Twelve Members make up the newly commissioned Lay Pastoral Care Team

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From the left, 1st Row: Cas Knox (CAL), Etta Williams (GRA), Ernst Hellreigel (COTA), Beth FitzPatrick (COTA), Joe FitzPatrick (COTA), Ginney Hunter (CAL). 2nd Row: Frank Webb (CAL), Lynn Porro (GRA), Sandy O’Tanyi (COTA), Lyn Gano (CAL), the Rev. Ketlen Solak, Nancy Craig (GRA), Maryann Younger (Consultant), and Barbara Bradley (CAL).

by Maryann D. Younger, Christ Church Christiana Hundred, first published in the December, 2015 issue of the Delaware Communion newspaper.

The Brandywine Collaborative Ministries (BCM), on Sunday, October 18, 2015, commis­sioned a lay-led Pastoral Care Team to provide a visiting ministry for the entire BCM community. There were 70 people in attendance, a combined choir, an outside speaker, and a lovely reception afterwards to support and congratulate the twelve-member team on their work and future ministry.

The goals of the team are to: provide lay pastoral care to all members of the community; assist the Rev. Ketlen Solak and broaden the reach of the church’s ministry; and grow the community’s knowledge, support, and love of one another. The twelve members represent all three churches: Church of the Ascension, Calvary Episcopal, and Grace Episcopal. The team will not replace, but augment the work that is being done in the individual churches.

Pastoral Care is one of the most traditional ways that congregations support their communities and love one another. This care takes many forms, from prayer, notes, and visits, to the delivery of the Eucharist or of food or flowers, to even assisting with chores or rides to doctors’ appointments.

The team met frequently over the late spring and summer months to dream, visualize, and prayerfully discern what it meant for the BCM to create such a team. Along the way, through holding up our own needs in prayer, and reflection on scripture, the group increased their support and understanding of one another. To meet the needs of dozens of BCM congregants living in healthcare communities or who are homebound, a visiting ministry was chosen as their first focus.

With the initial emphasis established, the next step was to increase understanding of loss and grief, and to sharpen listening and visiting skills. A book discussion of Don’t Sing Songs to A Heavy Heart by Kenneth Haugk, and a 5-hour workshop by Christiana Care Chaplains Sr. Julian Wilson and Metty Messick, assisted in this learning.

Pastoral care in congregations is reliant on members being willing to share when they are in need. Living in our independent American culture, this can be a challenge, requiring a level of trust and confidence that, in our weakest moments, our church will hold us close, not trying to fix us, per se, but to walk with us in our times of grief and pain.

In each of the three churches in September, two forums were held that lifted up pastoral care, the work of the new team, and how each member could participate. The essential message was that pastoral care is everyone’s job: every member can say something when there is a pastoral care concern for themselves or someone they know, or when they notice that someone is missing on Sundays.

The Pastoral Care Team is now organized into visiting pairs and will be reaching out to their homebound and care facility members to ask what would be most helpful to them and what would keep them connected to their church community.

The Team is grateful to the Diocesan Council for their support and a grant for start up funding. Thanks are given to St. Albans church for the donation of Eucharistic Visitor kits and linens. Additionally, the group is grateful for the guidance of a consultancy team from around the diocese that has assisted in their formation, including members from each parish, Tom Flanagan, Sandi O’Tanyi, and Cathy Diamond; and members from the wider community, the Rev. Ed Pease, Sr. Cassandra Norsworthy, Sandy Frazer, with Maryann Younger as facilitator.