Pastoral Care is one aspect of parish ministry that really cannot be done well enough or is ever entirely finished. The physical and spiritual needs of a large group of people, or even one person for that matter, are always changing. Once one need is met, another arises. Like any relationship, the work done in the past helps build trust but the work is really only as good as the most recent effort. Pastoral care, communication, relationship building, are all matters of process rather than product.
One of my great pleasures is participating in that process at St. John’s and watching how countless people add themselves to that endeavor. Certainly the clergy are expected to fulfill their duties by doing hospital and home visiting and keeping in touch with folks. But rather than just waiting for the clergy to do their jobs, so many people at St. John’s make regular contact with others and extend support to those who need a little lift. A community of faith may be only as good as the care members offer to each other. Most every time I visit or talk with someone who is in a time of weakness or illness, they have already benefited from someone in the parish reaching out to them.
We have a structure in place which is designed to enhance this spirit of caring for each other in times of need. There is a group devoted to pastoral care which consists of 12 teams, one for each month of the year. Every Tuesday morning as our staff meets, we check in with each other about pastoral needs that we have come across or anticipate. Each day the clergy and support staff keep tabs on who might need pastoral care. Fay Worrilow, our Parish Secretary, contacts the person in charge of the monthly team and alerts them. Members of the team reach out to those people and offer support. Most of the support given has to do with assistance with meals. As individuals and families deal with crises large and small, it is often helpful to have some meals taken care of while the daily schedules are interrupted.
Whenever a parishioner or a close family member of a parishioner dies, the clergy assess the situation and advise the pastoral care volunteers who then contact the family and ask how they might be of service. Even if that offer is declined the pastoral care volunteers try to provide a tangible expression of concern, again usually in the form of a meal. When a funeral is held at St. John’s and the family chooses to have a visitation time prior to the funeral, the pastoral care volunteers for the month will provide light refreshments for that gathering.
One thing I particularly appreciate about our pastoral care efforts is that they are designed to fit the particular needs of the situation instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. We don’t assume what a family might need. We listen to their needs and try to be of service in the way that will most be helpful to them. We’re not trying to impress you or show you how well we do pastoral care; as you go through a difficult time we are trying to support you and let you know your church cares about you.
At our best our parish is a place where people exhibit genuine care and concern for each other. As we receive those little gifts of service we are inspired to reach out to others. The purpose of the church is not to provide you with a service but to encourage you to offer service to each other. On the whole I see St. John’s living into that in a very healthy way. I am grateful for all that I see happening and appreciative of the many little acts that take place without me ever knowing about them. When things are done without the need for recognition we have exhibited true compassion.
You can help in a variety of ways. You can join the pastoral care volunteers by contacting Jane Barganier, Debbie Wakefield, Jean Smyth, or Betty Mathews. You can let the church office know when you or a family member or friend is ill or hospitalized (occasionally we can read your mind but not reliably so). You can act on those little urges you feel when others are in need and be of service to them.
Tending to the sick is one of the gospel imperatives we are all called to enact. Do it with the hope that times of weakness are holy times. When others are sick reach out to them. When you are sick, look for the little ways that God is reaching out to you through others.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Special Events Around the Corner
Jamie Osborne shares his call story – August 13 at 9:15
Blessing of Backpacks – August 13 at 10:30
EYC Parents’ Meeting – August 20 at noon
Young Adults’ Supper Club – August 24 at 6:30 pm
Family Promise Speaker – August 27 at 9:15 am
Fall Kickoff Sunday – September 10
Men’s Group Starts – September 11 at 6:15 pm
Organ Recital by Joel Gregory – September 14 at 7:00 pm
Family Promise – Homeless Family Ministry – September 17-24
Blessing of the Animals – October 1 at 5:00 pm
Evensong – October 15 at 4:00 pm
Halloween Carnival – October 25 at 6:00 pm
Bazaar – November 15
Ordination to the Priesthood for Jamie Osborne – November 18 at 11:00 am
Stop Hunger Now – August 26 – need 100 volunteers!
Handel’s Messiah – December 8 at 7:00 pm