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In any week during the year, our clergy and parishioners care for one another in these and other ways. They do so quietly without fanfare and without seeking any recognition. They may do so because of a deep-seated understanding of the wisdom embedded in the Golden Rule, or they may consciously be striving to follow Christ’s injunction to “love one another.” Whatever the motivation, we can all be thankful that our parish community is filled with caring individuals.
At the same time, in a congregation as large and ever-changing as ours, there is always the possibility that parishioners’ needs may not always be known to the clergy, staff, or other members of the church. Over time, the Caregivers Group has evolved to assist the clergy in identifying and responding to the needs of parishioners. Operating within Parish Life, the group consists of individuals who have been invited to serve the congregation in several ways, including pastoral visits and laying on of hands.
“I am drawn by great preaching and St. Mark’s being a place where I seek to live out my Baptismal covenant to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being’.” – Maureen
The current coordinators of the Caregivers Group are Scott Lipscomb and Cindy Dopp, each with extensive experience in pastoral care. Once they learn of a need, whether from clergy, staff, parishioners, or the individual in question, one of them will speak with the person directly in order to learn more about his or her situation, the type of help desired (if any), and the degree to which the person wants other parishioners alerted or involved. All clergy are kept informed of all contacts.
Tailored to the individual’s needs, the response may be handled behind the scenes and involve pastoral visits by the clergy or one of the trained caregivers. Alternatively, it may involve marshaling support from a circle of the person’s friends, from a particular group within the church, or seeking volunteers from the congregation at large. When desired by the individual, the coordinator may also put the person’s name on the prayer list and/or use the Sunday bulletin and e-group to keep the congregation informed.
Our clergy play a central role in the delivery of pastoral care. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are in need, or know of another parishioner in need:
The Rev. Michele Morgan, Rector
Office phone: 202.543.0053, ext. 301
The Rev. Scott Lipscomb, Assistant Rector
Office phone: 202.543.0053, ext. 302
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 caregiving 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 caregiving 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 caregiver 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.
Contact: Scott Lipscomb
In the past, St. Mark’s has offered a small support group for those caring for a family member, spouse, partner, child, or friend who is seriously ill, suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or other difficulties. This group provided an opportunity for individuals to share confidentially the struggles they were experiencing in making decisions, giving concrete assistance, and advocating for friends or family members approaching the end of life or trying to live independently with a chronic condition. The group met twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Monday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 pm in the Library.
This group is not currently active as its participating members had dwindled to one. It could be restarted if there is a need (i.e., when there is a small group needing its services). Please let Michele or Scott know if you would like to see the group start up again.
The canons of the Episcopal Church allow for members of the laity to be trained by the clergy to take communion to those parishioners who cannot get to church. In most instances, the clergy do this themselves, visiting people in hospitals, nursing facilities, or in their homes. But depending on the size of the congregation and the range of needs, Lay Eucharistic Ministers (or LEM’s) can supplement available clergy.
In the Diocese of Washington, clergy select parishioners to serve as LEM’s. The Diocese provides one day of required training. At St. Mark’s, we have several trained LEMs, including John Barton, Fairfield Butt, Randy Marks, and Cecilia Monahan. Parishioners wishing to receive the Eucharist outside of church services should contact the clergy. Neighborhood Liaisons and Pastoral Visitors will also ask individuals if they would like to receive the Eucharist and convey their requests to the clergy.
The laying on of hands is an ancient Christian tradition in which an individual asks for a prayer on his or her own behalf or on behalf of another. While touching the person’s head or shoulders, the lay server simply invokes god’s healing power on behalf of the individual. At St. Mark’s, parishioners are selected and trained to provide this ministry, which is offered during communion on the first and third Sundays of the month.