I consider myself a very lucky man, because, unlike Mark Lawson of the Guardian, I've meet very few Christians of the theocratic variety.

Most of the Christians I know are of the Gordon Atkinson variety. His essay, called Everett Joseph Smith was a Real Boy, ought be required reading.

Some preachers, who've gotten a little too big for their britches and have forgetten the "love thy neighbor" part of the gospel, have given ministers a bad rap these days. But they are still the ones you call when a baby dies in the middle of the night.

Here's some of what he writes about going to visit the hospital, where a premature little boy has just died.

When you are the pastor of a church, you are many things. You are an agent of grace and hope, a repository of spiritual and scriptural wisdom, and a gatekeeper at big events like weddings and funerals. Somehow people weave all of these into a complex image of you. You are all things to all people.

And sometimes you are the Black Rider of Death. People indulge in all sorts of denial while they are waiting for the minister. It’s a blessed procrastination that helps them make it for a short time. And then you appear, framed in the hospital doorway, bible in hand.

I am come. Let the grieving begin


I am a keeper of a most sacred truth. It is the incarnation truth that enables ministers to walk into the grief storm unafraid. If you come in the name of Christ and stand with people in their grief, you have done the most important thing you can do and the only thing they will remember. You might bring words with you, and they might even be good and helpful ones, but your presence is what matters.

If you know this truth, whatever you have will be sufficient. If you do not know this, all that you have will not be enough.


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