March 26, 2008

Face to Face

Category: Theology - Pastoral :: Permalink

We were created to respond to voice, touch, and physical presence, yet our society is increasingly voiceless, faceless, and untouchable.  We can bank, shop, put gas in the car, buy groceries, and make business calls without once interacting with a live person.  Most of the time it’s convenient, many times it’s frustrating, but all of it contributes to the loss of human connection in daily life.

Societal structures are efficient but not always beneficial to the emotional and physical health of the people they are meant to serve.  Technological advances bring help, physical healing, and convenience, but they also invade our daily routines and patterns.  High-tech industries subtly change the way we think adn act until we have fewer and fewer opportunities for face-to-face human connection.  Mounting time pressures make it easier for us to be isolated and unaware of each other’s needs, resulting in a thread of loneliness and neglect that runs through our lives.

As the gap widens between family and community needs and the people who are available to meet those needs, we are left scrambling for substitutes.  We’ve entered the era of home meal replacements, domestic outsourcing, and outside care for our elders and children.  We are growing accustomed to writing a check for services that have historically been done out of love.  We are in danger of losing a vision for the creative, interdisciplinary, hands-on work of loving each other deeply.

We sometimes seem to have forgotten that though society is constantly shifting and adapting to new ways, it will always be filled with human beings who need personal care and attention.  We should carefully consider the difference between service that is motivated by love and concern for the individual, and service that is purchased from anonymous for-profit companies….  When we recognize that the work of caregiving is essential to human well-being, we take the first step toward easing the loneliness and neglect that characterizes so many lives today. — Andi Ashworth, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring, pp. 9-10.

Ashworth’s book is the best thing I’ve read (all right, I’ll admit it: it’s probably about the only thing I’ve read) on the Christian calling of caregiving.  It’s an excellent book and one I’d highly recommend for pastors.  It’s changed the way I think about my ministry.

In connection with what Ashworth writes here, it strikes me that it might be valuable to forego the convenience of ATMs and the computer scanners at the grocery story or the library in order to stand face-to-face with and talk to real people at the bank, the checkout line, and so forth.

A waste of time?  Yes, maybe.  Sometimes we’re in a hurry and it’s important not to spend too long at the store.  But God has given pastors a certain amount of leisure time during the week precisely for the purpose of meeting people, getting to know them, building relationships with them.

In the couple of years that I’ve been in Medford, for instance, I have met and spent time chatting with ladies working in checkout lines, bank tellers, postal workers, and multitudes of baristas in coffeeshops.  They know that I’m a pastor because they see my clerical collar.  Sometimes they ask me about my church.  But what’s equally important is that they see the face of a pastor, which is the public face of the church, as well, and that they see that face as friendly.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:31 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Face to Face”

  1. Dad B Says:

    I notice that auto drivers will cut other drivers off and even give negative “salutes.”
    However when I ride my bicycle past a pedestrian, we will greet each other in a friendly way. Does the auto also isolate us from “face-to-face” contact?

  2. John Barach Says:

    Funny you should mention that. Just the other day, a friend of mine pointed out this video called The Human Face.

    In it, they present some research that suggests that the reason for road rage and the lack of pedestrian rage (or in your example, cyclist rage) is that the parties involved can’t see one another’s faces. As a result, they cannot see sometimes subtle facial expressions that convey sincerity.

Leave a Reply