It was actually a Faith Today article and webinar that indirectly led to my dog Dewey and I embarking on a journey to become a therapy dog team visiting seniors in a residence.
While researching and interviewing for a piece about palliative care and euthanasia — of all things — I started to hear a clear message, especially from Bruce Clemenger, president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He talked about the need for Canadian Christians to embrace our seniors and make sure we are being the hands and feet of Christ to a portion of our population who are often lonely and sometimes neglected by their families, friends, and perhaps even by an overloaded medical care system.
At the same time, I was feeling a clear call to volunteer my time outside of the church circles in which I normally served. Plus, I have a great big, fluffy, lovable golden doodle who loves nothing more than going from person to person in a room, being cuddled and loved and talked to in warm, adoring voices by whomever is willing and available.
So, Dewey and I applied to become a therapy dog team through St. John Ambulance. We went through the process of evaluation and training, and then a four week mentoring period with an experienced therapy dog volunteer.
Each week me, my mentor, and Dewey of course, would meet outside the doors of the Port Perry Villa, and have a conversation about things like what side of a wheel chair to approach, how to handle barking if dogs meet up in this otherwise very human environment, and the most important tip for me: to not get in the way. In my nervousness, I had been kneeling down to be eye level with Dewey, so I could reassure him in this unfamiliar setting. My mentor asked me not to do this, to just trust Dewey to do his job. Continue reading How I wound up on 100 Huntley St with my golden doodle→
The other day I interviewed Doug Koop, a spiritual health practitioner, and David Guretzki, a theology professor and seminary dean at Briercrest College & Seminary, about how to best help those who are suffering. It was our latest EFC webinar, based on the cover story of our Sep/Oct Faith Today, which Koop wrote.
The other day I walked through our family room, spotted a book on grief, and flipped it over so I didn’t have to see the cover. It was part of my husband’s pile of books and materials in transit. These books live on the side table no-man’s land until they take up permanent residency in his office or in our home.
I flipped over the book because, in that moment, I was tired of hearing about grief and other sad things.
Grief and other sad things are all a big part of his life in ministry, and my life by connection. And part of my life — and I’m sure yours — by just being human and caring about other people.
We will explore how best to care for those who are suffering, and also how best to care for ourselves while we do it, in an upcoming EFC webinar on Wed. Sept. 28.
I will be interviewing two Canadians intimately familiar with suffering and caring for those who are in pain or times of deep challenge. Doug Koop is the author of Faith Today‘s Sep/Oct cover story on how to help the suffering and will be joining us from Winnipeg where he is a spiritual health practitioner. David Guretzki, a theology professor and seminary dean at Briercrest College & Seminary in Caronport, Sask., will also join us. Guretzki teaches, among other topics, “In Sickness and in Health: Biblical Perspectives on Marriage and Chronic Illness.”
I’m looking forward to this time to ask questions like: How do we best help someone going through a terrible time? What can we learn? What can we give? What doesn’t help? And…how do you help when what you really want to do is flip over the book and walk away?
Even now, years later in order to spell it correctly, I have to look up the the word hemorrhaging each and every time I write it.
But that was the least of the worries around “Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults Are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church,” a report commissioned by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable and sponsored by the EFC, Great Commission Foundation, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada, Stronger Together 2011 and Youth for Christ Canada.
Meanwhile, we hear fairly often that the depression rate found within the clergy community is twice as high as that of the general population. You can even buy a Pastor Burnout Workbook to “burnout proof your ministry.” It’s probably a great resource, but toiling alone through a workbook on burnout sounds a bit depressing in itself.
So, what can we do in the Church to help clergy — who seem to face huge and unique job challenges — remain well and healthy? What can clergy and church leaders do themselves to stay well and put in place the protective boundaries they need for their own health and the health of the Church? Not to mention their family at home.
Those are the kinds of questions we will be exploring in the next EFC Webinar, on clergy wellness. We’ve invited Wanda Malcolm and Mark Vander Vennen to be our guests. Malcolm is professor of pastoral psychology at Wycliffe College and lead researcher of the Wycliffe Wellness Project, investigating what brings wellness to clergy and others engaged in ministry.
Vander Vennen is a marriage and family therapist and executive director of the Shalem Mental Health Network. His concern for the mental well-being of clergy led Shalem to create the Clergy Care Program, a counselling service designed specifically for pastors and their families.
This webinar happens at the same time Faith Today is running a national contest to send hard working pastors away on a short, restorative retreat.
I am really looking forward to our conversation with Wanda and Mark next Wednesday. As a clergy spouse I know well some of the struggles — and of course the multiple joys — of people in the ministry life. If even half of the statistics are true, we need to take better care of clergy, and clergy need to take better care of themselves. Join us!