My parish nursing experience thus far has been an exercise in biting my tongue.  At other faith settings in which I’ve taken part over the years, I’ve been able to (respectfully) disagree with people and know that at the end of the day, we’re still part of the same community.  But in this case, we’ve been dropped in the middle of a congregation for six weeks with no relationships established and no idea where people stand on a number of different issues.  So in various interactions over the past three weeks, I’ve had to be careful what I say because it feels less like I’m a member of a community and more that I’m to be there for them and their needs.  My opinions and beliefs have to be shelved for now.  Not easy.

Yesterday we attended a women’s Bible study as part of our “participant observation” (in public health language, it means you participate in various events and activities in order to get a feel for the church members’ needs and interests).  It turned out to be not so much Bible study, and more watch a DVD of a Baptist woman preaching about the Holy Spirit.  Apparently throughout the week, the women have homework they’re supposed to do to prepare for the DVD.  Then there is a brief discussion afterward.  The divinity student in me cringed when this woman picked and chose particular verses from the Bible to prove her point, with no regard to context, history, language, etc.  The Methodist in me held my breath as people discussed how every single thing that happened to them was part of “God’s plan.”

Admittedly my own faith journey has been rocky since my father’s death.  I got sick of hearing that if we just prayed a little harder, God will heal him.  Tell that to the metastases ravaging his body.  The community of which I had been a part in college and seminary, a community that appreciated the nuances of faith and placed love and hospitality above all else, is more difficult to access, since they’re all back East.  So sorting through this experience has been somewhat lonely.

An education different than what I expected.  But an education nonetheless.

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