Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spiritual Care Services…

Every week, I try writing something that y’all will find fun…interesting…totally life-changing… At the very least, I hope you don’t stop reading either angry or annoyed. Truly, friends, I write to offer you something worth your attention. This week, however, I’m trying something new.

Today’s task will be me asking for something from you. Something more robust than my frequent, “feel free to send me feedback.” I always mean that, btw, but I mean it more this week. Indeed, what follows will be my attempting to extract ideas from you that I need. Intrigued yet? Good.

Here’s the story: A couple months back, IOCP asked me to help lead a brainstorming group, searching for ideas for a new service option. Recall that IOCP provides food to hungry families, housing assistance to folk in need, case management for long-term assistance, low-income childcare scholarships, after-school help, and on and on it goes. But one thing this organization named Interfaith Outreach doesn’t do is connect with the spiritual lives of its clients.

And for good reasons, right? I mean, when someone’s about to lose her home, having already lost her job, and can’t put food on the table, while needing a ride to her child’s doctor, it’d be wildly inappropriate to respond with, “Can I tell you about Jesus?” Sure, maybe a momentary prayer for peace would help, perhaps be appreciated. But IOCP folk deal with basic needs and fragile circumstances, and help anyone- Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist. So they decided long ago to deal with first things first- housing, hunger, survival.

Still, as their director told me, “Our clients often make meaning of their situation by way of faith traditions and religious language. Or, at least, they try.” Plus, many IOCP clients avoid local church involvement. Meaning that maybe there’s a chance to do some more good here.

Thus began our conversation about IOCP providing “Spiritual Care Services,” i.e. programs or offerings, only for those who ask, to help folk make sense of their often senseless situations. And what I want from you- thus this letter- are ideas for our brainstorming group. What do you think are potential Spiritual Care Services IOCP, or similar organizations, could offer?

Now, I don’t expect most of y’all to know what it’s like to be so on the edge of devastating poverty that you require food stamps or housing assistance or free clothes coupons at IOCP’s thrift store. I certainly don’t, so it’s taking imagination to concoct creative options for responding to their spiritual needs. But a) we’re all human, and b) maybe you do know what that situation feels like. Still, if not, I know your imaginations are as active as mine. Plus, IOCP began as a collaboration of local churchgoers wanting to do good since, you know, Jesus thought we should. Your responding, then, would be keeping that tradition alive.

Or in the words of my generation, “Can you help a brother out?!”

To further spark your creative juices about this topic, having already described some situations IOCP clientele face, here are some concepts we’ve already identified. #1- There’s often a difference between Emergency and Longer-Term Spiritual Need. One’s like crisis intervention (I need me some Jesus/Allah/Krishna now!). The other’s like consistent companionship (Will you be my spiritual friend?). So how would a volunteer-reliant organization meet those various needs? Put differently, for what kind of Spiritual Care programming might you volunteer? #2- A great spiritual need we all have, whatever our economic circumstance, is the need to share our spiritual gifts, i.e. give as well as receive. So what Spiritual Care Services might offer IOCP clients that opportunity? Put differently, how have you met that spiritual need in your life, and, therefore, how might another?

So there’s your task church! Let’s make it happen! One obvious answer would be: tell everyone to attend Plymouth Creek! But I’m not counting that because such inviting folk into our faith community is a) totally unfair to other churches, and b) your job, not IOCP’s! Nevertheless, I bet you can help me with this interesting assignment. After all, you’re among the most spiritually caring people I know.

Grace and Peace,

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