Pastor Katie Hines-Shah recently joined the Bishop Anderson House Board of Trustees. Here she shares why she became a part of our ministry:
“As a solo pastor in a busy parish I find providing all the pastoral care for our membership is both impractical and unhelpful. Most pastors and parishes understand the impractical angle – for a pastor there are only so many hours in the day and between emergencies, services, and ministries visitation can quickly be squeezed out. Many pastors and parishes do not understand how a pastor providing all this care on his or her own can be unhelpful.
We Lutherans talk about something called “the priesthood of all believers.” Martin Luther wrote that lay people as well as clergy are called to ministry. Providing care to people in need is a call shared by lay and ordained people. Yet too often clergy take on this call exclusively, effectively pushing lay people out of vital ministry. We clergy do so for a variety of reasons – we fear loosing out on relationships, we feel like letting others do pastoral care ministry is shirking our responsibilities, and we worry about how well lay people might be able to function in situations that call for boundary keeping, discretion, and right administration of the sacraments. The two former issues clergy need to reevaluate. We are called to be pastors – not Christ. The latter issue is a real one, but can effectively be dealt with through good training.
Lay parish chaplains need training. Many pastors do not have the time or experience to take on this training themselves. There are a variety of excellent programs to help with this process. Many take a year to complete. Many cost thousands of dollars to implement. Bishop Anderson House achieves a happy medium – quality training in a reasonable amount of time at an affordable price.
Some years ago at Redeemer Lutheran Church I intentionally asked specific individuals to apply for the Bishop Anderson House training. I asked them to take on the process because of gifts I had witnessed in them. Three agreed to proceed. They sometimes found the process challenging. One individual thought she might drop out. But in the end all three graduated and became valuable parts of our visitation team. Lay Parish Chaplains provide deeper connection to the congregation, more frequent visits, and grow a deeper connection to Christ within the chaplains themselves. Those who do this visitation find it to be valuable work that gives them meaning and context for living out lives as disciples.
One of my Lay Parish Chaplains, Ray Roberts, was diagnosed with cancer last year. After taking a break from visitation to complete chemo, Ray came back to the ministry enthusiastically. He could not wait to get back to the ministry to which he was called. When it became apparent that the chemo therapy was not effective and that he would not live long, he continued to visit until he himself was homebound. He told me, “Pastor, I’m so grateful to have been able to do this ministry. I think it has helped me to make the most of the time that I have. I think that now that I am dying I can listen so much more compassionately.” When Ray died this year, his work as a Lay Parish Chaplain was a proud line in his obituary.
I don’t think there could be a better testimony.
Ann Ryba called to ask me to serve on the board the week Ray died. I could think of no greater memorial to this beloved member than to help Bishop Anderson House grow. I know how much it has done for me, my church, our church members and friends. I am eager to be a part of this vital ministry.”