Connect - Pastoral Care
This is the first in a series of articles relating to four key areas in which we connect with God and with each other through our membership at Foothills UMC: Pastoral Care; Children, Youth, and Young Adults; Music; and Community Outreach. If you have ever been a recipient of Pastoral Care from either a pastor or fellow member, please consider making a financial gift to the Foothills UMC General Fund in remembrance of the power of connecting through prayer and spiritual support during a difficult time in your life. Donate here
Connect: Pastoral Care at Foothills UMC
By: Susan Naslund
Geraldine Fine did not have COVID-19, but she was alone in the hospital last summer because, regardless of her diagnosis, County regulations restricted visitors from entering her room. The pneumonia in her lungs and the ventilator that helped her breathe were at odds with each other, and it became clear that it was time to make the decision to end treatment. Knowing the situation was dire, the ICU charge nurse finally invited Geraldine’s son, Ken, to come alongside his mother’s hospital bed. Ken was scared and didn’t know where to turn. He could not go into the room alone. So, he called Rev. Greg Batson.
According to the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, elders are authorized to provide pastoral care and counsel by visiting the sick, aged, imprisoned and others in need. Pastor Greg takes that authorization to heart, relating gently with the people to whom he provides care. His training in clinical pastoral education and his work as a chaplain in a New York City hospital have equipped him to engage in pastoral care for those in need. His love of God and his love for his congregation empower Pastor Greg to help others in their times of greatest weakness. “Once I called Greg, he never let me go,” said Ken.
That day, Pastor Greg joined Ken and Ken’s wife, Doris, for several hours as they prayed, recited Scripture, told stories, held hands, and said goodbye. “Pastor Greg gave me spiritual support. He had a calming influence and his empathy helped me cope,” remarked Ken. Geraldine passed away shortly thereafter, having derived peace knowing that she was surrounded by the Spirit. Pastor Greg continued to provide Ken and Doris care in the days that followed, sending texts and making phone calls to provide comfort.
At the same time Geraldine’s life was coming to an end, Rev. Kristie Grimaud was beginning her appointment to serve as an Associate Pastor at Foothills UMC. Since then, Pastor Kristie has worked hard to bring new energy to the congregation through Zoom calls and online worship. Pastoral care has also been particularly difficult to provide during COVID. Pastor Greg described Pastor Kristie as a “great listener” and her compassion and patience shine through the computer screen. “I see myself as a modern-day shepherd,” reflected Pastor Kristie, “not on a hillside, but in hospitals, memorial services, baptisms and conversations – always pointing persons to God. I miss being present face-to-face in the conversation, asking questions and being available.”
Ministers are called to assist during times of need in order to give the opportunity for others to encounter God in that need. Pastor Kristie added, “It can be exhausting to go through a deep emotional crisis with someone. Pastor Greg seems quiet and professional, but he also has a big heart that carries the pain of others.” Thankfully, the pastors do not walk this journey alone. “God still speaks through others and uses others to bring people back to God, so it is a blessing that we have a great pastoral care team at Foothills. We couldn’t do it all with just two pastors.”
Indeed, pastoral care at Foothills has wide arms – from the Pastoral Care Committee, Monday Morning Prayer Group, Tuesday Morning Prayer Group, Tender Loving Care Group, Meal Ministry, and Prayer Quilt Ministry to the Grief Support Group that helps deal with the aftermath of trauma such as a death in the family – and each layperson who participates in these groups is committed to staying connected with the congregation.
The pastors provide leaders such as Michelle Chabot of the Monday Morning Prayer Group with prayer requests via phone calls and emails. “There are no ‘non-prayer’ days,” said Michelle. She and her group devote daily quiet time to pray for others and to write cards to those who received prayer so they know they are being held in care.
Beth Ott, leader of Tender Loving Care (“TLC”), said, “We provide support and love to those who need attention during difficult times. No need is too small. We give an additional stretch of the hand to reach those who might be hurting.” Beth shared that “you can extend a shepherd-like care message to anybody. Call just to say, ‘I was wondering about you. How are you doing?’”
And, Shirley Melllien, who facilitates the Grief Support Group, brings her experience of loss in her own life to the participants in the group. “Sometimes we go through the grief all over again. Sometimes the discussions bring up new things for others or for myself that had not been previously resolved,” Shirley said. “It definitely takes a toll on the facilitators.”
All of these lay leaders confirmed that going on the journey with others in their times of need is a calling, but it is not easy. “You can’t carry it on your own shoulders,” said Michell Chabot. “When I am praying, I can feel a time when I have finished my part. You have to give it to God and surrender it to God.”
As theologian Marjorie Suchocki wrote, “To release our prayers is to recognize that we do not control what God does with our prayers. In a sense it is none of our business. Our business is to pray and to be sensitive to any way God might use us in response to our prayers.”
Or, as Ken Fine said, “I could not have walked that path alone. Pastor Greg provided everything I would have wanted and more. And, I developed a friendship that will last forever.” Stepping out on a spiritual journey together – with both clergy and laypersons -- is the deep connection called Pastoral Care.