It’s nice to know you’ve been missed, isn’t it?
After being back in both churches to lead worship last Sunday (1st March), I was left in no doubt that I’d been missed.
That’s not a boast about my popularity. If it is indeed a boast, it is on behalf of the two worshipping communities – for they are caring and kind-hearted. It’s a good sign when the pastoral care is not regarded as the sole concern of the clergy, but rather something that every single member can be involved in.
Both congregations have elders, of course, who carry out visiting in their districts, but so much pastoral care is done outwith the formality of this role, for instance through fellow members visiting one another, attentive listening over coffee on a Sunday and what I would call the ministry of flowers (flowers being delivered from the church to people at home, after the Sunday morning service).
Caring for others is a key component of what we do. This coming Sunday we shall look outwards as well as inwards by marking Fairtrade Fortnight. St Andrew’s has a weekly Fairtrade stall packed with all sorts of goodies, and things can be ordered from the catalogue too. At Meadowside St Paul’s Fairtrade refreshments are served on certain Sundays of the year. On Sunday coming, it will very much be a case of “preaching to the converted” in terms of advocating the all-round benefits of Fairtrade, though people may be surprised when I suggest we might eat more chocolate during Lent, provided that it’s Fairtrade, of course – an appetising way to help the farmers of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana who are featured in the 2020 Fairtrade Fortnight resources.
One of the boys in the Sunday Club at Meadowside St Paul’s recently brought the caring work of the congregation to the attention of his class at primary school when they were thinking about people who need help. He told them all about the Wednesday Club: on Wednesday afternoons the main hall is open for free hot drinks and soup, sandwiches and biscuits etc. If anyone needs to replace some worn-out clothing, we do our best to help. Perhaps though what makes most impact is simply a welcome from a person who is ready to listen, without judging or preaching.
That one of our boys would even think of telling his class about the Wednesday Club brought a big smile to those of us who heard about it afterwards.