We can sometimes think that pastoral care looks only like the vicar calling round. If you came to my ordination service last year, the liturgy reminded us that ‘The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.’ In the collect we prayed for ‘[all God’s] faithful people that in their vocation and ministry each may be an instrument of [God’s] love’. The description for priests states that ‘Guided by the Spirit, [priests] are to discern and foster the gifts of all God’s people, that the whole Church may be built up in unity and faith’.
These all echo the teaching of Ephesians 4:11-12 ‘Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.’ In other words, while pastors and vicars have a role, it’s not really me, or the Andys, or the paid staff who are meant to do all the ministry work of our church. It’s all of us: lay and ordained, young and old, paid and volunteer. This isn’t an attempt to shirk the particular responsibility of clergy or make excuses, but it is to say that clergy and recognised lay ministers are a smaller part of the picture than we often assume and we really can’t do it alone.
This means we need your help. We want to be a church which cares well but, to do so, everyone must play their part. Church is a community we belong to, rather than a service we access. Sometimes I hear heartbreaking stories where people say ‘no one from the church contacted me during a hard time’. Such neglect is never intended but can hurt people deeply. Can I encourage you that every single one of us are ‘the church’. Our dedicated ministry team can’t know about or contact every person all the time but perhaps you, a loving friend, will be ‘the church’ for that person. If you know someone who is going through something or who’s stopped coming to church, please reach out to them. If the situation feels particularly big or the person is vulnerable, speak to one of the clergy or lay ministry team, or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we know they need help.
Could you phone or meet up with someone this week to just ‘check in’?
Have you noticed someone stop coming to church? Mention it to others and reach out to them and see if they are okay.
Could your conversations go to a deeper level, honestly sharing how things really are?
Is there a situation you think our ministry team need to know about or act on? Seek permission, if necessary, and email the pastoral care team to make sure we know.
On the London underground, the police used to have a slogan on posters. ‘See it, say it, sort it’. The small number of police needed everyone to play their part in keeping the tube safe. I wonder if we need something similar in our thinking about pastoral care. Do you ‘see’ or know someone in need? Perhaps you can be ‘the church’ and pastoral care to them this week. If it feels too big, ‘say it’. We want to ensure everyone feels supported and gets the care they need but our staff and clergy won’t always know until someone tells us. We are all imperfect and miss things or get them wrong but together we can help prevent anyone falling through the gaps.
Loving Shepherd, help each of us, together and alone, to care for those around us and within our church community.