Pastor – it’s in the name
In November 2018, Reform published a letter from Stephen Thornton, lamenting the lower priority assigned to pastoral care today. Since then, we have published nine letters in response, and Stephen has received 98 directly. Here, he reflects on what he has heard
When Ministers of Word and Sacraments are candidating in the United Reformed Church, we say that they are looking for a pastorate. It’s in the name. Most are going to be the minister of a group of people, or groups of people. They will be expected to get to know them all well, and to minister to their needs. This will involve regularly visiting them in their homes, and discussing very important matters concerning the life and work of the people they visit. After my letter to Reform, I received letters and emails from serving ministers, retired ministers, elders, church members and retired Synod Moderators responding to the issues I raised. Here is a summary of all the responses.
- Members feel that they need home visits from the minister for a number of reasons. It builds trust, without which fruitful ministry is greatly hindered. The minister’s most important task is to help the visited to discern what their own ministry is and find ways of supporting them in that ministry. After all, we believe in the priesthood of all believers, and the ministry of the whole people of God. Having got to know them when things are good, the minister can help them better when things go wrong, healthwise or in life in general. Sadly, few have ever had a visit.
- Of course, the elders also have a share in this role and can visit more often having fewer people in their group. The minister and the elder are a team, and should share any issues, with agreement from the visited.
- Because these days few people have ever had a visit from the minister or an elder, there has appeared a gulf. Ministers often do not know their people well. An arranged visit to see them at their place of work, or where they spend much time, will help a lot. People have had no help discerning and following their calling, and minister’s visits when things go wrong are of little help…
Stephen Thornton is a retired church minister
This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2019 edition of Reform