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Congregational Care

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How are you feeling and how is your recovery going? 

By the grace of God, I (John Tsang) am feeling very good and my recovery is coming along very well. Much of this, I think, is because of the prayers of the saints at FBC. I participated and completed the Healthy Heart Program at St. Paul's. At the beginning of July, I returned to work part-time and by the end of August/beginning of September, I will be back to full-time. It was just perfect in terms of pace.    

What have you been up to these past 2 months?

In July and August, I tried to pick up where I left off before my surgery - following up and visiting individuals and families with pastoral care needs and connecting with key people. Captain America (Justin Kim) asked me to serve as Captain for the upcoming Ride for Refuge, so I've been organizing some group rides on the weekends. (The folks at Healthy Heart said that cycling is good rehab!)

Apart from that, in our liturgical calendar, there is this long period (which we currently are in) called Ordinary Time. When it comes to the lives of those in our congregation, ordinary time is people diagnosed with serious illness, it is children born to expecting parents for the first time. It is grieving families experiencing the loss of a loved one; it is an unexpected change in employment. Ordinary time is a big move to another city; it is the joyful marriage of a grown daughter; it is waiting for surgery.  It is unexpected accidents, it is the beginning of treatments.  It is mom beginning to lose her memory, and it is children diagnosed with health issues. This is ordinary time and by 'ordinary', I certainly don't mean to minimize the seriousness of any of these things happening to someone; I mean that it just is. These are the 'ordinary' moments of life, through which God can use to form and shape us into disciples of Jesus. When 'ordinary' things like these happen to us, it can launch us into a deep dark valley, it can force us to face some of our greatest fears, and it can burn off the dross of our spiritual lives. This is ordinary time. 

 What is next in the Caring Ministry

Well, I'm thrilled to begin the next phase of our Caring Ministry. After getting a good feel for the pastoral needs of individuals and families here at FBC, we are ready to develop a team of caregivers that are skilled, loving, self-aware, and attuned to the Holy Spirit.  

I stand in a long tradition of excellent Pastoral care here at FBC. I chatted with individuals who participated in caring ministries in the past and listened to their stories. I wanted to know what worked and what didn't. I wanted to know what got dropped and what could be improved. I tried to put all of that through the grid of my own experience and training - prayerfully and thoughtfully - and I put together a series of training sessions to develop Care Friends and what I call Care Ministers. For a detailed description of the training sessions, please visit the FBC website page. 

 What are you looking forward to in these training sessions in the fall?

I'm really excited about what I see as team-building, learning, and reflective times through these groups. The first thing that you'll notice is that these training sessions are created in a small interactive setting of 7-10 participants. The topics and content, I think, are well-thought through but the real beauty is the experiential learning, growing in our self-awareness, knowing our own story to see how God has formed us, and to sharpen our skills as caring friends and caregivers. I think going through these training sessions will make us better parents, daughters, brothers, friends, neighbours, and co-workers.    

The other guiding principle behind this is the concept of praxis which is simply a fancy word for integration of theory and practice. In the Gospels, we see that Jesus used the rhythm of teaching, sending out, and returning for reflection. This is the model of our Care Ministry Training. Instead of overloading a person with all the material at once, we will learn the basics, go and practice what we learned and then come back for reflection and deeper learning. Then we will go and practice, and still return for yet more learning and reflection. My hope is to develop caregivers who are life-long learners. 

Some who have received previous Caring training (eg. Stephen Ministry) have asked if they should participate. I think we could all use a refresher once in a while. As well, I think those with previous training will come and share their stories because that will add a richness to the group interaction and experience.    

By way of conclusion, words cannot express what a blessing and honour it is to journey with someone in their moment of loss, grief, confusion, or pain. It is a sacred thing and in those moments, I think we're approaching holy ground. Victor Hugo in the closing moments of his epic story Les Misérables, wrote this line, spoken by the imperfect protagonist Jean Valjean, "To love another person is to see the face of God".

John Tsang
Minister of Congregational Care

Posted by John Tsang