Wednesday, October 28, 2009


People like to see Bobbies on the beat but Bobbies reckon to solve more crime by being pro-active not reactive these days. Fewer than 10% are on the beat at any one time, so I gather.

I'm going to write a few pastoral thoughts on visiting. Usually, on feeling like writing pastoral stuff, I go and have a beer until the feeling wears off. But I have a cold Becks and am back at my desk. Gonna nail this.

This visiting thing. I was talking to a few fellow clerges the other day and was amazed at how many of them, as a matter of course, still do a pretty full, weekly case-load of visiting. Train their curates to do it too. And the thing is that it seemed to make not the slightest difference to the numbers of people who came to church.

Over the years I have encountered one or two outstanding visitors, especially in rural situations. At a pub meeting in one country village I heard about, a community leader said, 'Well the parson has visited all of us, let's visit him.' They all went to church at Christmas.

I don't especially enjoy the cake and old dears school of ministry so try to make sure it gets done by those who have a gift for it. By and large few people seem enthusiastic about having a coffee in Costa with teenagers or feeding young adults but I like doing that. So I meet with a pastoral group who help me pray for the sick, keep me in touch with other pastoral matters and tell me when a clergy visit is essential.

If people feel that a visit from a lay person is second class I have to say I give them a thorough lecture on every member ministry.

I have a second point. The guy who trained me in ministry felt that the daily round of parish visiting was essential and gave me a list. I felt a bit worried about daytime visits, always catching the women in and never the men. But I was told that I could learn so much more about people from seeing their homes.

As time has gone by I discover that a conversation is not badly lacking if it takes place at a neutral venue. I discover that many people make appointments to go and see professionals. Doctors don't stall on a diagnosis until they've seen the patient's lounge. So folk coming to me is a good use of my time. I can also demonstrate hospitality and let them see my home (people are generally nosey about clergy homes - mine has an open door).

I still do visit, but not just for the sake of a visit. I will visit those who I need to talk to about something specific. I will visit those who specifically invite me for a reason. I will visit, whenever possible, when the man of the house is in.

That country parson had a great Christmas congregation but they weren't back the following week. It made no difference in the long run.

Visiting. Not a great use of time. Better to be working to a purpose than merely 'on the beat' eh? Tell me I'm wrong if you like, but beware. I might have to come round for a chat.


Greenpatches said...

Good stuff. I'd agree that both clergy and lay need to rethink the ways in which they 'do' visiting. Just one quibble ; I'm reading your criteria for measuring success as being principally the old 'bums on pews.' [para 3] Hmmm... If I could play Devil's advocate here...

St said...

Yeah, noted. Clumsy language rather than theology. I'd prefer to have said 'belong to' rather than 'came to.'