– from Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
I was not at all expecting that particular phone call on that unseasonably warm Spring day. The caller was no one I knew, and had no connection with the United Church of Christ. But that conversation became a profound reminder to me that this ministry we share is a sacred and precious enterprise.
The gentleman on the other end of the phone line that day — let’s call him “Ed” — had been referred specifically to me by the facilitator of his grief support group. Ed’s 22-year-old son had died of cancer just one year ago, and Ed was tortured by questions of faith that left him little peace or comfort. I tried at first to steer him toward his own pastor or to counselors I could recommend. But it soon became apparent that what he desperately wanted was to talk to me, right then and there.
So for the next 40 minutes this stranger and I talked about things like heaven and the nature of God and whether his now departed son still required his father’s prayers. Ed’s questions and fears poured out of him as if he’d been storing them up over those long twelve months since his son had died. At last he paused, sighed deeply, and thanked me for talking with him. With a few last words of encouragement and a promise to hold him in my prayers, we said our good-byes. I never even learned this gentleman’s name, but I won’t soon forget that conversation or the tremor and fear in his voice.
This happens in our ministry as the Church all the time. We are unexpectedly invited as Church, as clergy, and as people of faith into the most vulnerable moments and places of people’s lives. And we are entrusted with a sacred duty to receive those moments and persons with the utmost of care and respect. This is the “terrible privilege” of our call as Church in the world, to tenderly cradle the frailties of life, to whisper a word of God’s abiding love and strength and mercy, and to leave in our wake a larger measure of healing and justice and hope.
What a blessed calling God extends to us. Know that each of you – congregations, clergy, and members in the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ – have my prayers as you engage in all the sacred moments of your ministries. What you do and how you minister is immeasurably important. This ministry we share is precious.
Thank you. May God’s wisdom and purpose guide all we do, together as Christ’s Church.
With my prayers and gratitude,
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister