3.23.2009

youtube theologians - Stanley Hauerwas on presence

Stanley Hauerwas is a professor of theology and ethics at Duke Divinity School. This is a kind of teaser for a show on Alzheimer's disease.


I think this is one of the most important spiritual disciplines that we as Christians must learn to practice. There are two things I think we need to combat, which prevent us from giving this to each other. I speak from my own personal weakness here.

The first is the reign of the clock. We are so productivity oriented and so ruled by time that to be present with the sick and dying just is not expedient for us. Pastors are especially guilty of this. They like to busy themselves about with the "work of the ministry", but are generally terrible with these opportunities for the really important ministry of presence.

The second is our fear of death. This is not merely the fear of our own death, though we do have to confront that in these situations, but the fear of death in general. The fact of the matter is that these situations are scary, uncomfortable, and painful. But isn't this what Jesus was all about? N.T. Wright puts it nicely when he says that Christians are supposed to be "at the place of the world's pain in prayer."

I was confronted with our failure in this department during the year that I was an interim pastor at a little church in Glendale, AZ. It was a hundred year old church with an aging congregation and a pastor with terminal cancer. Two of the things that I spent a lot of time doing was sitting with the pastor and visiting the elderly who were no longer physically able to get to church. I just sat with them. The thing about it was I never knew any of them before this, but the families told me how much it meant. For the pastor, I remember the family telling me how surprised and disappointed they were that many of their 'friends' had never visited. I also realized how abandoned the elderly are in our society. They end their days confined to their rooms with very few people coming to visit them—even family.

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