Friday, 22 August 2014

Just turning up

I seem to be thinking, talking or writing about the 'ministry of presence' at the moment (or, as I like to say, nine tenths of ministry is just turning up - I'm not really one for the 'formal' names for things). I suppose, for me, I've always seen it as important not just to talk about supporting things which go on in a church and its parish; not just important to read and digest the reports - though both of these can and are useful. But actually turning up, engaging with people, taking time to talk to them, to get to know them, to show you are interested.

On a couple of placements, congregation members were surprised when I sat with them for coffee after the service or just turned up at an event. They weren't used to the minister doing that.

While up north last year, I would turn up and support community events, as I thought that was part of what I should be doing in 'my' parish. I know people in both the congregations and communities appreciated it, but were initially surprised. They'd never had a minister who'd done that before.

And I know Airside Kirk is now used to the minister turning up at stuff, but were surprised when she did that at first. There last couple of ministers didn't come, even when they were church-run, rather than community events.

I wonder why there have been and are ministers who don't 'turn up'. Is there a perception that we should only be there if we have a job to do? Such as a talk, a prayer, an MC. But something.

Yet, I would argue just (and I use that word with care) turning up can be harder than having something to do. As I discovered, it can take people by surprise, as they wonder why you're there and panic because 'the menister' is here. It involves so much that's actually (for me, at least) quite hard to put into words.

I know how much I appreciated The Boss visiting Spot when he was in hospital. Though I wasn't there at the time, it made me know she cared, not just about her church congregation, not just about her future probationer minister, but about the families and friends of the above. In many ways, even before my trip to Malawi, I learnt more about Laura with her just turning up.

From the just turning up I've done so far, it seems this is something those I've ministered to appreciate. It may be because it shows them the church cares for them; it could be (and it embarrassed me to say this) because of the way I am able to engage with people; or it could be, in just turning up I am following Jesus lead and going not with my presence, but the presence of Christ.


  1. There's a lot to be said for 'just turning up'.
    The downside is that, regardless of whether you have an actual function or not, you are always on duty. Social events are no such thing if you are *expected* to circulate and chat. Again, nothing inherently wrong with that, but be aware that always being on duty means that you do have to find things to do socially where you genuinely get to be just social, and get to relax a little.

    1. Yes, that is definitely one of the down sides to 'just turning up.' I have experienced that and realise, in parishes where everyone knows everyone, I'd probably have to leave the parish to be 'social', without being 'on'.


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