As a rural minister, I have taken to carrying certain items in my little Subaru that otherwise I would not. Thanks to Mary Beth at Kemble-Sarawak United Church who, upon my arrival, met me saying, “Your GPS won’t always work on these backroads and if you are like most folks, you won’t have one of these.” And she handed me a folded roadmap which I gratefully placed in my glove box.
One afternoon at another rural church I served I received a phone call by a church member asking if I could come to their farm immediately. Leaving a meeting, I arrived promptly in a lovely floral dress, nylons and a pair of pretty flats. Imagine my surprise when told the pastoral emergency was in the barn! By the time I arrived to the dying animal, I was ankle deep in mud and manure. Turned out, one of their beloved sheep was dying and in need of prayer. This was kinda my own fault because the Sunday prior I had spent the Children’s Conversation explaining that all creatures belong to God- after all is that not the point of the Noah’s Ark story?
Since that day, I carry rubber boots!
Another pastoral visit resulted in me carrying dog treats because upon my arrival, three “friendly” dogs circled my van, barking loudly. I was assured they wouldn’t bite, but until the owner opened my door I was not taking any chances. This city girl doesn’t challenge three barking dogs!
I also learned that even with GPS, a cell phone and a paper map, I can still get lost. Sometimes country folks give unhelpful directions, such as “go down the third sideroad from the church, pass the red barn and turn left at the Scott’s place.” Only to discover the red barn was painted brown at least three years prior and the Scott’s sold the farm to someone named “Snider”! More than once I have pulled over to the side of the road, phoned the waiting parishioner and declared, “I am lost”.
At one church I served, the municipality had amalgamated with its neighbour resulting in the roads being renumbered, but the parishioners refused to use the new numbers! I learned that when they said ‘Road 24’, it was actually ‘124’ and ‘Sideroad 6’ was now ‘Sideroad 8’, and so on. I knew I had officially become a local when they would tell me to go to Joe’s place then turn left at the Smith’s farm and then turn right at the field of soy (even though it was January), and I knew exactly where they meant!
One other tool I have taken to carrying with me is my camera. While driving these back country roads I have caught some amazing scenes. One autumn day, I captured a gruesome shot of eleven Turkey Vultures sitting together on a wooden fence. Another time, I shot an eagle in full view as it soared overhead with outstretched wings. There have been amazing sunsets, incredible farming scenes of misty morning sunrises and, especially in Kemble, there are vistas of Georgian Bay from atop hilly terrain.
Most recently, my toolbox includes other tools of the trade. I have masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, a lawn chair, a video camera (so to record the worship video for YouTube) and I am never without my cell phone.
The other day my husband was cleaning up the SUV and brought in my rubber boots, bag of dog treats and the folded paper map saying, “you don’t need these!” I quickly gathered them up and said, “Oh yes I do!”. As well as the little pair of slippers I wear when entering folks’ homes, an umbrella, the portable CD player, the Bible, Church directory, bottles of grape juice for communion, my wide brimmed sun hat and an assortment of greeting cards.
Certainly, the tools of my trade as a Rural Minister are different then taught at Seminary, but when I view this basket of goodies, I smile at the oddity and the joy of my calling!
Rev. Heather McCarrel