When One Is Temporarily Ill

It happens to all of us, dumplings. The Common Cold hits hard (or the Flu, or the Beri-Beri, or the Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and you’ve got a rite of passage to conduct. What do you do?

Use your best judgment, of course. If you truly can’t drag yourself out of bed or are running a fever and are obviously contagious, call some colleagues and try to find a replacement before you phone the people who expected you to do the honors for them. How much nicer to begin a phone conversation by saying, “This is Rev. Runny Nose, and I’m so sorry that I too ill to officiate at your wedding tomorrow afternoon, but I want you to know that my dear friend, Rev. Pink-0f-Health is available. She’ll stop by in the morning to get my keys and to go over the ceremony with me, and I want to assure you that you’ll be in wonderful hands with her.”

You and your colleague should work out fees together, of course. If you met with the couple and counseled them, put hours into preparing their wedding service, or met with the family, wrote the eulogy and crafted the liturgy, you should receive some remuneration for your time just as Rev. Pink-Of-Health should receive some for hers. If the people for whom you are officiating are members of your congregation and there is no expected honorarium, by all means pay your colleague the appropriate fee from your worship or discretionary budget.

If you do feel well enough to lead a service but are still a long way from being your best self, here are some tips to getting you into presiding shape:

1. Cancel everything else on your schedule and get into bed. Get as much sleep as you can before the event.

2. Use the few or moments you do feel relatively well to prepare and review the service. The weaker and more exhausted you are, the better you need to know that service.

3. Enlist help. Get the kids to help around the house, ask a neighbor to pick up some Thera-Flu and chicken soup for you, have your sweetie do the laundry and change the sheets (too exhausting to do in your condition!).

4. Do force fluids. Make pots of herbal tea with lots of honey (good for the vocal chords) and keep drinking. If you can’t eat, you’ll live. However, you must stay hydrated. And do try to eat enough to keep your blood sugar steady.

5. Take necessary medications well before the ceremony so that they have time to kick in before you begin. If you are worried that your stomach might act up during the funeral, take a precautionary Imodium. It might clog you up for later but your sense of security will be worth it. Just do not make a habit of this!

6. Carry lozenges. Learn how to speak with a lemon drop or cough drop in your mouth. In extreme cases of dry, tickly cough I have conducted services with a small lozenge tucked back under my tongue. It works.

7. Take a long, very warm shower before the service and dry-brush your skin beforehand if possible. You’ll feel eminently better. Wash your hair and dry it thoroughly before you dress. If you’ve been running a fever you want to be sure to stay warm and dry. Wear something that covers your throat and keeps your chest from getting chilled.

8. Be fair. No parents of a baby want their child infected by an dysfunctionally devoted pastor who is “pretty sure” he or she doesn’t have strep throat. If you fear you’re infectious, better to cancel the event than to be known all over town as “Rev. Typhoid Mary.”

9. Wash your hands very well before the service, and charmingly decline handshakes and hugs. Let your huge, genuine smile compensate for lack of physical contact. If you must cough or sneeze, please make every effort to get a tissue or handkerchief to your face before you do, and use hand sanitizer afterward.

10. Put every bit of your energy into the service. Project your voice more loudly than you think you need to, be animated, embody what you are saying, be committed to every action. If you’ve been sick in bed for a few days, you’re probably more depleted than you think and this effort will bring you up to your “normal.”

Then hie thee home and to bed, and feel better!!!

P.S. This just in: Zicam Extreme Sinus Congestion Relief kicks Sudafed’s butt in PeaceBang’s recent home trials! (And it doesn’t destroy consumers’ sense of taste or smell, as Zicam’s zinc-based cold remedies are rumored to do!)

4 Replies to “When One Is Temporarily Ill”

  1. As one who is going to preach when not 100 percent tomorrow, I must say that this is quite timely.

    I am also going to have the Loving Husband drive me to and from and pick up anything I’ve left behind. He thinks of it as his job. And that way I don’t have to drive under the influence of cold medication.

  2. I swear by Airborne taken at the first tickle of a cold and then each morning and evening for several days. Just recently I have started taking it in very warm water and it seems to work even better. Doesn’t dry me out like some remedies, and is completely homeopathic. Also LOVE Zicam decongestant but be careful not to take more than once in 24 hours and discontinue as soon as possible. Can be overly drying to nasal passages. [ I am ALL about the Airborne, my friend, and took it through the run of my show, which I swear kept me well. I stopped taking it three days after we closed, and GUESS WHEN I GOT SICK!? Never again! And thanks for the Zicam tip — I agree that it is extremely drying. I learned my lesson this morning preaching: my nasal passages were very clear but my voice was cracking dry and I developed a cough. Boy, did it take every ounce of voice training I’ve ever had to keep projecting throughout the service and especially the sermon. Right now I sound like a cross between Kathleen Turner and a larangytic frog. Hey, how are things out in Mahtomedi? – PB]

  3. Delightful in Mahtomedi! Great internship, marvelous mentor, warm healthy congregation. Just got fashion advice from a member of my intern committee telling me to be careful of too tight pants on my not small frame. After reading your blog for many moons, I knew enough not to take it personally but rather as a good sign that she trusted me enough to share it. And advice worth heeding. Be well –

  4. This is a good reason to help your colleagues out whenever reasonable–it’s great to have a few favors to call in when there is truly no alternative.

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