Many people in our St Wilfrid’s congregations are very good at supporting other members; so you could be forgiven for thinking: “why do we need a Pastoral Care Team?” We often hear: “I have been ill/ in trouble/ away from church for weeks and no one from the church has been to see me.” Then we discover that members of the church have been to visit and offer support. What is really meant is: “The vicar hasn’t been.” But the work of the clergy has changed beyond all recognition; gone are the days when the vicar had time to visit everyone.

The Pastoral Care Team members will be representatives of St. Wilfrid’s church, set apart, to fill the gap in providing spiritual and practical support across our congregations, groups and links. They are in no way a replacement for the informal pastoral support which naturally takes place in friendships across the church community.

A few of us prayed and thought about who God might choose to be part of the team. These people were invited to attend a training course devised by the diocese. The course looked at our church and its position in the local community, and at how God had impacted our individual lives. There were studies on looking at listening skills; knowing when and why to visit; and working with families, the elderly and those with chronic or acute illness. Importantly we also learnt about knowing our own limits.

One of the participants writes, “On a dull winters evening in January a group of approximately 15 people came together in church to start the 10 weeks’ course to become Lay Pastoral Assistants. We were welcomed by a hot drink and lovely cakes (which quickly put us at our ease) this was to continue for the whole course.”

“We came from different backgrounds, were of various ages and all of us were a bit apprehensive if truth be told!! Week by week we were ably led through each of the sessions, some straightforward, some challenging and some quite difficult. We were encouraged to work in groups, not always with the same people each week; and also in pairs. This gave us some insight into the thoughts and personalities of others. At the end of the course, we felt that we had all learnt something – and with God’s help, we can, we hope, make a contribution to church and community life in our area.”

After completion of the course, each person then decided if pastoral care was the ministry to which God was calling them. Then followed the important safeguarding checks; DBS forms were filled and sent off. Each member of the team will undergo further training in recognising signs of abuse, both in children and young people and the elderly. These steps will not only safeguard our team members but enable them where necessary to safeguard those they visit.

At the time of writing, we are awaiting confirmation of DBS clearance but hope that on 21st May St Wilfrid’s will be able to commission the team during both the 9.30am and 11.15am services so that the work can begin.

We have a dedicated phone number. It is 07743720138. Referrals can be made by the person asking for a visit, or by the clergy or other members of the church family. Initially, we will not be able to offer support for those without links to St Wilfrid’s or its church community. Once a request has been received by the Pastoral Care Team co-ordinator (Revd Ruth Loveman) members of the team will be asked to arrange a visit. Initially these visits will be by two team members; Jesus himself sent out his disciples in pairs. Following the visit, the co-ordinator will monitor the situation and further visits may be arranged.

All members of the team will themselves be supported through regular contact with the team co-ordinator and other support meetings.

Pastoral Care Team by Ruth Loveman