I love working at our church office and I would expect its dynamics are like most others. It is always bustling. There are phone calls. People come by to attend services, visit, quietly pray in the chapel, work on a task or follow up on a responsibility.
Generally, people will stop to say hello and talk a while. We often have impromptu lunches and meals. People will share their issues, talk from a variety of perspectives about all sorts of things — politics, gardening, the weather, sports, religion, fashion, whatever. Great tolerance is exercised between a wide range of opinions.
Maybe some people come to be around other folks and know it is a welcoming place, drink coffee or find help. They may want to explore questions and seek out answers.
Sometimes privacy surrounds an issue that cannot leave the pastor’s office, but more often people cross the threshold to be with other members of the congregation, friends and visitors — just to be surrounded by love and life. I would assert that more spiritual health is spread by parishioners ministering to each other than by all the clergy in town combined.
Another trait around our office is that we seem to share in a strong Christian interest in the happenings surrounding the lives of our neighbors. This is a good thing. I have found this interest more often than not to be driven by a true sense of Christian love and Charity.
It is not a puerile interest, but instead one that wants to help, affirm, strengthen, or pray about situations affecting those we love. What can we do? And, if we cannot do anything let us pray. It is an interest that comes out of a loving spirit.
Having all that in mind I would caution that it is easy for anyone to become tripped up and lose sight of the line between gossip and a Christian interest. To lapse from the ideals given us by our faith and to say mean or uncharitable things in a thoughtless moment of weakness, maybe even to bear false witness — sometimes slyly with words of commission or omission.
In our church office we have been challenged with a standard of conversation to follow. One that has been helpful in every aspect of our lives, and one that helps us continue to make our church office a joy to enter. I recommend it for all groups, offices and individuals as a “golden rule” of conversation. I don’t know where it originates. We are called to “THINK” before speaking. Perhaps this will be of help to the reader as well. I offer it with all God’s Blessings.
“T” - Is it True?
“H” - Is it Helpful?
“I” - Is it Inspiring?
“N” - Is it Necessary?
“K” - Is it Kind?
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The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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