I wrote back in October last year a piece about how 'one of the greatest gifts we can give each other in a consumer society is our time, and presence.' I was reminded of this at a funeral I took yesterday of a premature baby, born to a couple who are friends of a couple in our church, and when I took communion to a lady in our church, who has been house bound through ill health, and when someone from a local coffee house I have made friends with rang to ask me to listen and pray with him.
I was struck that my presence and time in all of these interactions was a gift from my church community. Now we all need to learn the gift of time, and presence in our hectic unbalanced consumer lifestyles. It seems that churches once outsourced time and presence to paid clergy, but now expect clergy to not do that, and attend to running the church as a business, and training, speaking, executing. Or ministers have conspired to fulfill and nurture that new role too, which I understand given the pressures on church and staff in our culture.
So we have lost the gift of time and presence in our own lives, and now eradicated it from our clerical functions. As a church community we are exploring the idea of chaplaincy, trying to set up a one with our town centre shopping areas, making someone available to listen and pray with shop staff. Also community chaplaincy, letting local residents know someone is available to listen and pray with them, near them, which we run through our small group network.
And as we grow as a church, the need to set aside people who do nothing more than listen and pray, and bring others in our community into practicing the gift of time of presence, might be something we need to consider. I am increasingly convinced that the single most powerful evangelistic act we can make is to be available as a community, to listen and pray and be alongside others.
In any event, I know it must always be part of my life, no matter how busy and pressured co-orindating a church might be.