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On Hospital Visiting and (O)Mission Statistics… 8 April 2008

Posted by Dr Moose in Church, Humour, Life.
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On the delights of Hospital Visiting.

Yes, there is irony in the title. I have no objections or problems with visiting (even if all too often by the time you find that someone has been in hospital that they’re actually out!). Except that is on the first ever visit to a previously unknown hospital. In which case events will go something like this.

1. Find the hospital. It will inevitably be where the road maps say it is, but you are taken by a very strange route if you follow the road signs.

2. Find the way into the car parks, whose signs are usually obscured or made more difficult to read by the dozens of cars illegally parked on the roads outside. There is a high probability that you will miss the turning.

3. Find a Visitors’ Car Park. Take especial care over car parks that are “staff only” for some of the day, but “visitors’ use” at others. There is a high chance that the signs are out of date and/or mutually contradictory.

4. Find a parking space, which may entail up to 15 minutes of driving round in circles, possibly through multiple car parks. (see 3)

5. Find a working ticket machine. The one nearest to you will not be operational. This may entail a trip on foot to other car parks, and the worry about whether tickets are valid between car parks.

6. Find the correct change, or the nearest estimation. This will inevitably be an extortionate amount of money, for far longer than you need, enabling you to pop into Out-Patients for a quick Chiropody session should you so wish. (You may think the money would have been better spent on a couple of cans of beer, though. See 9).

7. Find an entrance to the hospital – which is not always obvious. Once you find a plan you will inevitably discover that you have parked the furthest possible distance from the ward or department you seek. Gird your loins.

8. Your route will take you past the canteen. You will feel hungry. You will discover you have spent all your change in the ticket machine.

9. Find the Ward. No matter how well you think you have planned you will discover that Visiting Hours for that one ward, and possibly that one ward only, are different from the ones you were given, and the doors were closed about the time you found the hospital.

10. Retrace your steps, which in God’s providence will have led you past the Chapel. If God is feeling merciful there will be a Chaplain present, so you can let them know who you were trying to visit!

Of course, once you’ve made a few visits you know all the pitfalls – which is when the hospital will start playing the game known as “Pass the Patient”. This serves purely to amuse the hospital CCTV operators – and to enhance the ticket machine revenues!

(O)Mission Statistics
I will admit to not being the most organised of people on occasion, but there are limits. I have finally managed to start work on the wonderfully mis-named documentation known as “Statistics for Mission” – or more accurately Statistics of Attendance. Every church should have the following sorts of records: a service register, a baptism register, 2 wedding registers and (possibly, and I’m still a little hazy on this, as I’ve only recently remembered its existence) a funeral register.

Each year you are sent a form to record numbers, the requests for which seem to get longer every year but for 2007 include:

  • Baptisms
  • Thanksgivings for the birth of children
  • Marriage
  • Wedding Blessings
  • Funerals
  • Easter and Christmas Communicants and Attendants
  • Church Attendance in October (both Sundays and Week days)
  • Adults working (in a parochial capacity) with older young people)
  • Attendance on a “normal” Sunday
  • Church Membership as stated on the Electoral Roll.

This form is accompanied by a further sheet of Notes, printed on jolly coloured paper. Note: there is nothing jolly about these notes!

Then, of course, there are the mistakes (and no errata). For example someone has forgotten to change a date in the statistics form from last year to this one, just in case you weren’t already confused. And, of course, the numbers of the Notes on the Notes Sheet don’t correspond with the expectations of the request form.

But all this is simply preparatory. Even if you have all the required registers, and even if they are filled in correctly, you still cannot answer the questions correctly unless you have kept supplementary records!

Figures entered into the Service Registers don’t at least in my, Parish include the clergy. That’s not too difficult to mentally amend. We are even encouraged to discount folks who have attended twice on the same day – which is fine if the person compiling the register attends all the services.

Consider, however, the following statement, which relates to both Easter Eve and Easter Day and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as a two single required figures (and I quote):

In the attending worship boxes please enter the total number of people that attended worship… Please include all people: communicants and those that did not communion; adults, children and young people; clergy and laity. However, as far as is possible, each person should only be counted once even if they attended more than one service.

This can only be done if far more detailed records are kept than provided for in the register books – and most folks would be rather worried if their presence were recorded by name. Yet this is pretty much what is required to maintain any degree of accuracy, even, or maybe especially, in a small church.

There is no way I, or anyone else, can realistically remember how many of the 55 or so adults (of which 30 received Communion – or is that 31 including the vicar?) who attended Christmas Midnight Service were among the 12 adults (all of whom received Communion – and again, what about the Vicar) at 9.30am on Christmas Morning. Of course there will be some duplication, but short of taking extensive (and time consuming records) at the time, who knows?

This might seem petty. After all, surely what we need is the general picture. But if the general picture of the Church of England is comprised of small to medium size parishes (as I believe it is) the statistical effect of the inevitable estimations and errors this will produce will result in statistics that are at best seriously flawed, and at worst, totally unrepresentative.

Me. I’m off to church to sit in a cold vestry and do the best I can. Spare a prayer would you please?

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