Submitted by Sarah Pennington Pierce-Davis
I was pleased when Andrew invited me to attend the Lay Pastoral Care training in Richmond last spring. But I wasn’t sure I was the best candidate because, unlike Brad, I am not an introvert who loves to listen, and, unlike Janine, I’m not a pastor’s daughter who did this kind of thing starting at age 12.
And lets be honest, talking comes much more easily to me than listening and I LIKE to solve problems, feed people, provide material help or offer my humble but accurate opinion (HBAO) on any subject under the sun; all of which is frowned upon in Lay Pastoring.
I went though, because it was a chance to hang out with some really cool people and because CLEARLY this is a “growth area” for me. A third reason is that I grew up in the church. Knowing how much I received how could I NOT want to help provide the same to others.
Organized religion has played a pretty big role in my life. In my quest to find a community of believers where I fit in or where not fitting was OK I’ve tried every mainstream denomination…twice and any number of not so mainstream ones. I guess my point is that a caring church community is a must for me and, I’m pretty sure for many others as well. Lay pastoral care seems a potentially excellent way to bring the Fellowship to members of our community who can no longer, for whatever reason, get here to participate.
Lastly I went because we are a congregation transitioning from small to medium in size. So it’s vital we support our fearless leader Andrew in deliberately developing ways to bolster the net of support around our members in need. And one minister, no matter how awesome, does not a net make.
In “WELCOME: A Unitarian Universalist Primer” David O. Rankin presents 10 Unitarian Universalist (UU) belief statements. All are profound but 2 of the 10 (IMHBAO) apply directly to the concept of lay pastoral care. Number 7 states, “We believe in the ethical application of religion. Good works are the natural product of a good faith. The evidence of an inner grace that finds completion in social and community involvement.” And number 10 says, “We believe in the importance of religious community. The validation of experience requires the confirmation of peers, who provide a critical platform along with a network of mutual support.” We can’t validate each others’ experience if we are not present for each other. A lay pastoral care program allows trained members to provide that validation as agents of the minister.
Part of the framework for religious community comes from its’ rituals and traditions. Just a few of ours are: the lighting of the chalice, Sunday services, hymns, Joys and Concerns, religious education, and the 7 principles. The opportunity to take a little of that and BE with a congregant in their time of struggle is the very definition of UUism. So I am grateful for the opportunity to play some small role in the implementation of lay pastoral care here in our Beloved Community.
In closing, I love this quote from Theodore Parker which beautifully expresses what lay pastoral care at it’s best can accomplish. “Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere: it’s temple, all space,: it’s shrine, the good heart; its creed, all truth; its ritual, works of love; it’s profession of faith, divine living.”
Thank you for letting me share.
Sarah Pennington Pierce-Davis