I've had many conversations lately about pastoral care at Ascension and have been invited to share more broadly with the parish both what happens on a day to day basis and what we are discussing as we look to the future. The pandemic has changed pretty much everything in our lives, including how we care for each other in our community. The need for pastoral care has increased in some ways and has had to be adjusted in many other ways. One of the great blessings of this community is the natural heart many have for caring.
I hear stories every week of people who are phoning and checking in with others, making a meal and dropping it by or sending a card. Pastoral care happens on two levels - formally and informally. This informal aspect, the practice of the "priesthood of all believers" is really the heartbeat of any parish and Ascension's heart is beating strong.
Here is an overview of the formal ministry of pastoral care at Ascension currently.
The Buddy System - Broadly, people throughout the parish are connected to "Buddy Group Leader" who contacts them, either by phone or email, now and again. The purpose of this group is simply to check in with people and make sure they are doing OK, to assess if there is any need the church could be addressing on their behalf. It is an opportunity for friendships to develop and the heartbeat of the community to be assessed.
Did you know: there are 11 Buddy Groups currently?
If there is a particular pastoral need, the hope is that the priest is made aware of this (but don't always assume this is the case unless you yourself have been in touch!). Such needs may include:
On-going pastoral needs - people with chronic physical or mental health conditions, caregivers.
Critical Pastoral needs - a sudden illness, hospitalization, death.
Terminal, long term pastoral needs - people with a terminal diagnosis, possible treatment plans, indeterminate time of need.
Shut-ins - people in our community, either in their own home or in nursing homes who are unable to attend services or have limited ability to connect with the community.
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. And the people who access the church for pastoral care are not always people who attend on Sundays or are even on our parish list. These needs are currently being addressed by both the pastoral care team and the priest as they are able.
A visit, when safely done so following protocols, is often made. More so, especially as Covid-19 numbers increase, this is done via Zoom (online) or by phone.
Did you know: we have 5 people on our pastoral care team and we are looking for more?
Visits, phone calls, Zoom visits - all are recorded. When the priest is not directly involved, a pastoral team member lets the priest know when a new or changed need occurs. Confidentiality is a given and what people share with us about their personal life is not something we - the priest or pastoral care team - share with others unless that person has expressly asked us to do so.
Did you know: on average, per week, our priest calls and/or visits with 4-6 people?
Pastoral Care & the Prayer List We often ask if people would like their name on the prayer list. Sometimes people decline. We are not allowed to put someone's name on the list without asking them first. We assume that if you ask to have a name placed on the list, that person is aware you have made that request.
Along with caring for pastoral issues each week, we as priests are also: developing liturgical services both for in church and online; overseeing administrative tasks such as rentals, staffing, building issues; meeting with community leaders like other clergy regarding community based initiatives; diocesan commitments and meetings; and most importantly, but often hardest to find time for - prayer, study and preparation.
In the middle of all this comes the unexpected. The person who drops in and needs some time in conversation, or someone who comes to the church in crisis and needs housing or food. The priest in the neighbouring town is in quarantine and you've been asked to take a funeral service for them. The day is needed to co-ordinate training people to live stream worship services. The list goes on...and on.
The issues around pastoral care have been occupying the minds of not only Anglican's but people from all faith communities. Across the board, as religious leaders must attend to administrative and parochial demands, the need for well-trained and supported lay pastoral caregivers is ever increasing.
The hope, here at Ascension, is to increase the numbers of our pastoral care team in the next couple of years. This is made difficult by the restrictions of the pandemic, but we are committed to seeing this ministry grow and develop.
Do you think you might be called to the ministry of being a lay pastoral care team member? Please speak to our priest, Ruthanne to find out what this involves and what training is available.