Both Clergy and Pastoral Visitors participate in pastoral visits, depending upon the situation and any requests by the parishioner in need. Once our coordinator has an initial understanding of the parishioner’s need and the level of response desired, she will ask one of the Pastoral Visitors to follow up. At a minimum, these individuals have taken one or more of the workshops on care giving offered periodically at St. Mark’s, but many have advanced training in pastoral care or come from related professions. Because members of St. Mark’s live all across the metro area, we try to recruit Pastoral Visitors who can support parishioners in their own geographic area.
These individuals understand that there is a distinction between expressing care for another person by reaching out with a call or visit, stopping by with a meal, or providing a ride and the deeper form of caring that entails sitting quietly with another person and “being present” in a loving, empathetic, and receptive way to his or her emotions, fears, pain…or silence. Frequently care giving involves both of these modes, but the Pastoral Visitors know that it begins with careful attention to what is said and felt.
When meeting with the individual privately (and depending on the person’s comfort level and interest), the Pastoral Visitor may offer the simple human connection of touch, which is a healing ministry in itself. He or she may offer prayers or read passages from the Bible. But most of all the Pastoral Visitor exercises the discipline of being fully present as an active listener: neither judging, analyzing, or “fixing” anything, but remaining quiet, calm, and loving.
If the individual would like help with meals, transportation, or just periodic friendly visits -- and gives the care giver permission to contact other parishioners – then the Pastoral Visitor’s role is to get the word out, serve as a point of contact for volunteers, and coordinate the congregation’s response in an efficient, timely manner.