I’m one of those folks who can’t get enough of social media. If you groan, I get it. It’s not a perfect universe. But I’m in the middle of life. I’ve lived in Philadelphia and Grand Rapids, Lansing, Atlanta and Stockholm. My people are in Los Angeles, Belgrade, Seoul, Prague, and rural South Carolina. I have friends with grown children and friends giving birth, those just getting married and others crying at the loss of long-time loves. I’m grateful that, after all these years, I still get to follow their lives—even from my perch here in Traverse City.
It’s an honor and a privilege to walk with one another in the joys and sorrows of life. As your pastor, I celebrate with you, laugh with you, and cry with you. It’s incredible how wearing the collar (so to speak) often invites a raw honesty in a way that nothing else could. I have seen how it can make me accessible to someone in need of a safe place in a hard moment—even when we don’t know each other well. So I work hard to deserve that trust, even while I know I can’t be all things to all people.
My vocation has become a signal to many that I care, and that I’m safe.
What’s the signal that you’re safe and willing to really, truly be there?
It’s not a challenge. It’s something I invite all of us to really think about. Society is frankly far too polite. When we’re in crisis, it’s our default to shut down and to fear that even those we trust most don’t really want to hear our woes.
How can we shift these mindsets?
How can we let others know we consider it a privilege to be welcomed and present in good times and in struggle?
How can we prove ourselves safe?
I invite your thoughts in the comments.
One way is to prepare for it, and there are a few opportunities I want to lift before you: a couple of them are even quite simple. Consider one of these as you make yourself available to friends and loved ones who are hurting:
- There’s a free, 2-hour online training in Mental Health First Aid available on demand thanks to our denomination. Click the link and watch both parts of the training. The webinar teaches about how to listen and respond to someone experiencing grief, thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.
- We are starting an in-depth training this spring at Central Church, where members are training to be Stephen Ministers. These ministers are regular people, just like you, who care enough to get training and to walk with someone in crisis for up to a year. A little compassion and some new listening skills can make a big difference. We need both men and women.
- You could become a parish visitor. This is our team of people who care for our most vulnerable and isolated members with phone calls and occasional visits. It doesn’t take much to help people feel they’re still a part of the community.
- Pastor Chris is involved in a relatively new local ministry that provides mentoring and support to those leaving the jail, so that they hopefully don’t have to repeat such a stay. If you have interest in that, you could reach out to him to learn more.
You likely have your own ideas, too. The important thing is that we do something to infuse hope in a world where people are silently hurting.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had this idea that our religion matters little unless it’s paired with a real, honest awareness of the hurt that surrounds us. He visited the sick, sat with those in prison, and prayed with his friends. He said “The world is my parish,” meaning that everywhere we look there are people who can benefit from our ministries of care and compassion—both in the church and far beyond.
The world is our parish.
The hurting world is our parish.
This ministry is our privilege and our gift.
How will people know you’re safe and ready to offer a world of care?