Sometimes the most essential parts of our ministry as a congregation remain the most veiled. Sometimes things must be like that out of respect for the confidences within our congregation. What I have in mind is a team of concerned compassionate laypersons working closely with me.
Time was, before I was arrived, when our CareNet group of caring laypersons was assembled and trained to reach out to those in need, along with the pastor. After all, what with over 700 members and one pastor, expecting one person to respond with care to the many personal trials and testing you face represented daunting odds. When I arrived, I was asked if I would welcome something like that original group to continue. My response was an enthusiastic, yes!
These days this group of lay pastoral care goes by the name Care Circle. Sally Bassler has been our spiritual leader, and Ella Long has taken on some administrative leadership. Debra Hertz, John Bassler, Mariann Bigelow, Joe Pankowski and Jennifer Van Ingen round out our Care Circle.
I meet with this group monthly and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to them for the difference they make. Of course, if someone discloses a pastoral care or concern you want no one to know about, I don’t even mention it there. But that is relatively rare. We meet early in the morning and go over the surgeries, the births, the losses, the joblessness, the infirmities, and all manner of struggle that we must face over the course of a lifetime.
Our policy has been to share no more with each other than we need to in order to make certain all of you hear from their spiritual home in a time of need. But this group has been wonderfully diligent in protecting any confidences that do get shared with them. They work hard to reach out and keep First Congregational the caring body of Christ we expect it to be when we are most in need of comfort, compassion, understanding, and empathy. I cannot say enough about their good work.
None of them seeks a high profile, but we do need you to know they exist. You need to know because if one from this circle reaches out to you, it is part of our concerted response of caring. You also need to know as you are aware of someone else facing tribulation so that you can pass along names to me or to any of them listed above. We meet monthly and communicate weekly for important updates. We care for each other in ways that model how we would care for you.
Also, know that the former suggestion box near the back of the pews is now a Prayer Request box. If there is a person or place, a cause or concern you wish us to pray for, please let us know.