In our hospital, we have a chapel.
Chaplains offer a weekly service in the chapel. It’s sent to all the rooms by closed-circuit video, and is available for anyone who would like to attend a service.
We prepare a service, which includes Bible passages from the Revised Common Lectionary. The service includes a responsive reading from the Psalms, and readings from the Old Testament, the Letters, and the Gospels. We select songs to match. We meditate on the texts, we plan and pray for clarity. We prepare a message.
At the moment, the closed-circuit feed is in transition and so isn’t working. As a result, the audience for the service is the people who come to the chapel. That’s usually a small number. And if the weather is bad, and Nancy can’t come, the attendance may drop to one.
But those days remind me of important lessons about God’s work:
1. Even when there are only two or three in the room, Jesus says, he is there as well. (Matthew 18:20). Reading the Word, talking about it, praying together – these all matter, and probably equally, whether the gathering is two or two thousand.
2. Even when I am the only one who attends, I grow from the intentional reflection on the texts. As I study with the intention of sharing, my study is more focused. I learn more, understand more, am changed more. (And sometimes, you benefit as well.)
3. The work of a chaplain isn’t exclusively, or even primarily, chapel work. Our work is out in the hospital, where people hurt, where bodies are bed-bound, where families are often unwilling to leave their watch. If we fall into the trap of sitting in silence waiting for people to come to us, we miss the opportunity and the command, to go.
It’s possible that chaplains aren’t the only ones who would miss their opportunity to serve if they stayed in the chapel, waiting for people to come.