As chance would have it, most of our matriarchs are away fulfilling other obligations this week. So it was interesting to get this in our in-box yesterday. Fortunately, Peripatetic Polar Bear was on hand.
How do you handle emergencies when you are on vacation? I understand that you would need to have another minister 'on call' in case of a death or something, but I struggle with trying to figure out when and/or if to return home.
Recently, I was out of the country (not just a couple of hours away), and a church member was irritated because I was not immediately available when someone's mother died. I had left my numbers with our Board Chair and Elder Chair, but they forgot, and I was delayed in being notified, whic, in turn, delayed my ability to contact the person whose mother died. I almost feel guilty for having been on vacation.
I place a clear line between being on vacation and being on study leave. If you're on study leave, you're still working and obviously you're going to contact that person immediately, and decide whether or not you need to return home—often the funeral will wait for you while the person you left on call tends to the immediate fall-out.
But vacation is vacation. And as much as we'd all like to be superwoman and be able to be fully present to all in our circle at all times and in all places, those who do that quickly burn out. I bought some new rechargeable batteries for my camera today. I loved the directions: failure to fully recharge batteries for one full hour will result in inconsistent power. In other words, a half-charged battery could poop out on you at any time. Charge it all the way. Get someone reliable to cover your church, write a lovely letter the second you get back on the job, visit the bereaved, and continue ahead, fully charged.
The church member has displaced her anger on you. Maybe her mama forgot to pick her up at the babysitter's house. Maybe her third husband walked out on her, or her children don't call her on her birthday—whatever it is, her abandonment stuff is not about you. You're just in the way [as in, you just happened to be there]. You've done what you could do.
And now, a note from our sponsor, er, well, from Gallycat anyway
Don't forget, we love hearing your insights and experiences. Have you ever had a situation like this? How did you handle it? Let us know in comments!
And if you are a ring member with 10 or more years of ordained ministry, feel free to drop us a line as we are still seeking new AtM Matriarchs to help out. On the other hand, if you need advice on a particular situation in your parish or ministry, feel free to send us your question, even if you already posted it on your blog. We're here at firstname.lastname@example.org