And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.

(1 Corinthians 12:28)

In the Autumn of 2009 I spent most of my three month Sabbatical being the guest of St Martin’s (Church of South Africa)in the township of Edendale near Pietermaritzburg.

It was a vibrant church, not only in worship, but also in the way the church was organized.

 One of the most impressive aspects for me was the fact that each and every member from about the age of 10 to 80+ was expected to play an active role in the mission of the church. As part of the preparation for membership and confirmation candidates and Ministers would discuss what ministry candidates would exercise on becoming a member. This was not just an academic exercise – the amazing thing was that each person I asked was involved in some of the many areas of pastoral concern for the community; there were prison visitors; people supporting families with Aids; others helping youngsters writing CVs and mentoring them – young people ran the church vegetable garden and distributed the produce to Aids victims, to name but a few areas of mission.

This meant of course that the church was relevant to the needs of the community around them and that not everything fell on the shoulders of the Priest and Lay Readers.

On my return to Darlington from South Africa the Elders and I agreed to explore this principle and we began by lookingat the possibility of setting up a Bereavement Support Group. This group would help me in supporting families who had been bereaved.

The response for volunteers for this group was amazing. Nine people volunteered and, apart from two people, none had been involved in either Eldership or in other groups in our church.

 I have discussed setting up a similar Bereavement Support Group for ASA with Sarah and the Elders, who agreed that I would put my thoughts down for the June edition of Connections.

 The aim of the Bereavement Support Group is to support our ministers in the follow up of families who have been bereaved.

 Most commonly this would be following a death of a family member, (whether church attenders, or not) but it could also be supporting a family member whose parent/partner has gone into a care home – or following the loss for example of a job.

 I am not necessarily looking for people who are already heavily involved in other church activities, but I do hope you will please consider whether this is something you may be called to do.

 Bereavement Support can vary from popping round and sitting with a family member; to helping people to get out of their home by taking them out for a cup of coffee, a shopping trip; or just a walk round the park. Support would be offered for a limited period only, and the ministers are to be informed of visits for courtesy’s sake.

 I believe that a Bereavement Support Group will not only be helpful to the ministers, but also for the development of the church members' ministry in the outreach of ASA.

 A qualified counselor would provide training.

 I am willing to coordinate this group in ASA and would keep the Ministry Team and the ASA Eldership informed.

 If you would like to explore this idea further, then please contact me.

 Tjarda Murray


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