By Judy Frank
Finding the time to volunteer at church is a challenge for most of us. Like everyone, I always felt too busy to do too much. My family and career kept me very busy, and I thought teaching Sunday School was all I could give.
I had been approached by the leadership of Lay Visitors to join their group on several occasions. Finally, in 1992, I thought maybe I could devote more time to volunteer work, and, after training as a Lay Visitor, became a member. It, indeed, was my calling, and pastoral care has become my lifelong passion.
As I began attending meetings, the first thing I became aware of is that every single one of these compassionate persons was busy. Many were still in full time careers. Many were raising families and everyone had other things they were involved in at church – from being on the vestry to being an usher to serving on committees. And I thought I was busy!
The Reverend Joyce Matthews is our remarkable and busy priest who shepherdsus through every situation with calm and capable leadership. Our coordinator, John Wakevainen, has served us faithfully for many years, and we all know how selflessly he has volunteered in a plethora of areas over the years. And then there is Pat Johnson, a charter member of Lay Visitors, who is also a docent, on the Altar Guild and a LEM. Busy, indeed!
The secret about being a Lay Visitor is that the time commitment is very minimal and the rewards are immeasurable. Without exception, every member would say that they get infinitely more out of their visits than they give. Many have formed meaningful friendships with recipients which would not have materialized otherwise.
What is the Lay Visitor Group?
Under the umbrella of Pastoral Care, it was founded in 1985 by the Rev. Canon C. George Widdifield, the pastoral care priest at that time. The purpose of a Lay Visitor is to be an ambassador for the clergy and church. Their mission is to reach out to persons who may be ill, home-bound or grieving. Sometimes such things as a celebration of new life, a special anniversary or a milestone are acknowledged. Every Sunday four bouquets of flowers, lovingly prepared by the Flower Guild, are taken by two Lay Visitors to recipients identified by the clergy.
Following a short visit, a brief report relaying helpful information is written for the clergy adviser. Some members are also Lay Eucharistic Visitors, which enables them to deliver communion to those visited along with the flowers.
Sometimes a Lay Visitor makes pastoral visits to persons identified by the clergy as needing adjunct care from the church. These may be short term or ongoing, depending on the circumstance. Should we come upon a difficult situation, Pastor Joyce, with her wisdom and grace, is always there to guide and support us.
Fellowship is an important component of our group. Potluck dinner meetings often provide opportunity to enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed atmosphere. Hosting one of the dinners for SOS gives us a fulfilling time together as well. In addition, we meet on a regular basis with other pastoral care groups.
These meetings prove beneficial to members as they share experiences and lend support to one another. Occasionally, a guest speaker is secured to enlighten us on a relevant topic such as grief, healing , or depression.
Being a Lay Visitor is considered an honor as, in most cases, you are invited by the clergy to consider this calling. Being a good listener, a sensitive and caring person, and one who is able to practice confidentiality at all times are qualities one must possess to become a Lay Visitor.
If you feel you possess these qualities and want to inquire about this ministry, please contact Pastor Joyce for consideration. You will be blessed beyond words, I promise. The special friendships I have made with other members are gifts that only God can give and the deep relationships I have made with some of those I have visited over the years have been profound joys as well.
My visits over many years with Mabel Rocamora who had been a charter member herself, is an example. As she aged and became more frail, I was becoming more aware of how much I cared about her, had learned from her and how much she had enriched my life. When she passed, I was asked by her family to speak at her memorial service. It was an honor and a privilege.
Lay Visitors are, indeed, a special and exceptional group of people. The network of relationships and the sense of belonging have deepened my faith. I feel that God is working through me. I feel a closeness and peace that does pass all understanding, and I am grateful to have this pleasurable volunteer “job” at Christ Church. When you give of your time and talents, you also give of your heart, and that is a very good feeling indeed. Thanks be to God!