Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm speaking this morning to a church women's group. My pal is the pastor. She's not had an easy time during her five years of ministry there because of a) the church's generational history of being stinky to preachers; b) she's starting a family; and c) she's lively, bright and quick.

She plows ahead doing careful pastoral work, youth work, crafts lovely sermons and gives time to the denomination.

When she called to ask me to speak at the monthly luncheon, I asked what topic she wanted. We talked over several ideas then I told her that I'd read one chapter of the Purpose Driven (either life or church, can't remember) on "Protecting Your Pastor" after hearing about it from another colleague.

Seemed like a good topic for a congregation familar with NOT PROTECTING THE PASTOR. She agreed.

Weeks later, one of her colleagues committed suicide. His death has shot the nerves of his church people and those who knew him down here.

She speculated last night that the women might be helped by hearing my talk from the perspective of his death.

I don't think so. I'm not sure if suicide is anyone's fault or if suicide can be stopped although families and friends torture themselves over whether a chance comment or action could have helped.

If I talk about encouraging the pastor, will my listeners think I am chiding them for not being attentive to the pastor who died? I think so.

I'm not sure anyone prevents the suicide of a determined adult.

I'm not an expert on suicide.

I'm re-arranging my topic this morning. I wanted to be prepared with time spent crafting remarks rather than blowing into the luncheon with off-the-cuff preacher stories.
Not sure I can pull this off with a few hours to prepare.

Exegeting one's audience takes skill and attentiveness. I consider this every week with every word I write. The church women know about the suicide. They know I'm pals with their pastor. I was walking a fine line of blasting them for being stinky with my "protect" talk.

If you need me, I'll be scratching my head and staring out the window.


reverendmother said...

If anyone can speak a word of grace to them, you can.

Hugs and prayers today.

revmom/cheesehead said...

What she said.

Quotidian Grace said...

Blessings. Let us know how it goes.

Friday Mom said...

You're probably done now, but wanted to add my confidence that you will bring grace to the group.

I have some experience working with people who are suicidal. It is a complex psychological mechanism that I won't get into here, but part of it is a tendency toward manipulation--not of the intentional sort that you see with icky used car salespeople, etc. Some of what helps bring healing to those left after a suicide is doing exactly what you suggest....helping them understand that you cannot stop someone who is intent on committing suicide. I hope you trusted your instinct not to speak about "protecting" in light of the suicide. I, at least, think you're right on target with that.

mibi52 said...

Hope it went well. I understand your reservation that the group would at least sense a nexus between the topic and the suicide. Did you end up addressing the suicide at all? Seems like it would have been the elephant in the middle of the room, and defusing the topic somehow might be good. Just my $.02.

Bless you for being such a good friend to their pastor, and such a thoughtful soul.

Purechristianithink said...

Yes, it seems that to talk about taking care of your pastor in a community reeling from a pastor's suicide would be like doing 10 Tips for a Healthy Marriage in a community dealing with domestic violence. It would somehow imply that the victims/survivors could have changed the outcome if they had only behaved differenlty.

the reverend mommy said...

Let us know how it went....

DaveW said...

Just got this, maybe too late (time differences confuse me), but stopped to pray for you and that situation anyway.

St. Casserole said...

I addressed the suicide. I talked about protecting and loving their pastor, my pal. I talked about how gentleness in church life helps us as we struggle with faith and life.
The group was elderly, hearing problems and needed a quick talk. I spoke for about ten minutes then sat down and chatted with them.
I don't know if I helped my pal or not but I hope all the gals left feeling good about themselves. I will get feedback from my pal and then I'll know how I did. Thanks for praying for me. You could do it everyday and I'd be pleased.

CGAuntie said...

Your thoughtfulness in approaching this tender subject surely helped you speak the words these people needed to hear today. Your revpal is fortunate to have you for support.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

You were so brave to have tackled this. And so sweet to have done it in the manner that you did. I am sure that it was heard in someones heart.

ToBeRev said...

Please write on what you ended up saying and how it ended up going. Thanks for posting on my blog as well -- yours is so interesting, I know I will refer back to it again and again. Blessings to you!

Lorna said...

what did you say?

I'm glad you sat and talked to them. That makes all the difference!