Our pastoral care for a broken world
“Feed the flock of God; care for it willingly, not grudgingly; not for what you will get out of it but because you are eager to serve the Lord.” (1 Peter 5:2)
During my recent trip to the USA for study leave, I met many ministry agents referring to themselves as “pastor”. As distinct from the title “pastor”, in the Uniting Church we use “Minister of the Word” to identify a “servant of the Word” . But calling a ministry agent “pastor” carries with it an in-built emphasis upon the pastoral dimension of the role. It also is a reminder of the distinctive function of the church in contrast with secular institutions.
In the Basis of Union we read: “The Uniting Church sees in pastoral care, exercised personally on behalf of the Church, an expression of the fact that God always deals personally with people, would have God’s loving care known among people, and would have individual members take upon themselves the form of a servant.” (p 16)
In June, I took a pastoral visit to offer pastoral support to people experiencing stress and difficulties due to water shortage in the lower Darling River area. Driving 2000kms to meet a few farmers and to visit a church or two was a demonstration of the Church’s important practice of providing pastoral care.
Pooncarie is a small town of around 60 residents. Sitting in a small community forum at Pooncarie Uniting Church with all four of the Congregation members and a few other residents, I not only heard of the concerns of the people and about the stress caused by the water situation. I also witnessed the body of Christ bringing life in its fullness to their community.
On behalf of the Church, I heard the voice of Jesus saying, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). We have but a few disciples in many of our churches especially in the rural areas; few, but faithful. And the abundant life that those faithful few endeavour to bring, benefits their whole communities. The Church’s pastoral care goes far and beyond the walls of our own Congregations, and reaches out past our own backyards.
A week after the terrible shootings in Orlando, Eastwood Uniting held a prayer service for the victims of the homophobic Omar Mateen. This devastating event demonstrates a complex issue that today’s human society has created. The Orlando shootings and many violent incidents are an unfortunate manifestation of homophobia, immigration debates, racial discrimination, Islamic extremism, gun control and self-absorbed individualistic societies.
The Bible repeatedly proclaims the great love of God, fully and wholly shown in Christ and reconciling the whole world to Him. Therefore it is an undeniable call for the church, the body of Christ,
to respond with pastoral care for the broken world. Part of God’s mission for us in the 21st century is pastoral care for the families in grief after Orlando, for the LGBTQI people in fear of homophobic people, and for those who are religious extremists (whether Christian or Muslim).
The prophetic role of Jesus in caring for people on the margins and in the minority in diverse communities, is never too far from our own reality — called to be the voice for people in need.
May I encourage you to exercise your pastoral care for the elderly and the lonely, the abused and people who suffer discrimination, the exploited and the desperate, and also for the neglected environment in this month of the Season of Creation.
The Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park
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