When I was young, I overheard my parents saying that the older lady who lived down the street was lonely, so I befriended her. In my early 20’s, I volunteered to be a companion to the dying by offering my presence and time to Samaritan Hospice care. I have always felt on a deep level that suffering people shouldn’t be alone. Accompaniment is the core component of my pastoral care.
I learned more about accompanying people through hardship during my Clinical Pastoral Care residency at the Mayo clinic, a one year program that goes beyond what is required UU credentialing. I also lead a caregivers group that focused on post traumatic growth, and how we can appreciate, as Rumi says, “the wound is where the light enters you.”
It is also important to make sure that structures are in place for a community to take care of one another. I love working with caring committees to make sure we know how to hop into action when our community is in need of us.
Pastoral care is acknowledging that in our culture we have an unhealthy celebration of stoicism, which makes us feel that we shouldn’t need one another. This makes it difficult to ask for the care that everyone eventually needs.
I wrote an essay about how our pride in work ethic, above humanity and nature, add to this dynamic. You can read it here.
A pastoral presence is essential to justice work. When we struggle to be in community with those who don’t share our culture, we make mistakes. It is important to be open and loving and allow room for people to come back to the table afterwards.
It is also important to be able to sit with and tend to the needs of those who have different identities. We have to be able to hear and understand that life affects us differently based on our different life experiences. Below, Dynasty talks about her experience receiving pre-marital counseling from me.
Pastoral care is the work of letting people know that they are whole and worthy just as they are -and they are never, never alone.