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Stephen Ministry Lay caregivers trained to listen BY BOB MARTIN


As 2018 draws to a close, FPCA’s Stephen Ministry team has begun recruitment efforts for a new class of Stephen ministers. Tey will join 40 other men and women who have been trained to provide one-on-one, confidential, Christian care and support to people in our congregation and the community who are facing difficulties in life, such as illness, sadness, grief, hospitalization, divorce, loneliness, and many other challenges. Tis year we are asking more men to consider joining the ministry, as requests from prospective male care receivers have increased.


“Te most significant thing we learn as Stephen ministers is the power of caring and listening,” says Ellen Myers, Stephen leader supervision coordinator. “Our role isn’t to solve problems for people but to help them, through prayer, trust, and support, to find strength and courage to face their crises and return to wellness.”


Men Gather


for Retreat Event at Camp Kirkwood offers fellowship and contemplation


BY BRUCE GUNN


On October 5 and 6, some 10 church members attended a men’s retreat led by pastor Jack Haberer at Camp Kirkwood in Stroudsburg. A variety of ages participated, including the son of one of our members, who drove from Massachusetts for the retreat. Five of us experienced Camp Kirkwood for the first time.


Te camp, located about a one-hour drive from Allentown, is a joint ministry of the presbyteries of Lehigh and Philadelphia, and it provided a rustic setting for this unique fellowship experience.


After arriving on Friday by 6 p.m., the men enjoyed a spaghetti and meatballs dinner at the “Coop,” a short distance from our lodge, where we ate all of our four enjoyable meals. After dinner, we met with Jack for the first session in our lodge to explore how we are “Called to Relationships”—the theme of the weekend’s retreat.


We first looked at our relationship with God by studying 8


Psalm 23 and God’s relationship with David. At the end of the evening, we spent some quiet time alone by reflecting on our own relationship with God as we spent time under stars in the moonlit sky.


After breakfast the next morning, we studied God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12 and how we use our relationship with others to heed God’s call. We broke into groups of three to share how our vocational experiences (whether we were working or retired), our family, and our faith have shaped our lives.


After lunch, we took the opportunity to enjoy the camp setting in the Poconos as we hiked trails and spent time in fellowship, with some men not having met before the retreat.


During our last session, we were challenged to personally commit to heed God’s call during the coming year. At the end of the session, Jack celebrated the sacrament of communion, which provided a meaningful conclusion to our retreat. We departed for home after dinner.


Te retreat was well received, as exemplified by comments from attendees on what they liked:


• “Openness and willingness of the participants in sharing their sincere personal feelings and stories.”


• “Jack’s leadership and knowledge and thought- provoking discussions.”


• “Nice group of mature men, good food, nice to have quiet time with this group, good food for thought.”


• “Genuine conversations, open exchanges.” • “Flexibility of schedule and location (wooded area).”


• “Fellowship, getting to know others, hearing opinions and different interpretations.”


Overall, men who attended were enthusiastic and are eager to return next year.


Stephen ministers usually serve at least two years after an initial 50 hours of training. Stephen Ministries of St. Louis provides the curriculum and training materials for the ministry, which is now in more than 13,000 congregations worldwide. (More information can be found at stephenministries.org.)


“Training focuses on the importance of prayer and listening, and how to provide support and encouragement without rushing in as an advisor or problem solver,” says Becky Tacca, leader coordinator and training/continuing education coordinator. “When people speak their concerns, they no longer shoulder that burden alone.”


Confidentiality is a cornerstone of Stephen Ministry. Sara Mosser, referrals coordinator, recently commented: “Te only people who will know a caring relationship even exists are the care receivers, the Stephen minister, the referrals coordinator, and possibly a pastor.”


FPCA’s active Stephen ministers participate in twice-monthly peer supervision and continuing education sessions supervised by current Stephen ministers guided by Ellen Myers, supervision coordinator.


One care receiver recently wrote a letter saying: “It’s nice to know that you can count on someone like a Stephen minister who will be there for you, who takes the time to listen and wants to help you. I know that my Stephen minister is listening to me when, at the end of every session, she summarizes what I said in a prayer and asks God for guidance and support. Tere is a sense of comfort and confidence knowing that you can talk about whatever is on your mind. I am so thankful for the Stephen Ministry program and for my dear friend who referred me.”


Consider joining FPCA’s Stephen Ministry, which has walked with over 70 hurting people in our congregation since 2011. If you feel called or could benefit from the care of one, please contact one of our pastors at 610-395-3781, contact referrals coordinator Sara Mosser at 267-249-8708, or talk with Stephen leaders Becky Tacca, Ellen Myers, Sara Mosser, or Bob Martin.


GOD IS CALLING Stephen Ministry is just one way in which God may call you to service. A number of events have


recently highlighted “God Is Calling You: Partnering in Christ’s Mission”—this year’s program theme and a key outlook for future ministry. Small groups have discussed the book The Stories We Live: Finding God’s Calling All around Us, by Kathleen Cahalan. And on October 27, a morning retreat called Coffee & Callings Café allowed FPCA leaders to review our grant-funded Creating a Culture of Calling initiative, hear how it ties in with broader congregational history and goals, and learn how it is shaping long-range planning. An exercise called “5 Cups of Coffee” encouraged us all to ponder how we understand God, what our gifts are, what we’re passionate about, how we grow spiritually, and what opportunities we have to serve.


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