Visitation is one of the more common elements of the pastoral ministry, and something that I really wanted to try out during my internship. I have been in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities as a visitor or employee; but stepping into these places as a pastor is totally different. Or, at least it feels different.
I attempted to prepare myself well. I wore the clerical collar that I had borrowed from Pastor Scott to make myself look a little bit more legitimate. Scott called ahead to make sure it was all right to visit. We talked over some details as we headed over to the site. And when we stepped through the front door I really felt prepared.
We had to wait a few minutes while the person we were visiting finished something up, so I ran to the bathroom and while I was washing my hands I noticed something that I had written on the back of my hand earlier that day. It was the title of a book by Parker Palmer that a friend had suggested that I read called To Know as We are Known. I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t say what it is about, but the title was striking in light of where I was and what I was doing.
There are two kinds of knowing in the world. There is the type of knowledge that deals in cold hard facts. This is the kind of objective knowing which does not really require a great deal from you other than the actual time and energy it takes to gather and process information. Then there is the more personal kind of knowing that deals with knowing a person. This second kind of knowing is the kind of knowing that I think Palmer is referencing in the title of his book. It is the kind of knowledge that God has of us, and it is the kind of knowledge we are meant to have of one another.
When I read those words on my hand I was struck by how appropriate they were for the situation that I had stepped into. I had not come just to visit some stranger. I came to try and get to know someone in the same way that God knows me. This will not be my last time doing visitation this year, and the next time I probably won’t have anything scribbled on the back of my hand; but I hope I remember that what I am doing when I go out on visitation is not just visiting someone and providing them company. I am really following in Christ’s footsteps by getting to know someone in the same way that I have been known by God.
Jon Glenn is the Intern Pastor at Lakeridge Lutheran Church for the 2011-2012 school year. He is originally from Rockford, IL and is a student in his 4th year at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He loves reading and cooking and spending time with his girlfriend Melissa, and a good cup of coffee.