Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Monday mornings begin with a walk around the neighborhood- me, Greg, Brother dog. Coffee next with breakfast. Another walk or a bike ride with the boys. After that, staff meeting. A collection made up of two contract staff, three part time staff, one full time volunteer, two full time interns, and one full time director begin with check in. I'm the one full time director. I lead the meeting. We make space for lots of sharing and lots of grace. The staff meeting ends and the full time staff gear up for the rest of the day on site.
Lunch. Lunch is what's next. After we're filled, we set up our front porch distribution center. First it was 21 boxes, now we're up to 27. 27 careboxes filled with individually wrapped snacks, cleaning supplies, vitamins, activities for kids. We pack the care boxes full and devise our distribution plan. All three of us will go together to deliver 7 of them. It feels good to do some things together because we get to hang out with one another. It feels cheerful and fun. Then, we'll divide up the others to distribute. Two interns will deliver 11. I will deliver the rest. I like to walk with the (broken) wagon dragging behind me, heavy with boxes.
It helps me to think of these 27 households as my parish and I, their parson. This idea is a little complicated, though. These folks didn't ask me to be their parishioner. Some I have known a really long time, but others I only just met within the last month. I'm not quite sure how they see me or how to present myself. I don't act or look like your conventional pastor and I don't really use normal pastor language. Usually, "the weird lady who acts like she has no social sense and pretends not to be afraid to talk to a stranger" act does the trick. But, that act can get very tiresome.
This week, I tried a new thing.
I'm ordained in the Baptist tradition and in good standing with the Disciples of Christ. To be clear: clergy collars are not a common practice among folks of my faith tradition. Both my husband and I are ministers and when things started to unfold about the novel coronavirus, we felt it would be good and necessary to get our first set of clergy collars. This past Monday, I decided to wear mine during visitation.
I was nervous, it was hot, and my clergy shirt is black and long sleeved. I wore it anyway. I was thinking about how to establish a spiritual identity, visually, with the folks I visit. The first folks I went to see while wearing my new outfit were neighbors I've known for over a decade. I wondered if they'd snicker or compliment me. Nothing. They said nothing. It was as if I'd been wearing the clergy collar every time I'd ever seen them.
Drivers by seemed to notice a little bit. I'm usually the weird lady wearing her mix of artist athleisure while pulling a heavy (broken) wagon across a big road. This time, I felt like the collar explained my strange behavior.
The only person I visited who made any comment about the collar said, "Oh! I didn't know. Nice!" Before started visitation, I texted a friend to tell her I was trying a new clergy collar during neighborhood visits. After I had explained to her my reasoning, she texted, "You could also wear a rainbow cape and unicorn hat to identify your superpowers." I guess, in a way, she was right.
Mondays give me something to do. Visitation makes me feel connected. I knock on the door: "shave and a haircut, two bits." (Yes, I'm physical distancing and wearing a mask and gloves.) My neighbor comes to the door and we chat for a bit. Not every porch involves a lot of conversation, some chat more than others. Sometimes, if I know the person well, I ask them if they have prayer requests. A couple of times, I've printed out a flier with a few announcements, an invitation to call me if they need prayer, and invitation to also pray for me.
At first, the boxes were received with a slightly uplifted eyebrow. I interpreted this look as "what do I need this for?" Now, folks know to expect me. Some folks have offered to help with distribution, they take extra supplies to share within their networks.
When I'm done with my wagon route, I write it all down. Who'd I see, how many people, what are their names. I don't know why it is so important to me to keep track. It is a ritual. Write the date, check their name, they are still here. I am still here. We are still here.
Mondays are alright.