Tammy Blom photoIt was a typical morning in our neighborhood. I was walking down the driveway to get the newspaper. Mrs. D was loading her car for work, while Mr. S was walking his two dogs. Suddenly the abnormal happened. One of the toddlers from next door came running out his garage door, making a beeline for the street. The three adults snapped to attention. I knew if the toddler was on the loose it was because he had slipped out while Mom was gathering all the supplies for preschool. Mr. S walked over to the curb of the toddler’s house. I started across the street to watch for cars, and Mrs. D had her cell phone ready in her hand. All of us expected Mom to appear shortly; but until then, we were standing watch to make sure our toddler friend was safe. Sure enough, in moments, Mom came tearing out the door calling the toddler’s name. She scooped him up in relief, and the three watchers went on about our business. I don’t think Mom even realized we were there, but the three of us exchanged knowing nods. This child is one of our own, and it is our privilege to watch out for him.

Standing watch is a primary element of ministry. Chaplains watch over patients as they struggle with illness and death. They watch over the medical staff as they tend the sick and dying. Pastors sit in waiting rooms with families, anticipating news of surgical outcomes. They hold the hands of those who have lost jobs or relationships. Ministers send emails to divorcees and widows on holidays, reminding those who have lost that they are not alone.

We stand watch because we have claimed the congregation as our own. Not only are these our people, but this is our calling. When God called us to ministry, we were called to be a symbol of God’s presence with God’s people. So it is our privilege to walk the journey, to share the joys and the sorrows, and to be present when no words will help. It is our privilege to stand watch, but we are not the ones expected to swoop in and save. We know God is nearby. God can heal, redeem, and sustain. Our role is to be faithfully watching out for our people while expectantly waiting for God.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.