous community"; doesn't say how large the congregation is; and the clergy person has only been there three years. COD served as interim of a Lutheran congregation, and it took me nearly 6 months just to get all the weird names I'd never heard of before straight (Orpha and Orlan and Harlan and Merlin were a sampling). Besides, their daughter may have been terminally ill for the five years of "inactivity." That kind of thing can take up a good chunk of one's time. So "inactive" doesn't necessarily mean "irreligious."
3) It also exemplifies the great statement from the (in COD's opinion) greatest Anglican theologian of all time, William Temple: "The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-
GBEC, Crusty is giving you the 80s-movie slow-clap salute.