Pastoral Care at All Saints; Reflection and information by the Rector
Dear sisters and brothers,
As we enter the “growing season” of the weeks after Pentecost, my thoughts are turning to how we take care of one another at All Saints. I realize that there are many ways in which we care for one another that are wonderful and fulfilling, and there are areas in which we can continue to grow. I have been greatly helped by a discussion I had with a number of parishioners on May 30. At that gathering we thought broadly about pastoral care in this parish. I want to share some of what we considered together, to clarify some issues, and to give you a view of how our pastoral care ministries are developing.
What do we mean by pastoral care?
Pastoral care is the art and craft of creating spaces that feel safe, inviting, and trustworthy so that we can walk alongside one another, and support one another in the grace-filled and often invisible work of transformation. This sort of companionship feels life-giving as our authentic selves—our souls—encounter one another. When this happens, we become more and more who God is calling us to be, more and more Christ-like, more and more transparent to the movement of the Holy Spirit within and between us.
It’s been said that the soul is like a bird. It doesn’t show up when people crash through the underbrush demanding that it make an appearance. In order to experience the movement of your own soul, and in order to help others attend to the stirrings of their souls, you have to be patient, still, and observant. The soul will not emerge if it feels endangered or powerless. For that reason, safe, invitational, and trustworthy spaces are the foundation of any pastoral care ministry.
How we currently care for one another
If pastoral care includes all that we do to help one another grow deeper into the knowledge and love of God so that we continue to offer fruitful service for our whole lives, then much of what we do here at All Saints is pastoral care: the upkeep of our buildings and grounds; our worship; our formation programs; and the numerous ways we serve people beyond our parish.
In addition to all of this, I want to highlight some of our ministries that are specifically pastoral in nature.
During the prayers of the people at each of our worship services, we read the names written in the Book of Thanksgivings and Concerns. We also have a parish prayer list. The names on that list can be added by using a form on the website, and/or a paper form found by the Book of Thanksgivings and Concerns. They appear in the weekly e-news and the bulletin insert so that anyone in the parish can pray for individuals who request it. All prayer requests come to the clergy and a small group of individuals invited by the clergy. All prayer requests are considered confidential unless you specifically request otherwise. The clergy prays for these people regularly. If there is anyone for whom you wish the clergy or the community to be praying, please write them in the Book of Thanksgivings and Concerns before worship begins, and/or add them to the parish prayer list.
The lay people who serve as ministers of healing on Sunday mornings continue the ancient Christian practice of “prayers for healing with the laying on of hands.” I train and supervise the healing ministers and meet frequently with them to deepen our understanding of healing and to pray for those on the parish prayer list. Prayer requests for healing at the Langdon Chapel are kept absolutely confidential. If you feel called to this ministry, please feel free to speak with me or to one of the healing ministers.
Caring Ministry Team
Under the able leadership of Jean and Peter Stringham, the Caring Ministry Team helps parishioners with very specific, time-limited needs. A team of over thirty-five parishioners makes and delivers meals, provides transportation, and sends cards when people are ill, or have had a death in the family, or are celebrating a special event like the birth of a child. The team’s coordinators meet regularly with me and the Director of Children’s, Youth & Family Ministries. If you want to be part of this team, please contact the Stringhams.
It is one of the greatest honors, and a tremendous joy of mine to be able to visit you in your home, or to meet with you at a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or even at church. I cherish these times with you. If you would like me to visit or meet you somewhere, I encourage you to call, email, or catch me at church and set up a time. I try to reserve Thursday afternoons for visits and one-on-one meetings, but I’m glad to arrange other times that are mutually convenient. Meeting individually with people who request it is a top priority for me. If you would like to meet with Anoma, please feel free to contact her.
Hospital or health emergency visits
If you or someone you love is in the hospital, or preparing to go into the hospital, please contact Anoma or me. I know how stressful, frightening, and deeply personal (and personally invasive) a visit to the hospital can be, however, my default practice is to make a visit to the hospital unless you specifically request I don’t. I always want the decision to be up to you, but know that unless I hear differently, I will do my best to come to the bedside of a parishioner who is ill.
Growing our pastoral care ministries
Lay Eucharistic Visitors
Several people in our parish have been trained and licensed by the diocese to bring Communion to homebound individuals immediately following the services on Saturday or Sunday. Lay Eucharistic Visitors take the Sacraments to those who are unable to come to church for reasons of illness or infirmity. If you are unable to come to church, and would like the clergy and/or one of these Lay Eucharistic Visitors to bring you Communion, please let Anoma or me know.
In addition to clergy visits, and Lay Eucharistic visits, Anoma and I are gathering a group of people who want to begin making regular visits to people who are unable to come to church, or who desire a compassionate listener at times of great joy or pain. These individuals will be trained and supervised by the clergy to offer a ministry of presence and connection. They will be able to make visits in addition to any requested clergy visits. Training will include understanding confidentiality, safe church practices, listening skills, self and other awareness, and professionalism. If you feel called to a ministry of care and presence, please speak to Anoma or me soon, as we’d like to get this up and running this summer.
I’m also aware of a good deal of energy around strengthening the pastoral ministry we offer people as they first enter our doors. At the meeting on May 30th we discussed a number of ideas to improve how we welcome visitors and invite newcomers to become part of the larger life of the All Saints community. Many of these ideas will need careful thought and some energized leaders to bring them to fruition. If you feel called to a ministry of welcome and hospitality, please let me know.
There are so many people here who, along with me, are committed to making sure All Saints continues to be a safe, welcoming, trustworthy community for all of us to do the grace-filled but often difficult work of transformation—listening for, attending to, and collaborating with the work of the Holy Spirit in building up the body of Christ and breathing life into the dry bones of the world. I am deeply grateful for all the work that so many of you do with and for each other.
It continues to be a deep joy and privilege to serve as your priest.
May the summer bless you with rest and refreshment.
In Christ’s peace,