In the midst of overscheduled lives and increasing demands, how do we gain access into busy lives to share the good news? As we think about Fresh Expressions of church and this idea of meeting people where they are – dare I say, interrupting their lives, I am reminded that sometimes people want to be interrupted.
Last year on Ash Wednesday, I was working as a chaplain amid the chaos of a large community hospital. After holding a service where chaplains received the imposition of ashes, we were then equipped with ashes to carry throughout the hospital. I was amazed by the number of people who approached me that day, all desiring the mark of mortality with a willingness to testify to the forgiveness of sins made available to all through Christ. Many of the doctors, patients and staff who approached me that day were people with whom I would interact on a regular basis, yet never was what I had to offer so sought after, so vital. Often times my advance toward them was perceived as an interruption, but that day they were compelled to interrupt me, to attain that which I carried – ashes. For some there was a hint of nostalgia, for others, pure solemnity. For some there was gratitude – the recognition that either due to vocational demands or the circumstances of their hospital stay, the church had found a way to meet them right where they were. What was so different about Ash Wednesday? Regardless, it was clear that God came near to those I encountered that day. I wonder how we might make it our practice to bring the mark of Christ to others when they are least expecting it – often when they need it the most?
Indeed, the collective life stories found in hospitals all over the country cry out for a bit of good news, a sign that points them to the hope that is found through the cross: forgiveness from sin, deliverance from shame and the promise of abundant life.
The reality is that patients don’t usually choose to go to the hospital. But they choose to go to church. It’s just that the church that they choose might be the one that comes near to them. A hospital stay is the result of a life interrupted, often resulting in a life altering condition that not only affects patients and their families, but also medical staff and caregivers—shouldn’t the same thing be said about the church?
Carey Sims is a Baptist Collegiate Minister at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.