A Community of Care
February 1, 2022
Growing up, in my home church, we had deacons. I have no idea who my family’s deacon was or what their role was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t to provide care in times of need. We also didn’t have ministries like PAL notes or prayer shawls. I don’t recall ever knowing of a meal train being arranged for a family. This is not to say that my home church didn’t care about one another--we did! My point though is that our ways of caring were not as tangible nor were they as intentional.
My title here at First United is Pastoral Associate of Youth Ministry and Congregational Care. And regarding the latter, in my time here, I have had countless conversations about the question, “What does it mean to be a community of care?” to which my response is usually something like, “When a community cares for itself. (and, also, “Let me connect you with Mark Smylie!”). This is an oversimplified answer that arguably does not adequately speak to all of the nuances and facets of what it truly means and looks like to be a community of care, but the point I’m trying to get across is that members of a community should organically, authentically, and truly care for one another, in tangible and non-tangible ways.
A church is not four walls and roof, a church is its people, its congregation. A congregation does not cease to exist if the roof caves in and the walls fall down, nor does it cease to exist when a pastor, or all pastors have left, or when all those who started the church are gone. A community, a congregation, is a living, complex thing that has the ability to grow, to feel pain, to grieve, and to heal.
Upon rereading my job description, I noticed that there really is no language that says it is my job to care for all the members of First United, but it does say things like, “develop and implement programs or events which help establish a culture of care” and “recruit, train, and support those tasked with providing care” and “coordinate, facilitate, delegate pastoral care for those people and situations in need.”
I do care about this congregation, but what I care most about, is helping you care for one another. Caring for others can be really hard. Everyone has different ideas about what it means and looks like to be cared for. Sometimes we aren’t aware that someone is in need of care, and something that might be very helpful and meaningful to one person, may not be to another. But being a community of care does not mean caring perfectly because we are bound to make mistakes. Being a community of care is about continually working to care for one another, in a myriad of ways, and being intentional in our caring, even if it’s in small ways. I believe this is what we are called to do and why we are called into communities of faith—to care for one another.