One of the key findings from the Archbishop’s consultations with churches in the Diocese earlier this year is that many people would love to use their skills and interests to become more involved in working with the clergy to visit those in need of support in their local communities.
So many in both our churches and community would welcome a visit and the support that the church can offer whether they are elderly, housebound, lonely, struggling having recently been bereaved, sick or recovering from an operation. There are also many opportunities to connect with fringe members of the church and new arrivals in the parish by adopting a more coordinated and better staffed approach to visiting. Long gone are the days when a solitary clergy person can adequately meet all this need alone, and increasingly (thankfully!) church lay members are beginning to work in collaboration with their rector in seeking to provide good pastoral support and care within their parishes.
Much of this care happens informally but many more have a heart and vision to visit on behalf, and under the direction of the church, but often feel they lack the necessary skills and confidence necessary to be a good and effective pastoral visitor. Over the last year Rev Elizabeth Cairns and myself have worked together to write and deliver Pastoral Visiting Courses in different parts of the Diocese which aim to hopefully impart some of these skills and this confidence and as people have completed these courses and discerned the call of God, the Archbishop has this year commissioned a number of trained pastoral visitors who are now visiting effectively within their parishes providing much needed spiritual and emotional support to many people.
Over the next few years we are hoping to roll out this course in various parts of the Diocese so that more people can be trained, equipped and commissioned to develop this ministry within their local parishes.
Initially therefore we will be beginning by offering a 6 week course which will be held centrally at Church House Armagh on Tuesday evenings in February and March 2016. All sessions will run between 8pm and 9:30pm and the dates and subjects are as follows:
Tuesday 2nd February: Why Visit? The need, privileges and responsibilities
Tuesday 9th February: The Biblical imperative for Visiting
Tuesday 16th February: Listing Skills
Tuesday 1st March: Listening Skills 2 and Listening to Older People
Tuesday 8th March: Understanding Loss and Bereavement
Tuesday 15th March: The Practicalities of Visiting and the Ways forward
The course will be limited to 20 participants and is open to anyone interested, although we will be asking you to fill in an application form and ask your rector to recommend you. The course and process following will also contain a discernment process in which we hope to work out with each person and their rector whether this is or isn’t a ministry that God is calling you to undertake. We are also suggesting that if you have experienced a significant bereavement in the last year then it may be better to wait for a future course and not apply for this one.
If anyone would like more information please do give me a ring on 028 80758570 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to apply for this initial course, which we are hoping is going to be but the first of many in different parts of the Diocese over the next few years, please do talk to your rector who will give you the necessary information and an application form.
Rev Andy Heber