February 17, 2021
Stephen Ministry is a nationwide program used in thousands of churches since 1975. At the Congregational Church of New Canaan, we have benefitted and used the Stephen Ministry program since 2006. Each month when we meet with the Stephen Ministers, I thank God for all of these faithful folks who care so deeply and have committed themselves year after year to helping others. When I arrived last fall, Stephen Leader Beth Baker said to me, “it is time to train another class of Stephen Ministers,” and we began to hope folks would hear the call to serve and sign up.
On February 7, we began a new Stephen Ministry training class. We have 27 people in the class, including 19 caregivers from our church, and 5 caregivers from the First Congregational Church of Stamford who are partnering with us to begin Stephen Ministry in their church (this is an awesome and wonderful thing!), and 3 Stephen Leaders. To say that the Stephen Leaders teaching the class (Beth Baker, Marianne Perry, and I) are excited by the response we got would be an understatement. We are overjoyed. I keep pondering why now? Why such an enthusiastic response? What about Covid has made this possible? Thanks be to God.
A few years ago, as I was driving by God’s Acre, long before I was a minister in this church, I saw a big banner on the front of the Congregational Church which said, Connect@God’s Acre. That is the heart of the matter, isn’t it? We all want to feel connected to God, to each other, to a community of faith. Covid has made connections more difficult. We now talk to people we used to see face-to-face on the phone or Face time. We keep a distance; we stand 6 feet apart. But through it all, we have realized that being connected is a basic human need. We need to feel connected, heard, understood. Connecting is Stephen Ministry in a nutshell. A Stephen Minister is a Christian spiritual companion who walks with us weekly and makes sure we are not alone (it may be for a few months, it may be a year) until things get easier.
In the coming months, Beth and I will begin matching our new Stephen Ministers to folks who could use extra care and support. If you would like a Stephen Minister or know someone you think might benefit from weekly care, a listening ear, a Christian caregiver during a difficult or lonely time, please let Beth Baker, Marianne Perry, or me know.
I’ll close with a story about a little boy who climbed out of bed and came to his mother long after bedtime, “I know God is with me no matter what, even in the dark, but sometimes it is nice to have someone to talk to with skin on.” When the world feels like a dark place, even adults think it is nice to have someone to talk to. Knowing we are not alone can make all the difference.
Blessings and peace,