Special Meeting to discuss Pastoral Care

Dear Friends,

Earlier this year, Business Meeting took the decision that Pastoral Care should be a matter for which the whole Meeting accepted responsibility, in contrast to those tasks where responsibility is delegated to individuals. The present Pastoral Care group was appointed, with the primary task for suggesting ways that this might be achieved.

Please see below a paper from us, which summarises our thinking and sets out how we suggest that this might effectively take place. We take it as a given that there needs to be a structure for such an important area, as otherwise things could easily drift.

We invite you to a 12 o’clock meeting after Meeting for Worship on Sunday, 27th November, in which we will discuss these proposals with you, answer any queries you may have, and hear your reactions. We hope as many people as possible can attend, as this is an issue that affects us all – as we all are in need of support to a greater or lesser extent at one time or another.

If you are unable to be present on that day, we would be delighted to receive any verbal, or written comments beforehand.

We hope you will be able to participate and look forward to meeting with you then.

With all Good Wishes

In Friendship

Michael A

Religious Society of Friends [Bury St Edmunds]

A Possible Approach for Pastoral Care, Autumn 2016

The philosophy of our Pastoral Care group is set out in these quotations from Quaker Faith and Practice:

‘All of us in the meeting have needs. Sometimes the need will be for patient understanding, sometimes for practical help, sometimes for challenge and encouragement; but we cannot be aware of each other’s needs unless we know each other. Although, we may be busy we must take time to hear about the absent daughter, the examination result, the worries over a lease renewal, the revelation of an uplifting holiday, the joy of a new love. Every conversation with another Friend, every business meeting, every discussion group, and every meeting for worship can increase our loving and caring and our knowledge of each other.

‘Loving care is not something that those around us ‘do’ for others but a process that binds us together. God has made us loving and the imparting of love to another satisfies something deep within us. It would be a mistake to assume that those with outwardly organised lives do not need assistance. Many apparently secure carers live close to despair within themselves.

We all have our needs.

Careful listening is fundamental to helping each other; it goes beyond finding out about needs and becomes part of meeting them……’


Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness, and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another, but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

[Isaac Penington – QFP10.01]

Pastoral care calls for alertness to the needs of others, and imagination to find ways to support  people and if appropriate take action which responds to these needs. Those people who are high profile, wearing their heart of their sleeve will easily gain support – it is very much arder for the retiring, private, or naive person.  In particular, when people are asked to undertake a demanding role by Meeting, we tend to accept this, and be grateful for this, but forget that this can be stressful or creates pressure which puts a strain on other parts of their life.

Pastoral Care is different to the traditional role Involved with Oversight. The duties of oversight as set out in QFP is more concerned with mechanics and structure. What we are asking for is a way of working which gives expression to Christian Love, and shows a responsibility for each other.

A recent Meeting for Worship for Business decided that Pastoral Care should be the responsibility of the whole Meeting. However, it would be naïve to suggest that such a way of working could establish itself and develop its own trajectory, without some structure to aid individuals and groups to be as effective as possible in offering Christian Love within Meeting.

As a pastoral Care group, we feel that this entails the establishment of a structure which is appropriate, accessible, and achievable to underpin things – a process which involves building upon the whole community of Meeting and existing friendship bonds within the Meeting.

We, the Pastoral Care team believe the way forward is to divide Meeting into small support circles each of which is small enough for each person within it to develop and maintain an awareness of the other members and their progress that allows and encourages the support process to take place. These group will with present numbers, be no larger than eight people each. Our belief is that it is feasible for people to be get to know seven others, and maintain an on-going concern for them.

Please do not confuse what we are saying here, with the previous use of groups as a way delineating pastoral care team responsibilities; Here we are asking every Member of the group to shoulder responsibility for supporting the others in their circle.

As a member of a support circle, we hope you will have practical concerns for others in your group. This concern might be expressed in a variety of ways:

Being a good listener in other peoples’ good and bad times; giving practical help when needed;
Noticing if people’s attendance is slipping, checking if there is a cause where help would be appropriate;
If you feel that there is an instance requiring more than simple friendship, please refer to the support circle coordinator

In addition to the above, please can you be particularly welcoming to newcomers, especially a few weeks in, when they are trying to explore further. If you are doing a door or refreshments duty please look to see if a newcomer might help you. Not only does it share your role, it provides an opportunity for them to meet other people in Meeting, and is a situation where they can [for example] ask names, or make conversation about the principles behind Quakerism, or whatever.

We feel that one-off social events help members of a support circle to know each other better; we hope you will share in this process both as an initiator and a participant.

If a newcomer is introduced at Meeting, please encourage them to sign the visitors’ book, especially if they are local and there is a chance their interest may deepen. [this arises because we have been somewhat lax in the last year, when the visitors’ book is a useful tool, for instance if we need to think about an enquirers evening].

We have included into support circles people from the list of Members/attenders. This may at times, mean someone is included who may not be any longer able to attend Meeting or participate in social events, but would welcome visits, phone calls, etc. We hope the support circles will work out ways of helping these people through the groups.

Remember you are part of a support circle; you are not on your own. We hope each circle becomes somewhere where people can fully trust and support each other, and so deepen the life of the whole Meeting.

Our hope is that you will agree to this way of moving forward, and we look forward to an effective level of Pastoral Care in the future.