Last night, I sat on the back patio of a friend and colleague, sipping yummy drinks and eating a slice of pizza. As the sun went down and the mosquitos came out, we chatted about all things church and life. Her wild garden of corn and beans and squash sprawled out among us. She told me that she was working on a "three sisters" garden. Corn, beans, and squash crops are known as the Three Sisters. For centuries these three crops have been the center of Native American agriculture and culinary traditions. It is for a good reason, as these three crops complement each other nutritionally in the garden. My soul became whole in the glow of late summer among sprawling crops.
I’ve always said that I am a big believer in the theological concept called “the priesthood of all believers.” This doctrine asserts that all humans have access to God through Christ. In many ways, this introduced a democratic element in the church's functioning, meaning all Christians were equal: clergy/priests and parishioners. It also means that we are all ministers within a congregational setting, unfolding God’s kin-dom* together. I have seen this happen in many ways over my first six months serving with all of you at Plymouth.
In my first week or so, I was introduced to Plymouth’s Stephen Ministers program. The Stephen Minister’s name came from Acts 6:8; the apostles commissioned Stephen to do acts of pastoral care. For Plymouth and many churches, The Stephen Ministers program is trained laypeople that expand the pastor's care by providing quality caring ministry.
There is much to say about our Stephen Ministers program and the people at Plymouth that serve in this vital capacity, witnessing and practicing active listening to care receivers at Plymouth. But, more than anything, this program is a beacon to the church that reminds me of what the church is for and what we are in the business of doing.
Last night, my colleague said, “I think the church ‘universal’ has forgotten that their role is to provide soul-nurturing.” In other words, our product is about tending to our souls in the way a gardener tends to her crop. Perhaps the church is like the Three Sisters garden, a vital ecosystem that complements each other nutritionally so that our souls are cared for during the winter seasons of life.
As a pastor, I began to think of the idea that the church is in the business of soul-nurturing. I am grateful for our Stephen Minister’s program and the work of specially trained volunteers who listen actively and walk with congregants during the darkest periods of life or when the soul simply needs to be nurtured.
P.S. To learn more about being a Stephen Minister at Plymouth, visit their page.
To request a Stephen Minister at Plymouth, contact me.
*Kingdom” suggests a vertical hierarchy and power-over, “kin-dom” suggests a horizontal solidarity and power-with.