Wilton Congregational Church has expanded its caregiving ministry by joining the Stephen Ministry movement. The Rev. Dr. Anne Coffman and lay church members Ann Newton and Gil Bray were commissioned as Stephen leaders at the church on March 12. They will, in turn, train Stephen ministers from the congregation.
The Stephen Ministry offers one-on-one spiritual care to people facing any number of personal crises. Some of the situations in which Stephen ministers provide care include the loss of a loved one, divorce, a terminal illness, loneliness, unemployment, hospitalization, a spiritual crisis, or the birth of a child.
”I am excited about the way Stephen ministers will expand the caring ministry here at the Wilton Congregational Church,” Coffman said. “They will help me provide quality, ongoing Christian care to those in crisis both here in our church and in our community of Wilton for as long as they need it.”
Coffman, Newton and Bray underwent a week of intensive leader training in January in caregiving skills, covering such topics as active listening, distinctively Christian care, feelings, confidentiality, and crisis theory, as well as ministering to people in specific situations such as divorce, grief and hospitalization. They will now provide 50 hours of training to congregation members committed to becoming Stephen ministers. Once the Stephen ministers begin providing care, they will continue to meet twice a month with their Stephen leaders for continuing education and supervision as they strive to offer the highest-quality Christian caregiving.
A major emphasis of Stephen minister training and supervision is on confidentiality. Those receiving care can be sure their identity and what goes on in the caring relationship will remain private, according to information provided by the church.
“This is a new dimension to our ministry,” said Head Deacon Steve Gidley. “How often we hear about or know someone close to us who is going through a difficult time, illness or transition that could truly benefit from a compassionate visitor trained in the ministry of caring. This is why Wilton Congregational Church has established Stephen Ministries as an outreach to the surrounding community and its own members and friends.”
Begun in St. Louis in 1975, Stephen Ministry is in use in more than 11,000 congregations from 160 Christian denominations. According to the organization, a Stephen leader will meet with a potential care receiver to assess the person’s needs and match the person with a Stephen minister. Men are matched with men, women with women.
A minister usually provides care to one person at a time, meeting with that person once a week for about an hour. Should the person’s needs exceed what a Stephen minister can provide, the person will be referred to an appropriate mental health professional or other community resource. For more information about the Stephen Ministry at Wilton Congregational Church, call Coffman at 203-762-5591 or email office@wiltoncongregational.org.