Last week, upon completing a home visit, I got an email from Lovett Weems who offers his leadership to the Lewis Fellows. In this email, Lovett sent this article The Importance of Visiting House to House. In this email, Lovett sought our insight as young leaders in the church — but also made the robust claim that young clergy don’t house visit.
I find this a strange claim amid the other complaints about young people and the way we do things. I recognize that things are different in my generation and continue to change. No one ever told me in seminary that I would do quite so much pastoral care by email. And I do. People pour their hearts out to me through their computer keyboards in an intimacy that makes me want to weep with compassion and laugh with delight. I don’t sit well with this blanket assumption about my generation because I can’t be at all of those places my parishioners go and answer all of their emails. (I was reminded on Sunday that I failed to reply to one that had crept to the bottom of my inbox. Oh. I hate that.) But, if I’m totally honest, I love the home visit. I just returned from a two-and-one-half hour visit with a 95 year old. I bring her a birthday treat every year. I look forward to it. And truthfully, I would do more home visits but I’m rarely invited.
Is that a New England thing? Is it because culture has changed? I don’t know. I can only gauge the reaction I get when I ask if someone would like me to visit. More often than not, I’m told that they would like to come to my office so I’ve redecorated my office twice to make it feel more homey. But I like going to peoples houses. I like the intimacy it offers. I like the family pictures that tell their own story. I love how a personal space can guide a conversation. I don’t care if you cleaned up for me. I don’t care if there’s coffee or tea to share. I want to know you. I want to see what God is doing with you. It’s my attention to the holy and I cherish this work. It might be old fashioned. I’ll admit that I am. But I also know that my ministry extends to Facebook and the places I try to show up. I’m ever surprised how people know my name. That much hasn’t changed about the church. We are known members of the community — and I try to do work that reflects my desire to know the community in the hard spots. It’s why I do that marriage equality and reproductive choice work. It’s because I believe God is there. And I want to find her there with you. I can’t say that every young clergy person is like me. I wouldn’t dare. I can only say that this is the truest thing I can say about why I love this work.