Story by: Cathy Avery on December 2, 2019
Anne Willis, R.N., smiles as she lightheartedly exclaims she has 12 disciples — longtime members of the lay pastoral care ministry team she has led for seven years as the faith community nurse at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, Kentucky. Anne and her “disciples” assist their priest, the Rev. Michael Delk, M.Div., in providing pastoral care to the 400-member congregation and surrounding community.
“Ministry is not an act provided only by those who are ordained,” Anne said. “Ministry happens when individuals embrace belief that their good works, acts and volunteerism can serve a vision and mission for parishioners and the wider community. Caring is at the heart of our church’s life, which includes clergy and laity responding to human need.”
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With their hands blessed each year by Father Michael, Anne and her team visit, pray with, sing to, feed, support and encourage parishioners and neighbors throughout the year. The faithful, trained volunteers offer physical and spiritual healing, connection, love and joy through an array of caring services.
Team members visit sick and injured members at home, in the hospital, at rehabilitation centers or wherever they are needed. Whether delivering homemade chicken soup or a prayer blanket, singing a favorite hymn such as “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” or offering the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the lay ministers care for and spiritually connect with members.
The pastoral ministry team serves up fun surprises, too. A couple at church who were avid Kentucky Derby fans missed all the festivities due to a health issue one year. Although they could not partake in official Derby fanfare, the team brought the racing fans a feast, along with roses.
Comments such as, “What you have done makes my day brighter” and “Thank you for visiting me today. I am a little less lonely” written in notes, emails and text messages are frequently received, and that is pay enough for the dedicated volunteers.
According to Anne, these familiar words by Maya Angelou describe St. Luke’s lay pastoral ministry: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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