By Linda S. Kurtz, LCSW
<This is the second of a two-part article on pastoral care in Rye. The first part was published in our March 23, 2018 issue.>
Pullquote: “One can give without loving, but one can’t love without giving. In the service to others, love unfolds.”
Having had the opportunity to talk at length with the co-pastors of Rye Presbyterian Church and the rabbi of Community Synagogue, I looked forward to speaking with the spiritual leaders of Christ’s Church, Resurrection Church, and Trinity Presbyterian Church.
In my conversation with Kate Malin, the new rector at Christ’s Church, she emphasized the power of conversation in helping people through crises and intense situations, and ultimately enabling their spiritual growth. Malin described the relationship between the caregiver and the receiver as “sacred space and time together.”
Pastoral care, notes Malin, goes beyond clergy leading a parish. “It’s about the practical — providing food and transportation — as well as community members taking care of one another.”
pointed to an important aspect of pastoral care — a belief in a higher power.
“Even though many do not practice a faith tradition, there is often a belief in something greater than ourselves. Some may call this God, and others may not feel as comfortable with this concept and still act fully with the desire to help others,” Malin offered.
She spoke of conversation’s powerful force in helping people during crises or intense situations go to a deeper place, enabling them to grow spiritually. Malin described the relationship between the caregiver and the receiver as “sacred space and time together.”
Malin encourages helping people pray, helping their children pray, and offering a prayer on someone’s behalf. She wants the community to be able to come together in times of tragedy, experience moments of silence and reflection together, and offer hope and comfort to one another.
She validated the importance of people being able to tell their stories, to listen and be fully present in pastoral care. “This process confirms each person’s worth and uniqueness.”
Rev. Dorothée Caulfield, deacon and parish administrator, also plays a major role in pastoral care at Christ’s Church. Caulfield spoke about her work in Spiritual Direction, a nondenominational program which enables participants (all members of the community are welcome) to address their feelings about God and share their spiritual concerns.
Caulfield sees pastoral care as engendering healing and growth and creating relationships. People who are homebound can reach the clergy through an emergency pager system. A group at the church helps organize funeral receptions and is ready to assist as needed.
At Resurrection Church, where Rev. Msgr. Donald Dwyer is the pastor, I met with Rev. Jon Tveit, parochial vicar, who outlined their extensive pastoral program, from hospital and nursing home visits to home visits and grief counseling. Clergy are alerted to the needs of their parishioners through family members or staff. There are also lay people who are trained to bring holy communion to the homebound.
Priests offer premarital counseling over a six-month period to ensure a couple’s understanding of many of the issues of marriage.
Rev. Tveit sees pastoral care as a spiritual journey, helping people live a life of faith, integrating all aspects of a person’s life, and finding meaning through faith in Christ.
He suggested I speak with Sister Danielle Baran, the church’s pastoral associate, who would add to my understanding of pastoral care at Resurrection Church. Baran, who complements the work of the priests, said the essence of pastoral care is: “God is Love — we are most like God when we love. One can give without loving, but one can’t love without giving.”
For Sister Baran, life is all about love and relationships. In the service to others, love unfolds. Learning about the extraordinary interfaith work in our community only served to underline this belief for me. Sister Baran described the Interfaith Pulpit Exchange, where clergy speak to other congregations, and the Rye Women’s Interfaith, which invites representatives from each faith to meet and discuss key topics and find common ground. Houses of worship are rotated on Thanksgiving with a keynote speaker each year. These experiences empower others to respect and work collaboratively.
At The Osborn, Sister Baran offers a spiritual program, “Aging Gracefully in the Lord.” Many residents of different faiths attend these meetings and she welcomes them fully. Openness to others is an important part of her pastoral care.
Sister Baran described the pastoral ministry at Resurrection as a team experience, which is true for all the other houses of worship. She quoted Victor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, in explaining how suffering yields meaning.
“At times of great anguish, the opportunity to grow and find greater meaning in one’s life is a theme that has reverberated throughout my meetings. Pastoral care offers such growth,” she concluded.
My final conversation for this article was with Rev. Craig Higgins of Trinity Presbyterian Church. In addition to regular pastoral care, which includes marital and premarital counseling, he and Associate Minister Steve Magneson address other concerns of their parishioners. They, too, make referrals to mental health practitioners, addiction specialists, and attorneys when they recognize that additional help is needed. As Rev. Higgins put it, “Pastoral care is caring for God’s people.”
Thus, the church’s Mercy Team, which is led by deacon, who provide emergency or extensive help to parishioners as well as non-parishioners who seek assistance.
In addition, there is a deacon-led Caring Team that is less intensive and provides meals in a number of circumstances — the arrival of a new baby, a death in the family, power outages — and temporary housing for those in emergency situations.
The exploration of pastoral care left me grateful for our gifted clergy, whose leadership, dedication, wisdom, and compassionate enhance all of our lives.