Parishes, schools and agencies

Flinders/Balnarring parish lives out its commitment to pastoral care

By Jennifer Furphy

September 28 2016Like all parishes, the Anglican Parish of Flinders with Balnarring has lots of activities going on each week. We all need to be sure we are caring respectfully for our members. Good pastoral care is one of the central aims of this parish, and of many Christian communities. With this in mind, at the instigation of the St Mark’s Pastoral Care coordinator, Heather Camm, the parish council agreed to host a workshop on Saturday 3 September.

We invited and encouraged all who enjoy visiting other parishioners, or are members of our prayer circles, to come along, and participate.

To lead the workshop, we invited Zena Liston, a well-known and highly experienced pastoral care supervisor and spiritual director.

To our delight, we had 21 participants, with good representation from each worship centre. Everyone threw themselves wholeheartedly into the activities of the day. The workshop was hands-on, with role-playing, sharing and discussions. There was a wonderful atmosphere, with much laughter, and some very deeply-felt sharing. The presentation was highly professional, but informal enough to be accessible to all.

We learned the basics of “active listening”, and experienced what it might feel like, in very instructive role-playing. We workshopped scenarios, and evaluated one another’s effectiveness. We learnt that pastoral care can happen in all aspects of our lives, and in all encounters with others. The day began and ended with quiet prayer and music, which helped set the mood of careful reflection.

Feedback gathered at the end of the workshop expressed so much that was positive about all aspects of the day’s work. People were overwhelmed by the potential of good pastoral care. Many said they had deepened the bonds of friendship with other parishioners. It was amazing how much learning we were able to achieve in one very full day. Most importantly, it gave us an opportunity to see how important it is to be professional in this central activity of church communities: no matter what else we do, we must be careful to respect and honour each person — every child of God.

I would like to hold workshops like this one in the parish on a regular basis. The benefits are already being felt. I’m sure many other parishes would benefit from this workshop, too. I encourage them to try it. Zena can be contacted at the website of the retreat centre she runs with Carmel Tedesco (also a qualified spiritual director),

The Revd Jennifer Furphy is Vicar at the Anglican Parish of Flinders with Balnarring.