Every Sunday, Caroline makes a list of who is in church. She has kept this record for years, at one point in a notebook, but now on the cover of the Sunday bulletin. When Caroline gets home, she looks over the list and makes a second list, of those who were missing. If someone is absent for more than a week or two, she sends them a card or calls on the phone. In my first few months at the church, she kept me tuned in to who was missing until I began to see the patterns myself.
Sometimes we tease her for peeking out the window of the nursery, while the choir is robing there, to see who is driving up in the parking lot. But I rejoice with her whenever we can change a notation from “tall man with beard” to John Smith or Ray Brown or Charlie Parker. (Now that would be fun, wouldn’t it?) And who can help smiling when she adds up the number of “regulars” who are not there on a given morning and says, “There were 65 in church, but thirteen more in spirit!”
As she reviews the list of the missing, she makes a point of saying their names. “It’s not any kind of formal prayer,” she says, “I just take a moment to think about each one.” It is more than a head count. It is a soul count.