Sonia Hicks - The importance of pastoral care


When I became a member of the Methodist Church at 13 years old, I was placed into a class.

My class leader was Jennifer Taylor.

And although everyone knew me, usually because I had an opinion about everything, it was Jennifer who saw it as her duty to invite me to church events to involve me in the various rotas, and especially to pray for me.

I felt that Jennifer was the person who always had time for my silly questions about church and being a person of faith.

She felt like a big sister to me, for me.

I still write to Jennifer at Christmas and tell her all our news.

She's part of my life as a Christian.

As the Vice-President and I have journeyed around the connection, it is the quality of pastoral care which is the hallmark of excellence.

We have seen it in the Methodist asylum project in Middlesbrough, where English classes are held for the town's asylum seekers.

I recall one of the teachers telling me that giving people the ability to communicate in a new context allows them to make new memories.

All their previous relationships and memorabilia are no longer nearby. If they exist at all.

And yet we as human beings need memories to anchor us.

Teaching English was this man's way of offering pastoral care. Enabling people to belong.

In the East Anglia District we heard how pastoral care can make a real difference to people's lives.

Laura moved to a new town with a young baby. Besides her partner and an older child, Laura knew no one at all.

On a walk one day she saw that the Methodist Church was running a holiday club and she wondered if it might be a good place for her daughter to make some new friends.

When they entered the building, her daughter didn't want to be left on her own, but the church people said it was fine for Laura to stay nearby in the foyer.

One of the members said kindly. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

Laura gratefully accepted the offer. She said that no one had made her cup of tea in ages.

Royston Methodist Church continues to offer pastoral care which is tangible, and Laura has become a part of the church family.

She explained that through different challenges, the church members were there for her.

Laura said “I can speak about church community because this is my family. I have cried and I have been hugged. I have laughed and I have been hugged.”

Another member told me how when she was hospitalized, the church family made daily contact with her.

Jesus reminds us, truly, I tell you, just as you did it for one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

It is through our pastoral care that we offer Christ love to one another and to the groups that use our premises.

And even the outside of our buildings can be places where the local community can find blessing.

At both Blakeney and Sproxton Methodist Church, there is a church garden where alongside the plants there is a space to reflect to pray to find peace.

Blakeney even provides a book so people who drop in can find out what has been done in the garden and what plants might need watering.

One visitor wrote ‘we have had a difficult time of late, but this space has been a source of solace. Thank you.’

Through our pastoral care for one another of one another, we bind ourselves into a family.

Church becomes a place where we are nourished both spiritually and emotionally.

It is where we can become disciples who truly care for one another and for our communities.

So how can we bless the parent and toddler group or the AA Group on our premises?

Could we pray for them as a church and as individuals? What about offering to bake a cake for their refreshments?

Or simply saying. “Would you like a cuppa?”

Let us pray.

Almighty God, thank you for the opportunities you give us to make families both within our churches and within our community.

Help us Lord be ever mindful of those who feel lost and isolated, that we may be a friend in need for them.

In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.

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