…still today one of the basic strengths of congregations is to accompany, to be present physically, eye to eye. (pg. 23) — Gary Gunderson,Deeply Woven Roots: Improving the Quality of Life in Your Community

This is something that I have a passion for. It is vitally important to be physically present with others – nothing beats showing up!

The Nov/Dec 2003 Net Results has an article by Alexander M. Jacobs entitled “Loitering for the Lord”. It provides a wonderful example of accompanying. As a part of his campus ministry, Pastor Jacobs made a point regularly to just ‘show up’ at the local coffee shop – and just loiter; making himself available to whoever was around and wanted to visit. He found that putting himself out there, with no plan, other than to be available to those who might need him, became a powerful way to enhance his ministry and connection with the students he ministered to. Nothing beats showing up!

I work in technical sales. A big part of what I do is show up and listen (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). I ask questions in order to get clarification and work with my customers to help them identify problems and then examine possible solutions. I can sometimes handle some of the tasks via the phone, but nothing beats showing up! We can go out in the plant and actually look at equipment. What holds true in sales – holds true in ministry. Nothing beats showing up!

This past Sunday I was making visits to the nursing homes. One of the ladies (whom I don’t know well) had three phone calls while I was in her room. Each time she picked up the phone and immediately said, “I have company. I’ll call you back.” This encounter came immediately to mind as I was reflecting on the importance of accompanying. My presence mattered. I was bringing church to her and helping her stay connected to the community. She was hungry for this connection and because of this need was willing to postpone visiting with family and friends during our visit. Nothing beats showing up!

I have a great concern – mostly because I struggle with this issue so often – that in our fast-paced society we move at such a great speed that people get left out. David Whyte articulates the problem well:

    The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those things germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. … On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. – David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

David Whyte’s quote serves as a powerful reminder for us all. If we don’t modify our approach to time, people will be left out. Needs will be unnoticed and thus unmet. Concerns and cares will have no expression. Gunderson’s strength of accompanying is the antidote for this problem. It encourages us to slow our velocity and become available to and aware of those around us.

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