By Paul Gutteridge
I love Thursday mornings! Why? From 10 to 11 the IofC UK staff get together to share how we are doing, what we are doing, and take time to reflect. Stories of accompaniment, pastoral care, and other works of service pour out – that is a blessing to us all. What strikes me is how easily it can be for us to rank our IofC activities in importance or perceived impact. It could be argued that different elements of our work are more ‘visible’ and ‘measurable’, but that is not the same as saying they are more or less important. Also, although we live in a culture that is obsessed with visibility and measurement, we know that not everything of value can be measured very easily, or even at all. For example, how can we really measure love, pastoral care, and accompaniment?
30 years for change
It is suggested that it can take around 30 years to create long-lasting cultural change in society. It focuses on how key areas of society (sometimes called ‘spheres’) hold the keys to change. These include politics, education, family, business, media, and religion. The thinking goes that if you can influence these areas then society will change. These changes come from a top-down approach and a bottom-up approach.
At the heart of these ‘spheres’ – from decision-makers to community activists – we find people, and lots of them! What has this got to do with pastoral care and accompaniment? Lots, and it is already within our grasp because of our rich heritage in IofC.
The Shepherd’s Crook
The Jewish scriptures are full of shepherds and they are often connected to the idea of pastoring people. Clearly, the work of the Shepherd took them into remote areas, often secluded and open to elements. There was the beauty of open vistas and the dangers of wild animals and vipers. Shepherds were equipped with a variety of tools to navigate this environment, and one-piece in particular – the crook. The crook served many uses but there are two that are of particular interest. The first, was to reach out and connect with the sheep to nudge, steer and guide. The second, was to strike, hold or keep at bay vipers and other dangers from attacking the sheep – and this is all in the wheel-house of being pastoral.
The importance of reaching out pastorally and accompanying people is vital for a changing world. For example, those who reached out to me when I was recovering from a health scare and protected me from the poison of the viper’s thoughts have had a permanent impact on my life. The seemingly small act of your pastoral care and accompaniment opened a door in my life that I thought was shut.
Now, let’s scale this thought out into the ‘spheres’ of influence filled with people. We really are all part of the change we want to see. With the guidance of the Almighty and/or the inner voice weighed against honesty, unselfishness, love, and purity, I believe we can oil the hinges of relationships that can see doors of change swing on.
Please, pick up the phone, write a letter, drop an email, or set up a video call, because you may just provide the drop of oil to the hinges of people’s lives that any number of doors will swing on. Take the first step and ask yourself who will you reach out to today?