It is not uncommon that in a congregational setting a pastoral visit is most frequently understood as a response by a minister to the circumstances of illness or bereavement. This is of course a priority in the whole spectrum of pastoral situations that arise within a community. But there are many other circumstances that present themselves and which provide opportunities to make a meaningful connection. Before elaborating it is necessary to acknowledge that here at Lawrence Park Community Church (LPCC) both staff and members are vital links in creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, not simply for our church family but all newcomers who we have the pleasure of greeting, especially those who are visiting and/or searching for a spiritual home. LPCC has a large open door and is a big tent church where all are warmly welcome, notwithstanding belief, unbelief, doubt, race, sexual orientation, those who have had a previous less than satisfactory experience with the church, and all who have questions . . . a fitting description of who we are!
Ideally a pastoral visit is offered after a new person or family has shown an interest in being part of our church community. It is never our intention to in any way badger a newcomer but rather to let him or her feel comfortable before requesting more personal details. We certainly ask visitors’ names at the time of an initial greeting and then discern when it is appropriate to learn more about them. In doing so we are aware of boundary and privacy issues. Active listening is also key in an early engagement. The ability to greet newcomers by name the next time they attend worship is a real plus in that it demonstrates the integrity with which we endeavour to welcome them into our church community.
Essentially a pastoral visit is simply one ingredient in a process to get to know the church family. When a crisis or other event occurs it is an advantage for the ministerial staff to be cognizant of a family’s profile, circumstances and needs. It is not a one-time event but an ongoing relationship as circumstances dictate. Illness and bereavement are perhaps the obvious events that call for an immediate response. However in the category of loss there are many other situations that give rise to grieving: when a child leaves home for college or the nest is fully emptied; the life transition when a spouse or parents need to move from the home to a care facility; the loss of a pet and many other scenarios where an individual or family need support. In all cases a pastoral visit is an option and requires the permission of the person(s) involved. Here at LPCC we reach out but never impose.
We are realistic in that there are times when pastoral concerns are overlooked or the ministers are unaware of the need. When this happens and someone falls through the cracks, we welcome feedback because we will always want to rectify the situation if possible and try to do better.
If you are presently looking for a church community to experience you can be assured of a warm and genuine welcome here at Lawrence Park Community Church. Our Sunday worship begins at 10:30 a.m. and coffee is available both before and after the service. We have Sunday school for the children, youth group, and a staffed nursery. If you would like more information about us please feel free to be in touch.
If you are reading this as an existing member or regular attendee here at LPCC and would like a visit this can be arranged though the church office or directly with me.
Rev. Dr. Eric Bacon