J. Barrie Shepherd

Both less and more than family and good friends,
still you belong there at the high moments and low,
included in the laughter and the tears, all the embraces,
gestures of delight and consolation across the years,
even participating in remembering, noting the absences,
the gaps among the circled chairs, the ones
who couldn’t make it for whatever reason, glad or sad.
Yet, for all the long and hard-earned familiarities,
you are also set apart. You have a role to play,
a place to fill, a dimension toward which it is your duty
and your privilege to focus everyone’s attention.
Your task to speak the words and open up the silences that unite,
lend shape and texture, and at least a glimpse of the beyond,
within these joyful/painful moments crammed with here and now.
If you can do it, if you can evoke and hold together
both this world and the next, if you can somehow embody,
even for the instant of a handclasp or a prayer,
that sheer intensity of presence that fills all absence
with new hope, then they may realize they have a pastor,
then you may even touch the fringes of the garment of the master.