>"Present" — A Ministry of Presence

>What Am I Reading?Image by mtsofan via FlickrFour days of meetings last week.  They can be wearing.  They can be soul-exciting.  I love my colleagues and I love talking theologically and Scripturally with them rather than filling in forms or planning yet more meetings–doing the “business” of the church. 

I am amazed, at times, of the business that winds in and through my life here in Girdwood.  I am no wandering preacher, out among the people.  My “people time” is carefully planned in the schedule of my days, if I can squeeze it in between the work time, the family time, the me time.

On these days, as I sit in my office, something I’ve not had the pleasure to do for 10 years since I really had no office, I look outside and wonder if I’m missing something.  I may be here in Girdwood and have been for years…but sometimes I feel as if I’m not really “present” with the people.  What is my ministry of presence here?

Leave it to Henri Nouwen to get at some of this struggle in ministry:

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

–  Henri Nouwen

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