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For Hospital and Sickroom
Ministering to the Ill
I’m in the process of researching how we minister to the sick and dying. I picked up The Pastor’s Pocket Manual for Hospital and Sickroom, published in 1949 by Abingdon Press, written by Edmond Holt Babbitt.
The books offers guidance to the minister on what to expect when arriving at the hospital, how to regard oneself as God’s representative (and thus to take that responsibility seriously), what manner of comportment is helpful in making the visit, how to pray, how to minister to the dying, how to minister to the family, how to frame the experience of suffering, warnings against prospective harms that can inflicted by the visiting minister, and guidance on how best to be helpful.
Babbitt lists ten things:
Bring poise and mental ease. Be relaxed but confident. If you are concerned or nervous, do not display it.
Aid the patient to set his hospital experience properly in time. The average person lives from 20,000 to 25,000 days in his lifetime. A brief hosptial experience ought to be set in its proper relationship to a total lifetime.
Be brief. The longest call should not be more than fifteen minutes, usually much less. A preoperative call will always be briefer than a convalescent call.
If possible, ask the physician what you can do to be helpful.
Render assistance to the patient’s family. Comforting words, expressions of confidence in the physician, the hospital, and God’s healing power can be of genuine aid. Perhaps the use of the minister’s car will be of help.
Offer to do any needed errand. Render any helpful service which you can give to the patient.
Leave helpful literature—something easily read in bed. Sick people are unusually receptive. Do not leave problem literature, which brings emotional tension.
After calling in a tuberculosis hospital wash your hands. It is good advice to wash your hands on entering any hospital.
Be positive; avoid negatives.
Insofar as you can, direct conversation; point it toward important things and not mere trivialities.
The goal of my project is to equip those who are not “pastors” for ministry. If you are a member of a congregation, someone you know and love will one day be hospitalized; death continues to have its hold on us. No one gets out of life alive. When that day comes, it is better to be equipped, to bring salve, to avoid harm, to point our friends toward important things and not mere trivialites. Things like God’s love, forgiveness, presence, patience, and care.
Babbit’s Manual also includes Scripture passages, hymns, and poems. Here is a poem by Oliver Holden:
They who seek the throne of grace
Find that throne in every place;
If we live a life of prayer,
God is present everywhere.
In our sickness and our health,
In our want and in our wealth,
If we look to God in prayer;
God is present everywhere.
And because I think it has relevance to our current moment in politics, I recently revisited Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron. I cannot remember if I was first assigned this short story in middle school or in my ninth grade English class, but, whoever my teacher was, they were right to make us read it. I am very much for giving those who are disadvantaged a hand up. I am very much against pulling the gifted among us down.
Sights and Sounds
I watched Tenet (2020) this past week, which I greatly enjoyed. Visually it is interesting. From a plot standpoint, it is challenging. Be ready to think philsophically about time and about what it means to be human.
I like the Disney+ series Loki—so far. We’ll watch episode three this evening.
I’ve been finding some great stuff to listen to in the Flow State newsletter.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P. S. - Most fortunate.