Pastoral and Community Care during COVID-19
As our churches and congregations adjust to the changes forced upon us in recent times we are all working hard to develop strategies for maintaining rich and encouraging fellowship for the coming days.
While many are attempting virtual church or small groups we know its still not quite the same. It’s the tension the Apostle Paul expressed in his letter to the Thessalonians. He writes, ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.’ (1 Thess. 3:10) He longed to see them face-to-face. There is something good and joyful in the physical gathering of God’s people.
Yet what do we do when this simply isn’t an option available to us? Of course, many believers over the years have been prevented from gathering physically. Whether through sickness, bans on assembling, war, or distance. The Apostle Paul was prevented from gathering with other believers because he was in jail. He wrote letters to the churches, even those he’d never met like those in Colossae.
How can we continue to encourage one another during the current restrictions we are experiencing? We have put a number of suggestions here. These have been gathered from various sources. We trust they might be a help in these troubled times.
Caring during Covid-19
A pre-recorded webinar to equip churches to care for their congregations pastorally and practically during COVID-19. Including essential care foundations, examples of what’s happening across 3 different churches, as well as addressing the specific needs of the elderly, financial difficulty, and domestic abuse.
Ann Cunningham is the Care Pastor at St John’s Beecroft.
Jo Gibbs serves as the Care Minister at St Paul’s Castle Hill.
Sally Sims is the Care Coordinator at Christ Church St Ives and the author of “Together Through the Storm” (Matthias Media).
8 simple ways to care for the isolated and elderly in your church
Care and Compassion during COVID-19
Parish Pantry / Grocery Help.
Can you organise a small team to purchase groceries for those within the congregation who are either elderly and not able to go out or those who are self isolating?
Meeting together every day
For many who are either self-isolating, working from home, and especially for those who live alone, a daily Bible reading group is a wonderful way to support one another. Why not connect with a group of friends in a similar situation and meet each day (or less if not practical) on-line. Grab a cuppa and your Bible and read & pray together.
More hints from the Single Minded Conference.
Writing and posting
Now is a great time to resurrect the art of letter writing. Purchase a pack or two of cards and a packet or two of stamps and start working through a list of people you’ve created.
There are so many online platforms to stay connected. Most of these are known and used widely. Most popular or easy to use include WhatsApp, Zoom and Facebook.
Further suggestions from our churches
Here are some suggestions from St Paul's, Castle Hill - adapted from material by Care Minister, Jo Gibbs
Ask "R U OK?" - As you chat to people at Sunday services, or as you visit or call someone
on the phone, can I encourage you to be listening out for how they are doing. You can start
by asking "R U OK?" and checking how they are travelling with all that's happening with the
coronavirus. Listen out for any emotions they mention in what they say. Be prayerful as you
come to church that God will lead you to people needing care. Providing a space for people
to talk and mention their concerns is an oasis in the midst of lots of change.
Listen in love - Your role in simply listening and being available to pray with people can't be
overestimated. It is incredibly important! Listening is a beautiful gift in a busy world. In
listening, we show God's love, and the love of His body the church in a real way.
Be a non-anxious presence - Showing up calm, emotionally present, and free from anxiety
builds trust and provides the right kind of care in any situation. People will borrow our calm
and compassion to assist them in reducing their own anxieties. It also means managing our
own feelings and looking after ourselves, so that our own feelings don't flood the situation,
and we are available to care for others.
Remind people of who God is - While circumstances change, God comfortingly doesn't.
He remains loving, sovereign, trustworthy and good. He is our rock and our fortress. Offer to
share a part of Scripture that has comforted and encouraged you personally. Or you might
like to use one of these - Psalm 23; Psalm 27; Psalm 46; Romans 8:31-39; Philippians 4:6-
9; 1 Peter 5:6-7.
Reach out to care in new ways - At this time face-to-face visiting may not be possible, so it
may mean more phone calls, texts or other platforms to stay in touch. And in our
conversations, we may want to develop a new vocabulary of care based around our words
and the warmth of our concern, in place of a hug or hand on the shoulder.
Reach beyond our borders - John Gray's email helpfully reminded us of the powerful
witness of the Christian community during earlier times in history. In the midst of our current
challenges, let's reach out to our neighbours in love. Being salt and light in the wider
community. Perhaps asking an elderly neighbour how they are doing. Offering to add some
of their shopping to our weekly list. Asking people at school "R U OK?"