Salt and light link rep
As Christians, we celebrate Jesus as God revealed through and within our human vulnerability. We can often fall into the trap of eulogising that vulnerability rather than take the risk of living it.
As a Salt & Light Link Officer and Lay Reader, I’m very aware of my responsibility not only to encourage folk to take the risk of living vulnerably but also to ensure that those who respond are properly supported.
I’ve often noticed that God, incarnate in Jesus and present in our neighbours, calls us to meet and serve him in and through our vulnerabilities. This can feel painful and risky when we have lived experience of the issues we seek to address. This is especially true for congregants or those on the fringes of congregations whose involvement with the Church may principally be focused on their activities supporting others who are vulnerable and isolated. In our congregation, Robert matches this description.
A volunteer’s thoughts about volunteering.
I volunteer at two local foodbanks. I find volunteering rewarding and fulfilling and it makes me feel useful. It is also good to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Volunteering gets me out meeting people and gets my own problems into perspective after hearing the clients’ dreadful circumstances. I have also met and made friends with some good people - both volunteers and clients.
A very important point is that it’s putting my faith into practice and getting out and doing something on a practical level not just sitting talking and thinking about it - moving out from the church into the community where I feel I am needed. I also feel that this is something I have to do, need to do want to do. The drive is tremendous.
On the other side, talking and listening to clients is quite a harrowing emotional experience. I come away feeling drained, but I accept it comes with the territory - whoever said God’s work is easy? Some people can switch off but I can’t do that. I have to talk to people and just let it go out of my system, although - truth be told - foodbank is never that far from my thoughts and prayers.
Finally, it’s good that volunteers from all churches or none just get together and get on with it - a good lesson there to be learned! I’m very loyal and passionate about foodbank. If anyone talks badly about it I’ll defend it to my best ability - and not always in a diplomatic way!
Robert has often described to the congregation how supporting foodbank has helped him focus beyond his own history of mental illness and benefit-related hardship towards being present to people he meets at Food Bank who have much the same experience but are presently in crisis. This incarnational approach is very difficult to sustain and clearly takes its toll.
As a Link Officer (and a friend), I try a dual approach of supporting Robert personally, listening to the joys and sorrows of his work, and publicly, through references to his work and that of others within sermons and intercessions. This isn't just about me or the role of the Link Officer as we are all placed within the Body of Christ and support flows through many members.
The Link Officer Guidelines summarise the role as “helping information flow from and to your parish, so that everyone in the network knows what is going on and we can share good ideas and help each other." What I've described above seems to be less about the flow of information and more about pastoral care and support for someone who could easily fall back into the vulnerability of those he supports. I’m conscious that, if we do not address the pastoral needs of those who are Christ's eyes, hands, feet and body in our local communities, we are in danger of treating these people as merely instrumental functionaries about whose performance information flows to and fro.
Let’s take the risk of living vulnerably and support one another to be Salt and Light in our communities.