Unscheduled Time

Over the last week I’ve had a number of appointments cancel on me or just not show up. It’s only weird because it has happened with the last four meetings in a row and it is something that usually doesn’t happen. I keep wondering, along with the double rainbow guy, “what does it mean?” I actually don’t mind when things like this happen at all. I almost always have a few books with me and enough other things to keep me busy that when someone doesn’t show up to a meeting or shows up late I just take it as unscheduled “free” time and use that to either get a little caught up on something else or sit back and enjoy a little time to read. (Which consequently I feel like I do not have enough scheduled time for). The other day during one of these periods of unscheduled time, that had been previously scheduled, I caught site of someone who appeared rather distressed. This person was outside shouting and all around looked pretty upset. At first I just tried to remain focused on reading, after all this was my chance to get caught up! But the shouting and commotion continued so I decided to find out what was going on. When I asked the person, someone I already have an established friendship with, he said he had just had something stolen from behind his house and then he said, “It’s just not my week.” Now I am no sage but I took that as an invitation to find out more about what was going on. It turns out that his relationship with his girlfriend is on the rocks, which jeopardizes his living situation (he’s out of work), and it jeopardizes his relationship with their child, and a whole swath of other issues.

Near the end of the conversation I decided to ask if I could pray for him, and he said I could. I don’t always do this. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right, sometimes I am too awkward about it, or it feels phony, but that day I felt led to do it and decided that I am a minister and therefore it shouldn’t be weird of me to ask to pray for someone. And so I did. And he welcomed it. After wards, I also decided to invite him to our meeting for worship. Earlier in the conversation I asked him what he wanted for his life and he told me some space just to think clearly. I told him we have silence in our service and he might find this an appropriate space for thinking clearly. Later that day, I ran into him again and came right up to me. He said he really appreciated the conversation earlier, and he was planning to join us sometime for worship. This wasn’t just an encouraging moment for him, I too was encouraged and transformed in the process. I was reminded that my role of minister goes beyond the scheduled appointments, and the official workings of our meeting, it is also to be available and ready to respond to what we notice.

  • I wonder how many times I miss openings like this because of my scheduled activities?
  • I wonder how many times people really just want someone to listen, and then to pray with them, even as awkward as it sometimes can be?
  • I wonder how many people are looking for the kind of community and worship a Quaker meeting offers and are we too shy about inviting people to join in, not just to hear a sermon or sing a song, but for the silence?

These are some of the queries that arise for me after this event. I really enjoyed my unscheduled time, maybe in a way, because it was unscheduled, I was more available? Whatever the case, I hope to have more times like this.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.