We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’lers on the road;
we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.*
As promised last month, my reflection this month is on all the “formal,” programmatic ways we offer care to one another as the community of Plymouth. There are an amazing number of them in place or in the works. And these do not count the ways that we care for each other informally, “just because,” in our Plymouth family community! I hope you recognize the words above from the hymn, “Won’t You Let Me Be Your Servant?,” number 539 in our church hymnal. These words speak the truth about embodying our network, our web, of care that we call, “Calling and Caring Ministries.”
Below I have listed all the programs along brief descriptions, their leaders and any needs for leadership/organization they might have. If you see a place that you would like to connect in to be of service to our caring community, please let me know.** Though they are listed in a linear fashion in this reflection, please see them as a web of care, not a hierarchy. We are working to develop greater connections between these programs, all of which are ministry teams of the Board of Deacons or the Congregational Life Board. As pastors, Hal and I, along with our next associate, will be working in tandem with this web of ministry team programs to provide pastoral and lay caregiving for our congregation. If there is any hierarchy, the pastors are the ultimate point people for emergencies, deaths in the congregation and for helping to activate this web of care. However, these programs will be growing stronger and learning to connect to each other on their own as needs arise.
Calling and Caring Ministries
These visitors provide friendly connectional visitation (in person and through phone/email/cards) for those who may not be able to get to church regularly to be with our community. They have undergone visitation training and are coordinated by a Visitor Coordinator (or two Co-Coordinators) who work(s) with the pastors to pair up visitors with those who need visits. We currently have around ten Congregation Visitors trained for action and will be re-uniting them for an update meeting soon as our pandemic social distancing allows. The Visitor Coordinator role is being considered by two folks trained as visitors. Congregation Visitors, formerly known as Calling/Caring or Support Visitors, are background checked and uphold high levels of confidentiality. Please let Jane Anne know** if you are interested in being a visitor.
Our eleven trained and commissioned Stephen Ministers are led by Stephen Leaders, Lory Clukey, Eric Ferm, Peter Mullarkey. These Stephen Ministers have undergone 50+ hours of study and training in providing confidential, crisis oriented, longer term care and therapeutic communication for their care receivers. They attend a twice monthly supervision and continuing education group to assist them in giving care to other congregants who are experiencing long term illness, a family crisis, divorce, job loss, loss of a loved one, or are a long-term caregiver for a family member with health needs. Stephen Ministers are also background checked. They are paired with their care receivers through recommendations from a pastor that go to the Plymouth Stephen Minister Referral Coordinator, Eric Ferm.
Faith Nursing Program
Melanie Huibregtse is the Coordinator of our Faith Nursing program, a new program using the nurses who are members of our congregation to help the community integrate faith and health, to provide personal health counseling and education to members, as well as referrals to professional health services outside our congregation and health advocacy, if needed. Lory Clukey has also certified as a Faith Nursing professional through the Foundations of Faith Community Nursing class. All Plymouth Faith Nurses will be certified through this class as well as background checked. Congregation Visitors, Stephen Ministers and pastors can refer congregants to our Faith Nurses for help for their care receivers.
Annual Every Member Contact Calling/Emailing
This caring program is conducted by the Board of Deacons every fall through lay caregiving check-in phone calls and emails sent to every member/friend of the congregation. The results of the calls are compiled and given to one of the pastors who then contacts congregants as needed.
Lay Communion Servers
At this time, we have a few deacons and former deacons trained by the Senior Minister to deliver in home communion to people who cannot get to church. The Board of Deacons will help pastors train more deacons and former deacons as we are able to visit people more freely and as the need arises.
Food Ministry Team
This ministry was initiated by the Board of Deacons a few years ago to keep healthy soups and casseroles in the freezer in the deacon’s room to be available for people in need during a health or any kind of family crisis. There is a great system in place with recipes and recommended containers. This ministry needs new participants and a new coordinator. Participants would be primarily responsible for cooking food supplies, getting them to the freezer and occasionally for food delivery. A coordinator would make sure supplies are kept up, participants are using “approved” recipes (recipes that are helpful to folks just coming out of the hospital or in a health crisis) and specific portion containers as well as be a liaison to the Board of Deacons regarding the ministry team. Please contact Jane Anne** if you are interested in helping and/or coordinating.
Transportation Ministry Team
We need to re-activate this ministry team under the Board of Deacons to have a list of people willing to give rides to fellow congregants who might need them to medical appointments and to church services. If you are interested in helping to revive this ministry team, please contact Jane Anne.**
Prayer Shawls Ministry
This ministry team is also a fellowship group that is under the Congregational Life Board. We have somewhere between 8-12 knitters and folks who crochet beautiful prayer shawls that are given to members, friends, friends and family of members who are in crisis. The shawls are blessed by members of the Prayer Shawl team at their twice-a-month meetings. They are kept in pastors’ offices for distribution by pastors, Congregation Visitors, Stephen Ministers and others. Connected to this ministry is the “Fleece Blanket Ministry” that generally occurs at the Women’s Retreat each year. Fleece blankets are made to give to children as “prayer shawls” and are also given at children’s baptisms. The Prayer Shawl Ministry is self-sustaining and organizing. If you are interested in joining, please contact, Jane Anne.**
Plymouth Text Connection
Plymouth Text Connection is an outreach to the Plymouth community under the auspices of the Congregational Life Board. Currently there are nearly 100 Plymouth friends and members who receive twice monthly texts – one with a fun question for getting to know one another better and the other as a wellness check-in. Responses to the wellness check-in go to the pastors so that if anyone needs urgent or follow-up pastoral care the pastors will know quickly. Staff member Anna Broskie, our Plymouth IT and Communications Coordinator, schedules the texts and collates the fun text responses, which can be viewed at plymouthucc.org/responses. If you would like to start getting the texts, you can sign up at plymouthucc.org/text.
WHEW! That is a lot of information! AND isn’t it great that we have so many ways of caring for and connecting to one another here at Plymouth! We are working hard to embody the words to the hymn,
Won’t you let me by your servant? Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.*
When we care for one another and let ourselves be cared for, Christian community flourishes! What a gift!
With you on the journey,
The Calling & Caring web page Carla references is here.
In December 2019, Carla started her two-year designated term pastorate at Plymouth. She spent the last 5 years consulting with churches on strategic planning, conflict transformation and visioning. Before going to seminary she volunteered at her church through Stephen Ministry, visiting ministries and leading worship services at a memory care unit and a healthcare facility. Learn more about Carla here.