Pastoral Care at the Five and Dime

I live in a small city (or is it a big town?) of about 15,000 people, although our population swells during certain times of the year due to the College schedule and, of course, the many tourists who visit us.

I don't see my parishioners everywhere I go every day, as I might if I lived in a town of 5,000, but I do regularly see folks from church in restaurants, Target, the gas station, the grocery store, etc. Sometimes they don't recognize me, particularly if I'm not wearing my collar. I'm out of place for them (and sometimes they are out of place for me, too!). But often times they do.

Running into a parishioner while we are each doing our daily errands (and some of them are still a little surprised that I shop or get my hair cut in the same places they do) allows us to check in with each other in an informal way. I may see someone who's been ill or on a trip or about to go on a trip. We can catch up for a few minutes without the formality of making an appointment or calling with a specific purpose in mind.

Not long ago, I met up with someone who had lost a spouse in the last year buying a new kitchen appliance. We waved and I sidled up to his buggy to check out this new gadget. We acknowledged, with very few words, that this was part of his moving forward through the grief, learning how to do a new thing with every day living. The wife was the one who ran the kitchen, but now the widower is learning how. I asked how he was doing, and he said he was doing ok. Going to try out this new thing and see how it goes.

Some days I think I should just wander around town, bumping into people all day, seeing how they are really doing, having short conversations that may or may not lead to longer ones. On the other hand, folks bump into me in my office, too, having come to the parish house for other reasons, and those conversations are good too.

Either way, I am honored and privileged to be a part of the lives of my parishioners, for they are certainly a special part of mine.


Ray Barnes said…
It must be good to lose the formal approach sometimes and perhaps get a different view of people. We all have a variety of public personas for every occasion but tend to let our guard down when going about our everyday lives.
People must find your friendliness very warming.
It is good, Ray. For all of us. Thanks.
Perpetua said…
So true, Penny. I've sometimes had deeper conversations in these informal meetings than I ever did in my study.