After seven years of ministry, I experienced a first yesterday. I'm sure there will be many more firsts, but yesterday's first was getting a door slammed in my face. I knocked on the door of a parishioner's home to pay a pastoral call, only to be met by a grumpy caregiver who took one look at me and said, "Not interested!"
Here is a bit of the back story. Several weeks ago I officiated at Dot's funeral. Dot and Otis had been married more than 50 years and never had any children. In fact, they outlived all of their family except a couple of nieces who live several states away. Despite the fact that Dot was on hospice and had been experiencing dementia and failing health for a long time, Otis thought she was getting better. Her death shocked him and he has been severely depressed ever since. So, as his dutiful pastor, I have been visiting him regularly.
Otis currently has 24 hour care, which is good. I hadn't seen Otis in a couple of weeks when I stopped by yesterday to find a different caregiver answering the door. She looked at me suspiciously, which is understandable, so I introduced myself and gave her my card. It was clear that she has difficulty speaking / understanding English. I asked her to tell Otis that I was at the door. Instead she proclaimed, "Not interested!" and slammed the door in my face.
I will certainly follow up on this, but it left me with some questions. Is Otis being mistreated? Was this caregiver trying to hide something? Since he has no family to check up on him, it would be easy for someone to take advantage of his situation. In fact, I suspect that he has few if any outside visitors. What is my role as his pastor? How is my role seen in the community? (In some ways the Pastor's role in the community has diminished over the past few decades.)
I'm sure I am over reacting to a simple misunderstanding, but I can't help but wonder what I would / could do to be a voice for parishioners who have no family to advocate on their behalf. Although Otis has no biological family, he has a church family and that should count for something.