Time is flying! I find it hard to believe that in just one more week the internship will be half over. A lot has happened since my last post, much of it continuing along the lines of what I had been doing before - more counseling, another sermon, things of that nature. I also had the opportunity to help lead services at two nursing homes these past two weeks, the first with a group of people who are at the lowest level of coherency in comparison with the other nursing homes we visit. A few days ago we went to another that was easier in terms of interaction and getting to know the people.
I learned quite a lot in both cases. It seems that there is a tendency to view pastoral care for the elderly and infirm as something done out of politeness, almost as a 'Hey, thanks for going to church all your life, now I'll come pray for you for a minute or two' that becomes an afterthought. But meeting the people at these nursing homes, I felt powerfully reminded of the fact that these people's lives are every bit as valuable as anyone else's (contrary to the despicable insistence of some in society, who view them as a burden), and they need the continual, renewing presence of the gospel in their lives too. I was especially astonished at the first nursing home to see someone who had left the church when he was young make a faith commitment and accept Jesus once again (this fellow was more lucid than the others we met at the nursing home). I just wonder how many people in the pastoral ministry actually view nursing and retirement home ministry as an evangelistic effort - I suspect most don't, which is unfortunate, because this is precisely the point in people's lives at which the future - particularly the eternal future - seems much more palpable, at which the recognition comes that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind, and questions of a person's hope in death become increasingly urgent. Beyond this, these people need so badly to have someone encourage and support them, to pray for them and speak words of comfort, because life for many of them has become a constant source of pain and struggle. The look of joy, peace, and relief I saw on the faces of some of them simply to have someone pray for their particular needs and ask God's blessing for them, was unforgettable.
In other news, we celebrated the fourth of July, Newport Beach-style, which was pretty memorable. There was a party at the home of one of the parishioners with a great view of the bay and the city, and we could see at least four separate fireworks shows all going on at the same time. Last week Wednesday was also the conclusion of the church's Alpha Course, and I was happy to see a lot of phone numbers and email addresses being exchanged, people promising to keep meeting and spending time together, and to start going to church! Two of my new friends from my table have been coming as well, and it's been a great joy to see what God is doing in their lives.
There will be a few more posts very soon on a few more of the things I've been doing - specifically, a recent talk I gave on 5-point Calvinism to a bible study small group and my thoughts on an excellent book by Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. That's all for now!