DEAR ABBY: I would like to comment on the letter from "Polite Visitor in Missouri" (Aug. 25), the minister who asked about the etiquette involved in pastoral visiting. I have been a Lutheran pastor for 33 years. This topic should have been covered while the writer was in seminary, but perhaps "Polite" missed class that day.
A coffee hour/social hour is an impossible time to get to know people. "Polite" needs to understand that these visits are not social calls; they are part of his or her job, just like being a doctor, financial adviser, etc.
Allow me to offer a suggestion for "Polite": Invite members of the congregation to sign up if they're open to a visit. The visit does not have to be at their home. Meeting people for lunch at their workplace puts a time limit on it and allows the pastor to become aware of other aspects of their lives. -- JOHN BACKE, DENVER
DEAR JOHN: Thank you for the suggestion. My readers did not hesitate to offer chapter and verse on this subject, as you will see. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Although I don't completely disagree with the response you gave to the minister in Missouri, I want to tell you there are some nuances around being a pastor that factor into this decision.
Being a pastor is different from being a co-worker, friend or boss. When we arrive as a pastor of a church, we are almost immediately thought of as part of the family. We are called in times of crisis and celebration, and we come into people's homes when others aren't invited.
I recognize that not everyone will be comfortable inviting me into their home, but for those who would like to get to know me better (and allow me to get to know them), I prefer to visit with them one-on-one. That way, the first time I am called is not when they are in crisis, and there is a more relaxed atmosphere. For anyone else, I make myself available at my home or the church. -- GREGG SEALY, HOQUIAM, WASH.
DEAR ABBY: Our rabbi has started a sort of random "lucky winner" approach to meeting members of our temple. After the sermon, he will issue an invitation to "anyone born in the month of July" or "anyone wearing green today" -- or any number of other ways of selecting people at random. These people, who are bound to be different each week, are invited to join him following the service for a short meet, greet and chat. In this way, he can interact with small groups, and everyone gets to know each other. -- RIVKA L., ATLANTA
DEAR ABBY: My husband has been a pastor for several years. Moving to a new congregation is always difficult and getting acquainted can be daunting. His solution is to get a pictorial church directory, if one is available, and study the names and faces so he can match them correctly when he meets church members.
This has worked well in both small and large churches. Parishioners appreciate being recognized by name -- and sometimes invite both of us to dinner. -- K.A. REENTS, BLOOMINGTON, ILL.
DEAR ABBY: In the church where I belong, there are cards in the pews for people to fill out. The minister can then call on those who wish to meet, and nobody feels put upon. -- IDAHO ABBY FAN