PEOPLE WHO COULD HAVE BEEN STEPHEN MINISTERS, IF ONLY…
Why I answered the call to Stephen Ministry
So, here you are coasting through life when WHAM!- the unexpected, unforeseen, unimaginable crisis raises its ugly head and you are left stunned, numb and wondering where to turn for solace. Your first thought may be to tough it out on your own. Our culture has taught us that we need to “be strong”, turn to God who “never gives us more than we can handle”, “suck it up”, “get over it”, “move on”. You get the picture. We are supposed to draw on our inner resources and not bother others with our problems. Right? Wrong!
As God’s children we know in our heart of hearts that God is there for us, but sometimes the crisis is so startling that we can’t pray for ourselves. We need others to pray for us, and to intercede on our behalf. For instance, when we were involved in an accident in Texas, we were so overwhelmed by the circumstances and logistics there that we could not focus on prayer for our situation. So we called home to St. Matthew’s and others prayed with and for us.
Most of us have some family, friends or co-workers who genuinely care about us, but they may also be hurting because of what is happening to us, rendering them well-meaning but unable to give the care we need.
Let me share with you three times when people I believe were sent by God, and perhaps were angels in disguise, helped me through a life crisis.
First, when I was a teenager, my mother was having surgery in a Roman Catholic hospital. I was alone, no one with me, furiously crocheting an afghan while I waited for the outcome of her surgery. Out of the blue I was joined by a retired nun who spent her days visiting with families of people in the hospital. Sister Louise sat quietly, listened to my concerns, watched me crochet and filled the void of loneliness and stress. What was her gift to me? Her presence and her ability to listen without trying to fix anything were exactly what I needed.
Fast forward a decade and you’ll find me and my two year old baby on a Greyhound bus going from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. My first husband had deserted us and we were headed to stay with his parents for a while. In the midst of a snowy night, as the bus lumbered up the West Virginia Turnpike, my seat mate, an older African American woman, listened and listened to the bewildered person that I was- all night long. Through the snow and over the treacherous road, she listened and listened and helped soothe my heart. I never knew her name and I never saw her again, but she remains in my heart as the personification of an angel sent to comfort me at that time of crisis.
A number of years later I was in the Winn Dixie parking lot in Lawrenceville when a church member asked how our son was. He had just been hospitalized and I was really losing it emotionally. This kind person went for coffee and took time from his day to listen to me as I poured out my grief and fears.
Now, do you see the thread here? LISTENING! All of these people and many more that have helped me along the way were not Stephen Ministers but their actions and caring exemplified what Stephen Ministry is about.
Because of the love and caring given me, I feel called to serve as a Stephen Minister with the hope that walking the journey with another of God’s children and listening, listening, listening will help them.
Stephen Ministers commit to be with their Care Receiver longer than the encounters I have shared with you but the essence is the same- listening, being non-judgmental, honouring confidentiality and helping a fellow traveler know that the journey does not have to be walked alone.
Well- it’s 50 hours of training spread over a six month period- a 2 year commitment and continuing education with other Stephen Ministers twice a month. Sounds like a big commitment right? Well it is!!
There are two strong areas that are stressed to us in our training- that is to be a good LISTENER and CONFIDENTIALITY, And that we need to remember that God is the healer and We are His vessel.
Stephen Ministry History at St. Matthew’s
On May 7th, Ted Sawyer, a long-time member of St. Matthew’s, was commissioned as a Stephen Minister at a ceremony at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. This is no small feat. To achieve this highly responsible position, Ted had to successfully complete 50 hours of intense training over a course of 8 months. Ted is now prepared to offer the caregiving services of a Stephen Minister to his fellow parishioners.
At that same ceremony, Susan Jung was officially named leader of the new program. To become Stephen Leaders, Susan had to successfully complete a rigorous 50-hour specialized training for leaders. This training qualifies Susan and Priscilla to oversee the program (along with Mother Liz) and to train other Stephen Ministers. Susan has also completed the 50 hour Stephen Ministry program twice and has served as Stephen Ministers at other Episcopal churches.
This ceremony also officially launches the Stephen Ministry program at St. Matt’s. Ted and Susan are now available to offer the distinctively Christian care giving they have learned to the members of St. Matthew’s.
The Stephen Minister will meet with the hurting person once a week for about an hour. During this time, the Stephen Minister listens to the care receiver without judgement or a “fix it” mentality. Ours is a process-oriented form of care and support. We walk alongside you as you move through tough times. We take a vow to God to keep the relationship and anything said completely confidential. All Stephen Ministers are paired with care receivers of the same gender. Our services are available only to those 18 or over.
Should you be interested or if you know of someone who may benefit from having a Stephen Minister, please contact Mother Liz.
Is Stephen Ministry Part of Your Walk?
Stephen Ministers are lay people who, through training, learn skills and develop their spiritual gifts to offer the best one-on-one care to those who are hurting. Some examples of who we walk alongside are those who have lost a job, have lost a loved one, have gone through a divorce, are battling a terminal illness or facing one of the many other life challenges.
No doubt, you’ve experienced one or more of these difficulties, too. It’s tough. It’s ugly. It can be heartbreaking. Can you imagine how much talking to a trained, trustworthy, confidential and caring person would have comforted you? How it would have been with this faithful ally to help you face the days when all the family and friends had returned to their daily lives? How it would have been to feel the solace that comes from knowing one of God’s representatives was walking with you through the “valley of the shadow of death”? What a difference, right?
Would you like to be that person for someone else? Someone who lightens the burdens of others as you step with them? If so, we’d love to chat. Please contact us:
Mother Liz (770-979-4210)
In Acts 6, Stephen was chosen to provide caring ministry to those in need. Since the time of the Apostles, caring ministry has been considered a hallmark of the Christian faith community.
Stephen Ministers are laypeople trained to provide one-to-one, Christ-centered care. They have a compassionate heart for those who are hurting, and they’re equipped with caring ministry skills by their congregation’s Stephen Leaders. A Stephen Minister typically has one care receiver at a time and meets with that person once a week to listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support.
Stephen Ministers provide care to individuals facing difficult times in life-grief, cancer, divorce, financial difficulties, hospitalization, chronic illness, job loss, disability, loneliness, a spiritual crisis, or other life struggles.
equipped to direct Stephen Ministry in their congregation. Stephen Leaders have gifts and skills in areas such as leadership, teaching, and organizing people, along with a heart for caring ministry.
Stephen Ministry supports pastors by deepening, expanding, and extending the caregiving capacity of their congregations. A team of Stephen Ministers, together with a pastor, can provide ongoing care for more people than the pastor could provide alone. This also frees pastors to invest more time in other important ministry areas.
Yes. Stephen Ministers often provide care for people in the broader community, enhancing and expanding a congregation’s outreach in a powerful way.