“Come back if it gets any larger”.
The appointment had been a relief, a lump was no more than a lipoma, just a piece of annoying fatty tissue. Lipomas are not a problem, unless they put pressure on something else, causing discomfort.
The receptionist finally answered the phone.
“He has no appointments, nothing today, I’ll look at the book for tomorrow . . . . There’s nothing for tomorrow either . . .”
There was a pause inviting a response like, ‘I’ll see someone else instead’.
“The first time he could see you would be on Thursday”.
“That’s fine. What time?”
“Would nine o’clock suit?”
It wasn’t perfect. It would mean more Dispirin in the meantime and a lecture at the surgery about paying more attention to the things he said. The chiropractor’s warning used sinister terms like ‘scans’, but at nine o’clock on Thursday it would all be manageable.
Putting down the phone, there was a reassurance. All would be well, the nagging pain would be gone. He would grumble about things being left so long and then prescribe a course of action.
The predictable and the familiar are important. To go to the surgery and find someone bouncing around, enthusiastically offering a string of innovations would be unnerving at least, and, if it persisted, would prompt a search for another surgery. There are enough disconcerting and disturbing experiences without encountering a GP who espouses novelty. If it meant waiting until nine o’clock on Thursday to be absolutely certain of getting the right man, then the wait would be worth it.
All of which asked questions about people’s experience of coming to church. If people come for the reassuring, for the familiar, for the comfort that ‘all will be well’, what happens when they arrive and all the old ways have disappeared? What happens when there is nothing familiar, nothing to lift the spiritual weariness they feel because there is nothing they understand, nothing they remember from their childhood days?
Does the GP with his steady firmness and gentle admonition know more about pastoral care than a generation of clergy raised on innovation?