The discussion topic was hospital and nursing home visitation. The group was composed of senior/lead pastors of large churches. I was invited to attend because the church I was serving at the time was borderline "large". The books we read and the tone of the group drifted against this archaic mode of leadership as a waste of time. Sr. Pastors of large churches must focus on the main-thing, and the main thing is the weekend service and leading leaders.
Visiting old people was a poor use of a leader's time. It would be better to train volunteers to do that and free up the pastor's time for sermon preparation and vision-casting. I tried it, and did not like it. I felt robbed of something that made me a pastor; maybe not a pastor of a large-church by the above-definitions, but my sense of body-life and call.
This week I visited a man with advance Parkinson's disease, a former professor, now reduced to a silent stare and little motion. He was up and dressed in his chair and ready. His eyes followed me into the living room as I pulled a chair close to him. When I reached out my hand to shake his he extended his hand and strongly grasped mine, his only demonstration of strength. When I greeted him and asked how he was, he whispered out "Fine." There was very little conversation between us. I spoke mainly with his wife, read a Psalm and held his hand and prayed. The visit lasted about 15 minutes. When my prayer was over his head slumped forward into sleep. He spent all his energy chips for the day waiting for my visit and greeting me.
I left the house with tears in my eyes grateful for the privilege of being a pastor.
My dad used to say: "When in doubt, go out...calling."