Thomas Murphy Was Right
January 7, 2014
Every organization has its own language. Computer programming companies speak C++. Accounting firms talk in pluses and minuses. The armed forces use a unique language as well. We use words like, "head," "scuttlebutt," "grinder," "salty." The latter is particularly interesting and one that still makes an impression upon me today. The word can have a pejorative meaning, but it does not have to. Those who have been on numerous deployments, and thus are experienced, are called, "salty." It would behoove any newly minted sailor to surround himself with mature, respected, "salty" servicemen.
Similarly, as a newly minted pastor (I only have 3 years of pastoral ministry under my proverbial belt) I want to surround myself with "salty," or experienced, ministers. They have walked the walk and continue to talk the talk. They have what I need: wisdom, patience, experience.
In this instance, the wisdom and experience I require as a new pastor came from the Rev. Dr. Thomas Murphy (1823-1900). In his book, Pastoral Theology: The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office, Murphy wrote,
"A prominent part of the pastor's work is to go from house to house and see all the families of his congregation at home... This duty of the minister is indispensable... No faithful pastor can or will neglect this work of pastoral visiting" (224).
Murphy used quite strong language (i.e., "No faithful pastor can or will neglect..."). Despite the potential offense he provides, I have found home visitations quite helpful. It adds an element of intimacy between pastor and parishioner that is not ordinarily established on Sunday.
When I first started pastoral home visitations in my congregation, people wanted to get to know me. They, therefore, cooked for me. I quickly learned, while this was a tremendous blessing, visiting everyone in my congregation would take months if I continued in that manner. Thus, on my second and third round of pastoral home visitations, I attempted to limit my time to about 30-minutes. Sometimes it worked, other times it did not. Either way, I came away extremely blessed.
In my limited experience, Thomas Murphy was right. "This duty of the minister is indispensable." Every home I visit is a blessing for both pastor and parishioner. I am glad I had the privilege to glean from this "salty" minister.