Do you ever sit down and imagine where Holyrood might be in a year’s time? All of us would love to see a stream of unbelievers finding their way into the church. We would be thrilled by the prospect of more engagement with the local community – of children’s work, youth work, coffee mornings, foodbanks, ESL courses, Christianity Explored courses, and so on. Personally, I get goosebumps at the thought of people meeting on Montgomery Street throughout the week for prayer, training, and discipleship. These elements are important ingredients of the vision of any gospel church. Wherever the good news of Christ takes root, evangelism and discipleship are flowers that soon blossom. However, if our future vision of Holyrood is going to be complete – at least complete according to a New Testament blueprint – then we cannot limit our imagining to the scene above. Alongside outreach and discipleship, one other dimension of church life must be kept in view, namely, loving one another. If we are to be the city on a hill that Jesus intends for us to be, we must fulfil his commandment to love one another as he has loved us.
To help us grow into a community of loving support, October is going to be pastoral care month at Holyrood. My hope is that this becomes an annual tradition. In future years, just as we will have various campaigns to promote evangelism and discipleship in the church, we will also take time each year to bring attention to the pastoral needs within our community. The basic objectives of this time will be threefold: (1) to increase awareness of needs within the community; (2) to build competence so that we feel more equipped to help each other; and (3) to create a stimulus to reenergize our efforts to go out and get busy in the urgent work of building each other up in the faith.
Now what will this look like this year?
First, the Pastoral Care Team has invited Lynn Millar of the Wellness Centre at St. Mungo’s Church to lead a training session at our Equip meeting on 2nd October. The focus of this session will be some general training on helping people who are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, and other common struggles. There are times when we avoid reaching out to people due to the paralysis of feeling incompetent to help. This session will remind us of some of the simple things that we can do to express love and concern. Please consider, if possible, attending the session in person. The evening will go much better – and have a greater impact on our church family – if we get a good assortment of people from the church.
Second, in our home groups in October we will be looking at Psalms that deal honestly with topics like fear, spiritual anxiety, and grief. Home groups are a vital part of the structure of pastoral care at Holyrood. I want to encourage us to use these sessions to be more candid about our emotional and spiritual struggles. There is nothing worse than superficial religion. All of us have old scars and untended wounds. Let’s try to take small steps toward making home group meetings a place where burdens are shared and loving support is provided.
Third, the topic of caring for each other will be a focus of conversation in other small group settings. The women’s book club will be reading Together through the Storm by Sally Sims. The session will begin to read and discuss The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer. The men’s discipleship groups will use select ‘hymn workouts’ to think about relevant topics. And finally, the reflections in the weekly newsletter and the content of the prayer bulletin will drip feed further information about what it means to fulfil Christ’s command in John 13:34.
Let me end by issuing a challenge. Thinking about something is not the same as doing something. The real hope of October is not to have intellectual discussions or to provide formal training. The real goal is for us to be inspired to show love and concern for people who we might otherwise overlook due to the busyness of life. So here is my challenge to members of Holyrood in October: Find one person in the church family each week that you can encourage or support. There are 100 ways to show such love. You can schedule a coffee; you can see a film together; you can write a letter; you can visit a care home; you can commit to prayer; you can take a walk; you can sit and read the Bible together; the options are endless.
Just imagine if all of us did this – if 70 or 80 people found a fresh way to show the love of Christ to another person each week during October. That’s around 300 acts of kindness in one month. There is no way of calculating the difference this would make in our community. There is no way of measuring the joy this would bring the heart of our Saviour.