Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Shepherds at the local level

Shepherds, or pastors, care deeply about people’s well-being.

I am not a pastor. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about people, or that I don’t need to do so. As a Christian, I am seeking to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and Jesus perfectly expressed the human vocations being apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. As one called to serve the church with over-sight, I have learned pastoral skills. But, being just one part of the Body of Christ, my ‘specialism’ is for something else. My love for my neighbour is expressed more naturally through the prophetic question of What is the potential deep within this person waiting to be discovered, and drawn out, and refined? (like a precious stone from the earth) than through the pastoral questions, How can this person’s needs be met? and, Of what hurts do they need healed? The call of the church upon my life (to be a deacon, and priest) requires of me that I seek to guarantee that apostolic intelligence, and prophetic intelligence (the call of Jesus on my life), and evangelistic intelligence, and shepherding or pastoral intelligence (the questions asked immediately above), and teaching intelligence are all contributing to the holistic life and work of the church—and beyond.

When I think of shepherds at the local level, or within the local community, I might think of Elaine. Elaine owned a bistro in the village we lived in before we moved to Sunderland. She had a thankful awareness of God’s benevolence, but, as far as I am aware, was not a church-goer.

The village, on the edge of a town and joined to it by suburban sprawl, had kept its identity through the commitment of its independent shop-owners to a high standard of customer care. Not only did the villagers shop locally, but people travelled from the wider suburban area to the village for its shops and cafes. But Elaine went beyond good customer care: she was a pastor to her regulars, and to her staff. They were like family to her. She would call a taxi to get elderly gentlemen home after their breakfast, and assist them out to the car. When one regular died, they closed the bistro for a couple of hours so that they could attend the funeral.

We ate lunch there on a Friday reasonably often. At some point, Elaine would come out from the kitchen to enquire how we were; perhaps also sharing her concern for other customers or mutual acquaintances—though never in a gossipy way: some of her customers were minor celebrities who knew they could rely on her discretion to provide a safe place to eat in private. She was, quite simply, made to care; and she had created an environment in which to do just that, holistically, and well.

Able to do so, she was a great asset to the community.

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