As a minister of religion, I get asked lots of questions. Some I can answer easily, some I can’t. Here are some of the best that I didn’t expect to be asked:
1. What’s that smell?
My daughter was on an orchestra course, and I volunteered to help make drinks and supervise during a break. I got chatting to another parent over the washing up, and the inevitable question of “what do you do?” came up. The course was taking place in a church, but not a church in which I had ever been before. She asked, “What is that smell that churches always have?”
I’m afraid the 8 years of study before my ordination had not equipped me with a quick-fire answer to these sorts of questions. I cobbled together an explanation of damp tea towels and buildings not being used every day getting musty, and hoped this satisfied her curiosity.
2. Can you change these batteries?
I was a little surprised the first time I was asked this. Now I have become an expert hearing-aid battery changer. I am sometimes given batteries in advance if I have said I’m visiting a particular person in hospital. At the time I wasn’t all that keen on handling objects covered in unfamiliar earwax, but it has become second nature now. I guess that thinking about the benefit it will give the person I am helping has become stronger than the ickyness of the process.
3. These festivities you are organising. Can you make the games suitable for people who are completely blind, profoundly deaf, immobile, and aged between 8 and 97?
Well, when I agreed hold the session, I did not know who was coming. I had that sinking feeling when I saw the list. Not that I didn’t want these people to come – it was deliberately being held between Christmas and New Year to try and help those who are socially isolated. However, knowing that my active kids may not appreciate sitting down all morning didn’t make it easy!
It must have been okay as I was asked to do it again the next year. And more people volunteered to run games, so my life was made easier!
Hmmm. I can think of a number of reasons. Are they his false teeth, or do they belong to someone else? Has he lost a lot of weight recently? Have his dentures completely dried out?
It was a frustrating visit with such a lovely man. The ward was noisy, and without his teeth, his speech was difficult to interpret. After a discussion with a nurse I went down to the hospital shop and bought some Fixodent. I was sad that he had fallen asleep when I came back, and he died a few days afterwards. At least I knew I had tried to help.
5. Can we plan my funeral?
You might think that this one would be kind-of obvious to a minister. Nonetheless, I wasn’t expecting it that day. At the time I had only been ordained for a few months and hadn’t yet taken a funeral. I had only met the person I had been asked to visit once and this was in passing. I had gone with the intention of helping her work through her terminal cancer diagnosis, and as a result had not taken a notebook or paper of any description.
The questions she asked surprised me. They took me completely aback. She was totally matter-of-fact about it all, and this certainly made it easier for me. Bringing a hymn book with me might have been even more helpful! What I didn’t know then, but I do now, is that I should have asked her if she had made her wishes known to her family. I learnt a big lesson that day.
So, all things considered, I am ready for any questions to be asked. I have noted that I don’t always need to have answers. Sometimes people already know what the solution is. They just need someone to listen and reflect back what they have said. However, I am sure I will still be surprised now and again!
What unusual questions have you been asked at work?
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