Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No Punch Line

So you and your wife are atheists and are camped out in the hospital because your son is gravely ill, and your minister walks in.
This isn't a joke. There's no punch line.

So what happens next?
Unitarian Universalists, you know what happens next. This is for the other kids. This is for the people who can't imagine how such pastoral moments work without a Bible being cracked or psalms recited, or prayers shared out loud
(this is not to say that Unitarian Universalists never include the Bible or shared prayer in pastoral visits, it's just not very typical any more).

This is a fairly typical PeaceBang scenario:

The minister will listen to you talk. Tissues may be produced, and used. She will be apprised of medical realities, and treatment protocols. She will hear again the story of how it got to this point.
She will ask if there's anything the congregation can do by way of practical support. She will bring greetings from many friends and neighbors.
She may discuss the Red Sox, if that's a fun diversion for the worried ones.

The minister, who is a "praying tomato" (see Damon Runyon, "Guys and Dolls"), will eventually mention that she's been praying for you. She won't ask to pray with you, because she knows that you don't do that, and such a thing makes you very self-conscious and uncomfortable. Knowing this, the minister will hold your hands and say that she's been praying that you feel a sense of inviolable love among you and within you, that she is grateful that you have the strength of such a close family, that you will feel the loving support of the congregation as you endure this stressful time, and that you'll be as free of anxiety and sleepless nights as is possible under the circumstances.

There will be hugs and kisses and promises to talk soon. There will be blessings.

And then the minister will drive home listening to U-2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" and wait for her breathing to come from a calmer place, and the worried parents will continue to wait.

And though understanding the source of connectedness in different ways, they will all know themselves connected by the bonds of love, and everyone will, in Bono's words, "walk on."

It's really not so exotic after all.


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