Saturday, December 04, 2010
The Care and Cure of Souls
When I first went onto a staff of a very large church as a "Full Time Minister" the Rev. Bob Strain was the Minister of Pastoral Care. Historically that position has been responsible for "The Care and Cure of Souls".
Think about that description. When does a person need someone to "Care and Cure" their eternal soul? Well, in some ways, we always need those functions but there are times when my souls is especially needy and desirous of care and other times it is in desperate need of cure. Many large churches of today have eliminated that position and I am sorry to see it go.
I once heard a wag note that the souls is never more in need of care than when we are lying flat on our backs and looking up at the ceiling. Over the past few years I have been sent to the hospital with a life threatening issue, usually my heart. I remember one night my wife took me to Bethesda North Hospital with chest pains and I was extremely anxious. Chest pains can be indicative of heart attack and my anxiety rose to dangerous heights. But because I know that anxiety actually causes our blood pressure to rise, it makes an attack more likely.
A trip to the emergency room alone is anxiety provoking but the cold, callous, uncaring welcoming of patients by the staff further provokes worry, fear and panic. The Bethesda staff was no help to me emotionally or spiritually. They appeared only to concern themselves with my insurance card and whether I could pay for my treatment. This angered me and caused me to wonder if they were able to treat me effectively. I needed hope at that point and what I received was hopelessness.
Then it happened. A man with whom I had been working came in the room and said, "Hi, Gary. What are you doing here?" At the same moment he came over and hugged me where upon I broken into tears of release and relief. MY anxiety dropped and my hope rose dramatically. "He said, I am in the Chaplain Training Program here and we just had a class. Let me pray for you."
The clerk looked at him and me in a disapproving manner because she wanted my full attention as she did an X Ray of my wallet. We ignored her and he prayed. What a wonderful, beautiful moment of caring and curing of my soul.
When does a person need someone to "Care and Cure" their eternal soul? Well, in some ways, we always need those functions but there are times when my souls is especially needy and desirous of care and other times it is in desperate need of cure.
Bob was a solid Christian, a wonderful man and a caring person who visited the sick, cared for the troubled soul and preached many funerals. Historically that position has been responsible for "The Care and Cure of Souls". I see that position as one of the most important in the church because it allows someone to focus all his attention on the members when they were most in need of care, compassion and wisdom.
As we interviewed the parents of children with serious disabilities we discovered that most had few if any visits of a member of the Pastoral staff to Care for their troubled souls. There is no doubt in my mind that the birth a child with a severe disability is a severe stress on the parents and family members souls. The church seems to be unaware of the need for Pastoral Care or ignore the opportunity to minister to the parents' souls.
Several of our parents had children of six to ten years old and had never received a visit from a Pastor or Lay Pastor and had never received prayer for the child or their spiritual needs. This speaks of a tragic flaw in the Pastoral Care of a congregation.
The parents we asked did not want much. They do not want the Pastors to do miracles or jump through hoops. They simply want someone to listen and to pray. Oh, sure, it would be nice if the church also helped with simple household tasks. But prayer and compassion are the #1. request but the church is absent and silent.
No Care and No Cure of the Members' Souls.