Five members of Wilton Congregational Church were commissioned as Stephen Ministers at the 9:30 worship service on Jan. 7. They were Ian Tesar, Kim Schmitt, Jerry Sprole, Kim McKessy, and Marie Broderick.

Stephen Ministers undergo 50 hours of training that enables them to perform lay pastoral care for people in crisis or a transition in their lives. “A trained friend is how I describe it,” the Rev. Anne Coffman told The Bulletin.

Founded in 1975, Stephen Ministries is an international organization that offers training programs for those seeking to establish the program in their congregations. Earlier this year, Coffman and two other congregants — Ann Newton and Gil Bray — underwent training and were commissioned as Stephen Leaders. Their role was to implement the program within Wilton Congregational Church, making the congregation aware of it, and recruiting ministers.

Each Stephen Minister will now be available to offer confidential, Christian-centered, one-on-one care to those in need — referred to as care receivers — usually one person at a time. Men are matched with men and women are matched with women.

“They will meet with their care receivers at least once a week for as long as they are needed,” Coffman said. While it is a very demanding ministry, “it is incredibly rewarding,” she said.

Coffman became a Stephen Leader 27 years ago when she was with another church and subsequently worked in several churches where it was established, so she is quite familiar with it. Although she provides pastoral care to her congregants, she often can meet with them only once a month.

“We felt there were people who needed more attention and care who were not able to get it,” she said, adding there are some situations, such as when a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, when meeting with them once a month is not enough.

While Stephen Ministers must be members of the church that offers the program, potential care receivers do not need to be members.

Information: 203-762-5591.