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Creating a Lay Pastoral Care Team Ministry

Background and Overview

River Road Unitarian Church has seven hundred adult members, two hundred friends and approximately three hundred children. It is located in suburban Bethesda, MD, just inside the Washington, DC, beltway. In the summer of 1997 our long standing minister Rev. Bill Murry left to become the p resident of Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary. That fall I became part of the Search Committee to find a new minister. In January" 1998 I retired from the private practice of Psychiatry which I had been doing for twenty-five years. During the Spring of 1998 I became aware of the vacuum in our church in the area of Pastoral Care, partly as a result of the information I gathered in interviewing ministers involved in the search process and partly tinder the guidance and direction of our very capable interim minister Rev. John Burciaga. After meeting with Rev. John Burciaga, members of our board, members of the staff, and members of our church who had shown an interest in Pastoral Care, I started to organize a program to meet our pastoral care needs. In the fall of 1998, when Rev. Scott Alexander was installed as our new minister, I received his full support to go ahead with setting up a Pastoral Care Team. I took a thirty-five hour course in pastoral cam from the Interfaith Training Network and also did a directed study at Wesley Theological Seminary in Pastoral Care where I had been a part time student. I invited a number of people in our church, some with previous experience in Pastoral Care to join in the Team. We started training in January, 1999. Since the first Team was dedicated April 12, 1999, we have been averaging 30-35 home, hospital or nursing home visits a month. we make well over a hundred phone calls a month and send 10-16 note cards a month. We are caring for approximately sixty families or individuals at any one time, In the last eleven months we have helped over ninety-eight families in our church community.