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Ministry of Presence

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October 01, 2021 | NATIONAL Didymus McHugh, Correspondent

When you are around chaplains you may hear the phrase "ministry of presence", but what is it and what does it look like? Well, I'll share something with you; anyone can have the ministry of presence. Many times, it is just being there that may help people feel more comfortable.

Recently, I have been reminded that when the military is around, we feel safe. When law enforcement is around, people may feel safe. When firefighters are around, people may feel safe. When a child's parents are around, a child should feel safe. When a faith leader is around, people may feel safe. The person may not need the services, but it is just seeing that help is standing by that may bring down the stress level. They may not need to say a word or do anything. It is just knowing that they are ready. What is it for you, that all you need to do is know that is around you that makes you feel better. It's like having a fire extinguisher around; you may not need it, but you feel better having it around.

In the Bible, there is an example of the ministry of presence. When Job lost everything, his friends showed up and just sat with him for seven days. They did not say a word because they could see the grief that Job was going through. Then all the trouble started as soon as they opened their mouths. Sometimes it is just best to be there and not say anything than trying to fill the silence with anything.

The ministry of presence is different things. It is a mother up all night, when the child is sick. It is visiting someone in the hospital. They may be in a coma or dying and you may just sit there and hold their hand. It is when we know that there may be a threat of violence or a riot and we see that law enforcement or military is ready to handle the situation.

When I work with one organization, they want to know how many people each person has worked with. I do not worry that my numbers may be as high as other people. My work is different than others. I do not say that I only spend a certain amount of time with an individual. I am there for that person, however long I need to be.

There was an organization that I was with and there was a tragic death of a member. I sat in the organization's building for three days because that was where people were accustomed to being. As people would drift in and out, one at a time, people would come and sit by me and we would talk or just be present together. Many of the people, who knew me, knew that I would probably be at the building.

At the hospital, around the holidays, most of the people do not have any visitors. I know that the clients at the hospital feel more alone at that time. They feel abandoned or tossed to the side. And others in many hospitals and nursing homes feel the same way. I make sure that I am in the hospital and usually the clients know that I will be on the campus. I may or may not get a chance to see each person, but just knowing that I am in the building makes some of the client's anxiety level reduce.

In a crisis or disaster, people may be in shock. They may be still in the presence of the event or it may be right after they walked away. It may not register with them who you are, but knowing that a chaplain, friend, or whatever you are to them, is there if they need you.

There are stories of people who are about to die and they do not die until a certain friend or family member shows up. The person, whose life is about to end, may actually be comforting those that still live or that one person coming to visit may bring comfort and say something that the other may need to hear before they die.

You may want to call it a level of comfort, like when a child is small and they have their favorite toy or stuffed animal. Many of us look for that level of comfort and we can also be a level of comfort.

Please think of those who have gone through trauma, a crisis, or depression. Know that you just showing up may bring a smile to someone's face, may reduce the anxiety level, or bring the sense of peace and feeling that everything will be alright.

Who are you willing to spend time being in the presence of, just to "Be" with them? Reminder: this is a time to shut off the phone and not look at the watch. Just Be.

As I have heard said many times before, we are human beings, not human doings.

I wish you all peace and may you have comfort.

Until the next time.

Stay safe,

Didymus McHugh

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Didymus McHughCorrespondent

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