Monday, December 12, 2005

December 4, 2005 - Telling the Church

The plan I had pre-arranged with Bill swings into action. At 8 a.m. I convene our special Session meeting. Bill has offered to be there, and his presence at the table – especially at that early hour – communicates that something important is afoot.

I come right out and tell the Session members, in much the same way as I did for our kids. They express a wide range of emotions: love, concern, support, anger, dismay. They promise to be there for me, to do what needs to be done. There are times when I’ve seen the Church of Jesus Christ at its best, and this is one of those times. After a while, I leave the meeting and ask Robin to take over the moderatorial duties, so the Session members can ask Bill any questions they need to ask, without me present. I know he’s prepared to share some necessary information, about matters such as the disability provisions of the Presbyterian Pension and Benefits Plan. Who knows if it will come to that? But I would prefer not to be there, as that subject comes up.

During the announcements preceding each of the two worship services, I drop my bombshell. This is more emotional than the Session meeting – it’s worship, after all, that time when God’s people gather. This is among the hardest of things I’ve ever had to do in a worship service, and I expect my discomfort comes across in my tone of voice, my whole presentation. I explain briefly what the disease is all about, and speak of the likelihood of chemotherapy, and the associated down-time that goes along with it. There is so much we just don’t know, I tell the congregation, about what this will all mean for me, and for them. Bill leads the people in a special prayer of intercession.

Fortunately, I’ve had the foresight to ask Robin to preach on this Sunday (one small advantage of the lengthy diagnosis process is that I could pretty well predict when the shoe was going to drop). I don’t think I could have preached today. I assist with the service, but let Robin do most of the big things. As I sit up there, facing the people, I feel more self-conscious than usual. What are they thinking as they look back at me, I wonder? Will they look on me differently from now on – as a sick man, even as a dying man? Suddenly, life is so very different.

Greeting church members at the church door following the service, I experience an outpouring of support. So many people share their love and good wishes. At least a dozen people offer to drive me to medical appointments (a need I had mentioned in passing, when I made my announcement). The body of Christ does what it does best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Carl,
I was down in Virginia visiting my mother and sister as I try to once a month on this day. Joe called to tell me after church and I was upset. I am sorry you have to go though this trial, however, I believe you will succeed. I am sorry I was not there to lend support.