Thursday, April 2, 2020

An odd email

Today I got an email sent to all retired Episcopal alumni of Virginia Theological Seminary. Here it is.

Dear Retired Alumni,

These are indeed unprecedented times and we need your help.

The anticipated number of people who will die from this pandemic will be too large for our hospitals medically, and has already exceeded what the Church can respond to pastorally. Too many people are dying at the same time.

I am writing to invite you to join a new effort we are launching. We're creating a national phone hotline that will connect hospitals with the next available priest to offer the “Ministration at the Time of Death” over the phone.

We are hoping to find 100 retired clergy who can offer at least 2 hours a day. Approved volunteers will access the system from their computers or an app on their phones. These on-call priests will then log in for a scheduled period of service and log off when they are done. If you are logged in, the system will route calls to you (assuming you are not already on one).

If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please fill out THIS FORM and we will contact you for confirmation and orientation.

And of course, we ask for your continued prayers for the Church’s faithful response and leadership throughout this terrible pandemic.

This is odd to me for several reasons.
First, I believe 'last rites' are more to comfort the family gathered by the bed than they are for the dying person.
People dying from this virus DON'T have family by the bed. They are in isolation.
 Second, I believe there needs to be a personal connection by the priest to the dying person--some knowledge of the life and history of the dying person.
Doing it by phone to a total stranger seem odd to me, if not false.
Third, I don't think God cares if a dying person gets 'last rites' or not. God isn't concerned with our rites and traditions. God loves the dying person.
So, if there's no personal connection and no family present and God isn't concerned, why take a health care worker from their job to hold a phone?
I've done lots of 'last rites' (or, as the email calls it, "Ministrations at the Time of Death") and it is a moment of comfort for gathered family and a chance to say 'good-bye' to a loved one.
 But this seems really odd to me.
Bern thinks I should respond to VTS and say all these things. But she is a bit agnostic and more likely to 'strike back' than me.
 Yet, this is one of the oddest emails I've ever gotten--besides the one saying I have to pay $10,000 or they'll release a video on YouTube of me masturbating to Porn.
That was really odder that "last rites" by phone to a stranger.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.