Comfort my People: Parish Ministry to the Grieving

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Mackay, Janice
Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology
Loss is a part of human life and the response to loss is the painful experience we call sorrowing, mourning, or grieving. The more we value what was lost, the greater the intensity of the grief. The death of a family member or close friend is one of the greatest losses we experience in life and often results in a grief which is overwhelming and frightening in its intensity and duration. Those who mourn experience a number of different feelings, some of which may include sadness, anger, guilt, depression, loneliness, lack of control, uncertainty, fear, hope, peace, and love. The barrage of often conflicting feelings is confusing and disturbing, leading the person to question her/his sanity. During such times those who mourn need another person or persons to walk with them in their sorrow, someone to listen, to reassure, to affirm, to simply be present to them on their journey through death and grief to the resurrection of new life and hope. The parish to which I belong does not have a ministry to the grieving. I intend to use the BeFriender Ministry model to establish such a ministry. BeFriender Ministry is a ministry of presence rather than a ministry of doing. BeFriender Ministry provides a training program for ministry of presence in a series of lessons which are grounded in a sense of God's call and a theology of lay ministry which is rooted in our baptismal call and imaged by the body of Christ, of which each person is an integral and unique part. The lessons begin and end with prayer and include the theological bases of ministry, issues of confidentiality, listening skills, an overview of a visit, self-awareness, self-emptying in preparation for a visit, loss and grief, aging, and spiritual resources. The life experiences of the ministers play an integral role in the sharing and learning. A model of ministerial reflection for ongoing supervision and learning and a faith reflection model are also part of the initial and the continuing educational processes.