By Xen Riggs
Did you know that we currently have more than two hundred Church of God ministers who serve as chaplains in hospitals, corrections facilities, businesses, on fire and police departments, in every branch of the military, and in VA hospitals? All are ordained and have devoted their lives to coming alongside individuals in deep crisis as ambassadors of Christ’s mercy, hope, and peace. From October 25 through October 31, spiritual care departments in a great variety of institutions will celebrate Pastoral Care Week.
According to the Pastoral Care Week official website, “Pastoral Care Week gives opportunities for organizations and institutions of all kinds…to recognize the spiritual caregivers in their midst and the ministry which the caregivers provide.” Each of our pastoral care providers have entered fully into Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:35–36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (NIV).
Stephens Ministers, pastors who serve our congregations, and those individuals gifted in acts of mercy and hospitality among us who reach out to the broken, sick, imprisoned, and ostracized in this world, participate in this proclamation of Jesus Christ. The special week is set apart for celebrating those who give of themselves on a daily basis to offer skillful listening, a compassionate presence, words of hope and comfort, and prayers and insights that fill the void of suffering with new meaning and hope for the healing that endures beyond all pain and brokenness. These persons are worth celebrating!
Church of God Chaplain Ministries invites you to celebrate Pastoral Care Week! October 25 through 31 presents to each of us the opportunity to tell the spiritual caregiver among us that we appreciate their dedication to participating in God’s ministry of comfort and hope. If a minister has helped you cope with a difficult situation, and God has used them to make your burden a little lighter, tell them your story and offer a prayer for them in return. Consider also how you might support these men and women who sacrifice themselves on a daily basis to lift up the weak and share the load with those who are burdened by sorrow, guilt, depression, anxiety, and the trepidation that comes with facing the shadowy unknown of death and loss.
Pastoral Care Week started as a smaller observance called for by the NACC (National Association of Catholic Chaplains) in 1983. The Congress on Ministries in Specialized Settings caught the enthusiasm and saw the great value in such an observance, so they established a committee to bring about the more widely observed National Pastoral Care Week. The first National Pastoral Care week was celebrated in 1987, and “Each year since…has continued to provide an opportunity for chaplains and pastoral care providers to share their story and to celebrate their various ministries.” The observance gained great momentum, and has since become an international celebration simply known as Pastoral Care Week, observed annually during the last week of October.
The Church of God extends its thanks to all of our spiritual caregivers who tread long hospital hallways, sit with the bed-bound, offer inner freedom and mentoring to prisoners, and comfort the mourning who are learning to cope with deep loss. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 NIV).
For creative Pastoral Care Week celebration ideas for your church or ministry, visit www.pastoralcareweek.org. If you would like to write a letter or send a card of appreciation to one of our Church of God chaplains, contact me at XRiggs@chog.org, or 800-848-2464, ext. 2182.
Learn more about Chaplain Ministries at www.jesusisthesubject.org/chaplain-ministries.