I return to connecting pastoral care to the saints because when Christian ministers say that we believe in the communion of saints, part of what we are saying is that we cannot do ministry apart from the communion of saints. A reactionary Protestantism (not to be confused with all of Protestantism, as if there were any “all of Protestantism”) limits this truth to the living community while forgetting (or ignoring) that Jesus names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob among God’s living community.
When we do ministry, we are not ministering alone. We are the hands, feet, hearts, and bodies of Christ in the room. We are also the hands, feet, hearts, and bodies of those who have died in Christ and continue to do the work of Christ with Christ and in Christ. The whole Church prays from under the altar. This is that noisy Church which the lucky ones among us have already experienced, the church that talks back and prays back: “Help him, Lord!” and “Help her, Lord!” and “Amen,” while we as Christian ministers are offering ourselves at the bedside, in the hospital, in the prison, at the gravesite.