Congregational Care Committee

RUC’s new strategic plan asks the Congregational Care Committee to assess the congregation’s need for care. We’re inviting your ideas – in worship Nov. 13th, and by text, email, call, or note at any time. Here, we bring you up-to-date on what we do, hoping it helps you make suggestions.

 

Generally, we are to love and encourage the congregation, supplementing our pastors’ care. Our activities mostly fall into four big categories. Here are summaries, if you like things short:

Seven (or maybe 9) Ways We Pray – We first counted seven ways we pray for each other and our world. Then we remembered more and now we have nine. They differ mainly in the number of people taking part. If you yearn for prayerful support, you can reach our pastors, the Committee, or others in many ways. ALL types of prayer are available to everyone.

Food, Rides, Visits, and $ – plus Cards! – Too sick to cook? Stuck at home? Running short or have another emergency? Your Congregational Care Committee can help. Volunteers cook, buy, or deliver meals. Others provide rides to medical appointments or church. With our pastors, we offer small grants when hardship hits. We call, visit -- and love to send cards! Please tell us what you need.

Grieving Our Losses – Losses leave holes in our lives (and in our hearts). They all hurt – sometimes so much that healing seems impossible. We have long relied on our religious organizations to offer immediate care and to help us heal over time. With our pastors, the Congregational Care Committee continues that tradition with special services; offers of prayer, food, memorial gifts, and some new ways to stay in touch.

(Very)Special projects – Much of what the Congregational Care Committee does happens routinely and regularly. Occasionally, though, we do a special project. Our pastors might ask for help, a new idea may pop up, or we might celebrate a holiday.

 
Seven (or maybe 9) Ways We Pray

“In your times of decision, stress and grief, you may expect us to be by your side.  You may likewise expect us to want to be with you in your times of joy and celebration.” 

- RUC’s “Reception of New Members Liturgy”

Being in each other’s prayers can be an important way we feel – and are – connected. It’s also a way we abide by what we expect of each other. Expected of members, yes. But also, I think, how everyone seeks to stand by all who enter our sanctuary, join us on Zoom, or become part of our ever-widening circle.

 

So please, please, let us know when you yearn for prayerful support. 

 

We have many ways to give and receive that support. ALL are available to everyone. The ways we pray differ mostly in the number of people who take part and, somewhat, by the intensity of concern.

Here are long-standing ways we pray for each other and our world:

  • During worship. Pastor Jennifer offers a pastoral prayer that opens our prayer time on Sundays. This leads into the time when people offer their own prayers: in-person in the sanctuary, via a note on communion Sundays, or via Zoom. For Zoom, we put prayers in the “chat” box for a pastor to read aloud. Prayers can also be emailed to Pastor Scott by Saturday. We are careful neither to record our prayers nor to post these concerns in public spaces, such as our website.

  • “Care-full Friends” on Facebook and by email. We have a closed RUC Facebook group called “Care-full Friends” where people post their own concerns. The same concerns are emailed to 75 church volunteers for individual prayer. Let us know if you’d like to join either group.

  • All-church email. Let Pastor Scott know when you’d like to reach our widest list. We usually announce births and deaths this way, as well as other issues of concern to the whole congregation.

  • Making and using prayer shawls. Several people crochet and knit prayer shawls to provide tangible warmth and comfort to others. Feel free to request a shawl for yourself or someone else. More needleworkers are welcome, with instructions and supplies provided.  

This year, we’ve added new ways to ask for – and offer – prayers:

  • In our weekly newsletter. The “Friday Buzz” has a new section, “Caring for Ourselves,” for brief concerns. All newsletter recipients see this section but it is not posted on RUC’s public website. Use the “Share Prayer Requests” button on RUC’s home page, where you can ask that your concerns be shared with our Pastors only; with the Pastors and Congregational Care Committee; in the “Friday Buzz”; and/or during worship. Unless you say otherwise, prayers repeat for three weeks.

  • Prayer Circles. This is a new practice that evolved from the Committee’s work on RUC’s strategic plan. So far, we have formed several circles for short-term, intense needs, like times of life-or-death decision-making and surgery. Please make sure we know of such times so we can decide together about a prayer circle. You can choose days and times for prayer, as well as participants. For now, we each pray at home but we often set a particular time to all pray. As always, “prayer” at RUC is broad. We pray however is most helpful to you. That might include being held in our hearts or held in light; asking God for specific intercessions; playing music, using other meditations, etc.  

 

Also, we share prayer concerns more informally:

  • The Congregational Care Committee maintains a list of people for whom we offer daily prayer. Names are drawn from our pastors and committee members’ knowledge, as well as the weekly list in the “Friday Buzz” and concerns mentioned in other settings. This is a short, rotating list of people, some of whose concerns are confidential and/or anonymous.

  • RUC’s Silent Meditation groups have gathered since RUC’s 50th Anniversary in 2017. They routinely begin with prayer concerns and end with a time for fellowship. While not officially an activity of the Congregational Care Committee, many of our members take part. Usual meetings are Tuesday and Saturday mornings but plans evolve. See “Friday Buzz” for details if you’d like to come.
     

  • Council Meetings always include a time for pastoral prayers of the congregation. Rev. Jennifer leads this time, while Rev. Scott leads our closing prayer.

If you’d like the Congregational Care Committee to do something new or differently, we’d like to hear from you. With that, all that’s left to say is: AMEN.

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Food, Rides, Visits, and $ – plus Cards

“Tis more blessed to give than to receive. And a hell of a lot easier.”
                                        -  Rev. David Wayland, pastoral counselor & Episcopal priest 

Our culture is steeped in self-reliance. For many of us, it can be so hard to let others know when we suffer, let alone ask for help. But whether you’re ill, depressed, lonely, panicky about bills, escaping a bad situation, in transition, or facing any other challenge, we encourage you to talk to us. Don’t think your need is too little – or too big. As a community, we have resources beyond any that we each have alone. 

Whatever the situation, RUC has “thoughts and prayers” covered. Also, we aim to help as we can; while respecting your autonomy; working with your family when they’re nearby (and if that’s helpful); and sharing our resources fairly across the congregation. Often people ask for help in the categories below. This doesn’t cover all of what you may need, nor does it include all the kinds of help we’ve provided in the past. Again, please talk to us.  

Too sick to cook? Too sad to get out of bed? 

If you’d like one meal or a dozen, we can oblige. Sign Up Genius lets us organize volunteers to make or buy meals and get them to you. Usually, we offer at least one generous entree per day, for up to two weeks. That’s renewable, if needed. Special diets are accommodated, if possible. Other options: we’ll shop and add ready-to-eat items to your pantry or tuck fix-in’s in your fridge.

Stuck at home – or somewhere else? Want to see a friendly face?

Our volunteers also provide one-time rides: to church, to doctors, to physical therapy, to hospitals, etc. Less often, we give rides for recurring appointments. Ask – and we’ll negotiate. Covid upended pastoral visits, except those by Rev. Jennifer and her famous travelling lawn chair. Now we can do more. Committee members, as well as Revs. Scott and Jennifer, are visiting some hospitals and homes. Like to see us? Please ask.

Running short? Daunting decisions ahead?

Our pastors are used to hearing money woes. Don’t hesitate to
reach out if you’re worried about basic needs – like food, housing,
and utilities – or other financial concerns. As part of our ministry,
RUC’s budget lets us make small, confidential grants. Also, we set
aside money specifically for a consultant to advise seniors making
life-care decisions. Our pastors can make referrals for that -- or for
other assistance and professional services. We do this with care for
your offerings and pledges. For example, we require at least two approvals from among our two pastors and the Elder for Congregational Care to offer financial help. 

If you’d like more: people “in-care”  

Sometimes you might need a little more. With your permission, we’ll add you to our short, rotating list of people “in-care.” Each is assigned a pastor and a Committee representative who keep in touch more often. We review the in-care list regularly and will ask your permission when you may not need this level of support. You are always welcome to self-refer yourself to one of our pastors or the Committee for more care. 

Cards – hundreds of cards

We send an array of cards from RUC: for sympathy, illnesses, “thinking of you”, on the first anniversary of a death, etc. The cards we send are multiplied by ones sent from others in the congregation. (Just like our Committee is multiplied by those who help out in so many ways.) For two years, we’ve mailed you Valentines, picturing an elephant dreaming in hearts. For those who worried but didn’t ask: that was the RUC elephant, not the RNC elephant. She’s remembering us all with love and – maybe – on her way to help erect our tents. Someone noted recently, though, that she’d seen no elephant tracks on our lawn….  

 
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Grieving Our Losses

“People have been thinking, writing and philosophizing on the topic of grief since the beginning of time; it would be impossible to condense everything into a few pages. But…you have to start somewhere.”

                                                - Navigating Grief: A Beginners’ Guide

 

Sometimes when we speak of a loss, we think of the death of a person. There are other ways to experience a loss: loss of a pet, a job, and more. Each has something in common – it hurts.

 

We have long relied on our religious organizations to offer immediate care and to help us heal over time. With our pastors, the Congregational Care Committee continues that tradition with special services; gifts of prayer, food, and memorial gifts; and particular ways of staying in touch. In the last few years, and in January 2022, we have added some new ways to help.

 

We want to be present when grief is new. 

 

  • Holding a funeral, a memorial service, or other liturgy.

“I feel, when I leave a funeral or memorial service, that I really got to know someone. There are many ways for that to happen. Having led services, I often sat down with families, even before a death, and asked: ‘What do you want the service to be? How do you want your beloved to be known, maybe in a genuine, deep, or different way?’ Our conversations helped us all with taking leave.”   - Miriam Jackson

 

A funeral or memorial service is often an important step in acknowledging the reality that there is a hole in your life (and your heart.) The decision to hold one is up to family, friends, or individuals making plans before or after a death. You and our pastors choose the setting, liturgy, and music together. In the past, receptions might have been potluck or, if they were catered, families covered costs. When Covid struck, we decided it was safer to do our own food preparation. We have a Reception Coordinator who oversees a light meal, with a team of volunteers. The Congregational Care Committee often helps with flowers, fills in where needed, and pays for the cost of the food. That may change, but only with advance notice so no one is surprised. (For our outdoor services, families have rented tents.)

 

  • Offering our new bereavement program.


“I was 10 when my best friend died. I was embarrassed, wearing a bright red winter coat to her funeral but I had no other. In my family, we never spoke of Lois again."     

- Phyllis Windle

 

Now we know that funerals are just the beginning of grieving. The Committee is just beginning a new effort to stay in touch as losses unfold. It involves a call, inviting those who have experienced the death of someone close to take part. If you agree, you’ll receive a letter from our pastors, including a booklet, “Navigating Grief: A Beginners Guide.” Committee member Bunny O’Dell, who is also a trained bereavement counselor leads the program. She will follow up after the letter and make quarterly check-in calls for one year. You’ll find her calls gentle and she’ll urge you to be gentle with yourself as you grieve, too.

 

We want to remember with you.

 

“My father died at 28 years old. I was two weeks shy of my first birthday. My memory is not in my recollections of him. My memory is of his touch. His hand held my hand. That is enough to comfort me until I see him again one day.”    - Bunny O’Dell

 

  • Making a memorial gift.

 

Just search a store’s racks of sympathy cards and you’ll see how often they refer to the comfort of memories. Several months after a death, we’ll ask if you’d like us to make a $50 gift to a favorite group in memory of the person who died. That is often a time for sharing memories. We have made gifts to a wide range of groups: a college scholarship fund, a home-town church, a hospice, and a children’s camp. Several of Community Reach’s services have received gifts, along with Living Faith Lutheran Church’s Food Pantry, the ACLU, the American Cancer Society, etc. A group of gifts were sent to RUC; several purchased new native trees. Pets are part of RUC, too, and we hold a service to bless them each year. Last year, the Committee used the occasion to make a combined gift to two animal charities, in memory of more than a dozen pets who were named in the service.

 

We help you mark a significant date.

 

  • Sending a special card on the first anniversary of a death.

 

When I opened the card, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude that our beloved community of RUC remembered him and our family. John’s spirit lives on and you have honored him. Thank you!”  - Beth Pattison

Anniversaries are often hard times for those who grieve, whether they are birthdays, holidays, or the date of a loss. We designed a special rainbow card to send one year after a death, to remind you that “We’re remembering you…remembering…”, where we add the name of the one who died. 

 

We hope that all of us thrive after loss.

 

“My brother, 16 months younger than I, ended his life at age 39, after years of dealing with depression. A woman who had been my spiritual director sent me a card that I have read over and over in the many years since. She had helped me through another sudden death in my large family. In part her very supportive message read: “… I was thinking today of how much you’re struggling to come to some honest convictions out of which you live your life. Well, something like this puts things so starkly.  No matter what, you have to choose to live life, and to accept death.” Taken out of context the message cannot convey how understood and comforted I felt reading it, and not long after I was able to make the life-changing decision that I have never regretted.”

 - Carroll Saussy

 

We know that the navigating grief is different for everyone, for every death, and for every kind of loss. It doesn’t end after 365 days. Many of us have found that healing after loss is possible, and sometimes changes our lives in amazing ways. We wish that for us all. 

 

If you experience a loss, we invite you to reach out to either of our pastors or members of the Congregational Care Committee. As a part of your church community, we are here to listen, guide, comfort and support to you on your particular journey through grief.

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(Very) Special Projects

 

 

Members of the Congregational Care Committee pray for us daily. Providing rides, food, cards, and grants is close-to-routine due to our many helpers and years of practice. We’ve been adding ways we help those who grieve. Also, sometimes we add special, short-term projects when our pastors ask or when new ideas occur.

 

Our biggest very special project aimed to keep us in touch after COVID hit and we couldn’t be together. It was Rev. Scott’s idea and became a model for other churches. He and Rev. Jennifer trained 22 callers (who also became emailers, texters, and card-senders as time passed). Near Easter 2020, our volunteers reached out to all 250 of you. We contacted at least 190 folks, offering a chance to talk and asking if we could help. These contacts continued weekly or monthly, indefinitely. Sometimes people called strangers and discovered new friends. These connections continue now, even two years later.

 

Over the years, the Committee also:

 

  • Matched small and tall people as penpals;

  • Gave rosebuds or mailed cards for Valentine’s Day;

  • Held a workshop on wills and planning our funerals.

 

I’m sure many other projects happened before I joined the Committee.

Phyllis Windle, Elder, pwindle5@verizon.net