When I arrived at the retirement community for my first day as a chaplain intern last September, what I’d learned through months of study and preparation ran through my head – especially the oft-prescribed, but rarely defined, “ministry of presence.”
Bedbound and unable to speak or move without assistance, Miriam had entered hospice care several months before I arrived. She spent her days in this room with her aide, Charlotte, always by her side. Charlotte understood that to be truly present with someone – with no agenda and no conditions – is anything but simple and passive. Rather, ministry of presence is actively rooted in the profound mundanity of human experience.
Charlotte’s ministry, like that of Jesus, is first and foremost one of compassionately, sincerely journeying with people where they are, as they are. Hospitality, constancy, companionship – these comprise a ministry of presence. It isn’t rocket science: it’s simply about being there.
This message is an excerpt from “Give us this day: Being present” by Hannah J. Hawkinson in the May 2019 issue of Gather magazine.
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