Shut-Ins/Pastoral Visitations

Started by LutherMan, February 01, 2013, 09:15:58 AM

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Norman Teigen

A written note to the family about the visit is also appropriate.  The professional people at the care facility will make sure that the family reads the note.   It's all about communication.
Norman Teigen

Dave Benke

Quote from: John_Hannah on February 01, 2013, 04:54:23 PM

You posts are simply elegant. They should be read by every seminarian and every pastor who wonders how he got into this business.

Peace, JOHN

I agree, John.  What should happen at alpb is that some of the best posts in the best threads should be bound into a volume for use by parishes and church workers.  We leave it to you on the board to cull through them and discern which are the good ones and which the dross. 

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

D. Engebretson

It is abundantly evident here that pastors who visit the disabled, the frail elderly, and other physically broken saints receive a priceless gift in the privilege of serving.  As with any pastor who has served a while pictures and names of past and present saints fill my mind reading the reflections of others.  Each presented me with challenges, but each gave me the joy of representing Christ and his mercy.  Ken, a victim of Lou Gehrig's Disease, who had to receive the host in a spoon with water to allow his nearly paralyzed muscles to swallow, trapped in a frozen body with an active mind, his tears of frustration and pain my last memory...nearly shouting the words of institution into the almost completely deaf ear of a 90+ saint who once sang "Children of the Heavenly Father" in Swedish one time when I came to the nursing home...Bill, weak with lung cancer, who reverently knelt in his living room to receive the Lord's Supper, a friend and substitute grandfather to my then young son, at whose death I wanted so much to cry at my own loss....Ruth, who often forgot my visits in a medicine induced haze and complained to others that I had not visited her, yet whose bed I stood beside with her family gathered around as I commended her to her heavenly Father in those last precious moments....Don who lives alone and appreciates simply having someone to talk to....Walter, a saint of nearly a century, whose mortal remains I helped carry out of his house as an unofficial and honored pallbearer....Jim who remained ever curious about the affairs of the church even though he could no longer attend...Jeannette at whose death bed I sang hymns, a comfort not only to the dying, but the living....and so many, many more....thank you for jogging my memory......
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI


Just to make sure everyone on this thread knows, the shut-ins I referred to are/were faithful and prominent members of the parishes they belonged to.  It is a crying shame they were neglected by their parish pastors.  I am glad the mutual friend retired pastor picked up the slack and brought them Word & Sacrament.  We are all volunteers at a local Lutheran thrift shop.  It is astonishing to me that a mega LCMS parish with six pastors neglects shut-ins...


One kind of shut-in that I find hard to visit are those
a) require an appointment to visit them
b) are too busy to fit you in to their schedules
David Charlton  

Was Algul Siento a divinity school?


King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha, "Lutherman," lists five pastors, not six; but if that's the congregation you are talking about, why not contact someone there and see what is really happening? You are being critical from far outside the circle to know what the real deal is.


Quote from: DCharlton on February 01, 2013, 09:48:07 PM
One kind of shut-in that I find hard to visit are those
a) require an appointment to visit them
b) are too busy to fit you in to their schedules
That's the majority of shut-ins these days, it seems, but not due to their overactive social schedules. Medical appointments take up far more of their weeks than they will admit — until they have to be pinned down on a time for a visit.


Quote from: WJV on February 01, 2013, 11:01:57 PM
Quote from: DCharlton on February 01, 2013, 09:48:07 PM
One kind of shut-in that I find hard to visit are those
a) require an appointment to visit them
b) are too busy to fit you in to their schedules
That's the majority of shut-ins these days, it seems, but not due to their overactive social schedules. Medical appointments take up far more of their weeks than they will admit — until they have to be pinned down on a time for a visit.

That's certainly true.  Although those people are usually eager to set a time, even if its a few weeks away.  They also appreciate the call.

There is, however, the other kind.  I've heard most pastors mention the person who will complain that the pastor never visits, but in reality declines visits when offered.
David Charlton  

Was Algul Siento a divinity school?


I had one "shut-in" who, I learned, went out to play bridge twice a week. Guess who said she couldn't get to church "as often as I like" and fussed if I didn't go to see her often enough. 

J. Thomas Shelley

Today, on the Feast of the Presentation we are especially mindful of the Simeons and Annas in our midst; those who are faithful present awaiting Christ's appearing, and those who are consistently absent who must be sought out by the Light of Nations.

A dozen or so years ago I faced a doubling of the "shut in" list in less than three months time.  Some were quite legitimately incapacitated.  Others were not.  The piece that follows was one that I published in the parish newsletter around A.D. 2001:


The subject of when does a parishioner become a "shut in" is a very sensitive one.  Sometimes an illness or disability strikes suddenly and severely; as, for example, with a stroke that causes one to be placed in a long-term are facility.  Or Hospice is summoned for terminal cancer.   There little doubt:  the parishioner is unable to go anywhere.

But these circumstances are the exception, not the rule.  Far more frequently the aging process causes a gradual decline in activity.  The decline may occasionally be reversed; but few who go from cane to walker ever return to cane, and fewer still who go from walker to wheelchair ever walk again.

My premise is that in all but the sudden and severe cases, the ministry of the Church is to encourage restoration into as full a participation as possible in the worshiping community.  To quote from the Lutheran World Federation study Baptism, Rites of Passage, and Culture

Christian rites for healing must offer what God offers us in Christ.   In these rites, it must be clear that it is God who is acting, by his Word, by his Spirit.  The healer is God, not the minister  Healing is seen as a revelation of God's victory, not ours...The healing is mediated through the community which God has create, the Church....A Biblical understanding of healing will include as of first importance attention to the restoration of the person's dignity.    This dignity, conferred at Baptism and underlined at the eucharistic table, is threatened when a person is ill.  A Christian healing rite must work to reassure us of that dignity.  Also, it is clear from [the New Testament book of] James, for example, that healing is a function of the Christian community. 

Healing ministration and the sharing of the Holy Communion can, and should, and does, occur everywhere.  "It is indeed right and salutary that we should at all time and in all places..." begins the Preface to the Great Thanksgiving.  The places include hospital bedsides, nursing home rooms, and private homes.

But these places are never quite as fitting as the place that has been consecrated for the gathering of the congregation, the Church.  It is here that we first receive new life in Baptism; it is here that we receive God's refreshing grace week after week through Word and Sacrament; it is here that we confess our faith to Affirm our Baptism. 

To reduce the obstacles for those whose health is in decline many costly improvements have been made to the Church building in recent years.  These  make the facility more accessible to persons with special needs.  There  are no longer any steps  from the parking area in front of the Church doors into the the Narthex..  A wireless hearing assistance system has been installed.   Large print Bibles and bulletins are always available. Air conditioning relieves humidity.  There is even a supply of cushions on hand for those who find wooden pews too uncomfortable.

Yet another way of making the gifts of God more assessable to the people of God has been the institution of a half-hour service at Noon on the Second and Fourth Wednesdays of nearly every month.

Why all these efforts to encourage folks, even as they decline, to come to the house of the Lord?  Because just as few who go from cane to walker return to cane, and fewer still who go from walker to wheelchair ever walk again so also few who absent themselves from the services of God's house through advancing age ever resume again.. 

Decline in physical activity should not be "enabled" through he misguided sympathy of caregivers who may, for example, find it easier to push a wheel chair than to move at a slower pace accompanying a walker; or by doing for another what he or she could do, albeit much more slowly and with greater difficulty.  This misplaced "kindness" only hastens the coming of the day when dependency is total and irreversible.

So likewise for spiritual care.  Dependency is to be avoided--participation--even if labored and less regular than before--is to be encouraged.  Home visits and Communions begin gradually and occasionally, rather than immediately occurring monthly.

I must add a personal reflection at this point.   I grew up in a "four generation" household consisting of my parents, my mother's parents, and my mother's two grandmothers.   My grandmother was a "C and E" (Christmas and Easter) Christian most of my life, in part because of recuperation from a massive heart attack when I was 2; in part because she was not encouraged to make her way back into the community of faith on a more regular basis.

But "Nana" was adamantly not a "shutz-in"  Indeed, when a church directory came out that listed her as such she spent the next several hours telephoning all of her friends with great indignation saying  "They say that I'm a shutz-in.....I'm no shutz-in!" 

I admire Nana's honest assessment of her condition.  She did not drive, but she went on frequent car-trips to visit friends and relatives.  She took car rides to her monthly "class meeting" and to the Golden Age club.  And, of course, to the weekly appointment at the beauty parlor.   She would travel on Lincoln tour line trips with my grandfather and take the train to Pittsburgh for the Pennsylvania League of Cities convention.  No, she was not a "shutz-in". 

Her assessment was in perfect agreement with what  the late  Pastor Kenneth Ehrhart wrote in  My Church, September 1969: Note:  Pastor Ehrhart served this parish from 1935 through 1969]

Private Communion

We cannot give home Communion to any except the home-bound and the bed-bound.  If you can go to a picnic, a reunion, a viewing, the barbershop, a store, a car-ride, you can be brought to the church in the afternoon for Communion.  Don't feel badly if I don't come to see you, if you can do any of the things mentioned above.  I gladly go to those who are home-bound or bed-bound.  Make a special effort, please!  Thanks.

Every summer there are some who otherwise like to consider themselves  "shut-in" that tell me of their outings to the family reunion.  How tragic it is that there is not an equal determination to be united with the family of God at the table where Christ reunites us to Himself!   How  dispiriting to consider that in some cases the "shut-in" has been driven past the Church on the way to the reunion grounds--and on a Sunday at that!  How dismal that one can endure the  heat and flies and uneven ground of a picnic grove but not the air conditioned comfort and smooth, steady walking of the house of God! 

Like the late Pastor Ehrhart, I gladly go to those who are home-bound or bed-bound.   I sadly go to those who somehow manage to get to just about everywhere else they want to.  I go sadly because restoration seems an almost insurmountable  challenge.  I go sadly because I may be "enabling" a dependency and, even worse, an indifference to being restored to the worshiping community; that I may be aiding and abetting sabbath breaking.  I go sadly because when I faced my own disability I only left the house to go to Doctor or to Church--and I hoped that in so doing I would be preaching without words and teaching by example.

But I go

And I continue to hope, and to pray, and to encourage that they come
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

A Catholic Lutheran

One of the things said to me, by the Call Committee, when I was considering my (now current) call:
"We NEED someone who cares about our homebound members..."

So I have made it a HIGH priority to get out and visit early in my tenure.  What I have found is what I hate to admit to myself...I had really fallen down on this basic pastoral function in my previous call.  May God have mercy on me for failing so badly with Cross of Grace on this!  What I have also found is that when I share the fact that I have called on so-and-so, suddenly those names are remembered by this community.  People suddenly say "Oh! I haven't heard that name in a long time!"  or "I have never heard of that person before..." in some cases.  And the homebound person is suddenly, literally, RE-membered and added back into the consciousness of the Body.

As to the hard-ness of the work...  Yeah.  It is hard.  Pity the Pastor who is so calloused that they can go in and not have their heart rended.  I have a member who is in his 70's now.  Back when he was 15, he went in for a very early version of a PET scan and suffered a brain-hemorage when he reacted badly to the dye/contrast injected into his system.  Do the math... that was 60-some-odd years ago and he has been confined to a chair or bed, unable to speak, since.  He is tended to by his now 92-year old mother.  It is a HARD visit.  It is also a GOOD visit.  In his mother, I see Mary at the Cross.  In my stricken member, I see the face of Christ.  Together they make a Pieta that is every bit as excellent as Michaelangelo's.  When I go, that is the ONLY visit I schedule for the day because I KNOW that I will be so drained by it.  It is the Via Dolorossa, not because they aren't excedingly nice people, but because to walk with them is to walk in the presence of our Lord.  Not any prosaic "I come to the garden alone..." presence of Christ, but the bleeding, suffering, dying steps of our Lord and the beautiful love of his mother who stands at the foot of the cross.

Pastors...EVERY PASTOR, if we are brutally honest...has failed (or is failing) at visitation.  Just as every Pastor has betrayed our Ordination Vows most assuredly as Judas betrayed Jesus and Peter thrice denied him.  We should feel every bit of guilt and shame at this, but then comes the question--So what are you going to do about it?  We could let the shame drive us away from Jesus.  Or we can swallow our pride, return to the Apostolic company (our fellow Pastors) and renew the struggle to do better.  Like Peter, there is forgiveness and renewal waiting for us.  There is forgiveness and renewal awaiting Judas too...if he could have embraced it.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Michael Slusser

Yes, Pastor Kliner! If I may add something from a talk I gave in Greenville PA to a Lutheran and Catholic audience several years ago:

I want to call our attention this evening simply to a revealing fact about our parish life. 
         Visiting the sick and the homebound is one of the great kindnesses that good people carry out. Whether it is delivering meals on wheels, bringing Holy Communion, coming to chat or to pray or to run errands or tend the plants or clean the walks—it is a good work sanctioned by scripture as well as by all the centuries of Christian life. If you have done it, you know that the people you visit miss coming to church. They feel out of touch, on the sidelines, not much good for anything. The volunteer work that they used to do is being done by others, as is the singing in the choir, the day care, the religious education, the stewardship committee meetings (that they used to complain about!). They feel as if the real life, the real work of Christ's church is going on without them, and they are consuming the church's efforts, not contributing to them. And we, who are able to participate in the spiritual and social world of the congregation, tend to feel the same way about them.
         That fact reveals that we do not understand the real importance of the work being done by those who suffer. If one were to ask, "Where is Christ's work being carried on with the greatest intensity in our parish today?", the answer should probably be, "Where the cross is heaviest, the pain greatest, where the battle against all that is opposed to God's loving plan is fiercest." Often that is in the sickroom, though every pastor knows many instances of walking wounded whose agonies, whether physical or spiritual, can match those of the bed-ridden.
   The church will succeed in integrating the work of the sick and suffering into its overall mission only when it realizes that their work is at the center of church life, not on its fringes. The passion of Christ and the power of Christ are most directly engaged in the work of salvation where things are most difficult. And that is usually not in the church building on Sunday morning! Sometimes it is in the life of people who never get to church at all.

Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Rev. Matthew Uttenreither

I have picked up quite of few ladies (some men) as members simply because they see me visit their neighbor who is homebound (either in their own home or in a senior apt.)  Some of these new ones come to church others were shut-in but simply forgotten by their own church.  Most of these people were ELCA.  It is my perception (shared by quite of few laity-ELCA, LCMS, NALC, Rome)  at least out here in my part of rural Wisconsin that those who are LCMS or NALC do a better job at visiting then those in the ELCA and Rome.   The nursing home staffs at many of the homes will tell me who visits and how often.  I am thankful that the LCMS guys get good scores as does a certain NALC pastor in my area.


When Pastor Uttenreither begins a post with "I have picked up quite of few ladies....", it really makes me want to read on.

Rev. Matthew Uttenreither

Quote from: Charles_Austin on February 02, 2013, 01:32:47 PM
When Pastor Uttenreither begins a post with "I have picked up quite of few ladies....", it really makes me want to read on.

Funny!  Again, you can have the last word.

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