Love One Another

Giving Care and Receiving Care 

by Martin McCarthy, Jr.

Stephen Ministry offers us the opportunity to deepen our knowledge and experience of God's unconditional love. The Stephen Ministers at Holy Comforter, and those at other churches and in other denominations, provide emotional support and spiritual comfort during times of challenge and transition, before or after a death in a family, during a period of unemployment, or with regard to other intensely personal struggles.

As some of you know I have been working as a psychotherapist since my retirement, and I usually spend two or three days a week providing care, counsel, and assistance to people who are experiencing emotional distress. When discussing the idea of becoming a Stephen Minister in the summer of 2010 with Jean Britt and Dick Augspurger, I realized that I would benefit from talking with someone about the impending death of my ninety-five year old mother, and reflecting on various crosscurrents regarding her care that were proceeding in my large extended family. So I decided to become a Care Receiver for a while.

It took some getting used to this reversal of roles, but, that said, it was much easier than I had anticipated. Looking back on this period, I could not be more grateful to my Stephen Minister for walking with me, and offering support and advice about complex, sometimes difficult, and always emotionally-freighted topics. There were others among my Roman Catholic and Episcopal friends and family who ministered to me during this year and a half, but the Stephen Ministry program provided a structure that helped me navigate through a time of some confusion and sadness, and ultimately, to healing.

There are different perspectives on how we are to live our lives as children of God and as caring and ethical people. The tradition of Tikkun Olam in Judaism speaks to our responsibility to "repair the world." There is also the Christian idea, offered by the French Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, that we are called to "build the earth," and make it a better habitat for all people. In a more contemporary, secular, context, there is the concept of "paying it forward," and freely and mindfully helping the other sisters and brothers we meet along our way.

The Stephen Ministers offer companionship so that we do not have to walk alone during times of trouble, and support so that we can live our lives as well as possible during these difficult periods. People in the Holy Comforter community may want to consider participating in this blessed program, as Care Receivers, as Care Givers, or perhaps in both roles, as we continue together on our journey towards God.