February 26, 1991
Last winter, as a result of concerns that were raised at the “Day of Reflection” in September 1989, a group of brethren (herein called the “steering committee-) met to discuss how we might better serve those facing personal problems or difficulties in our respective ecclesias. While informal caring for one another has always taken place, there have been few mechanisms in place that formally recognize this responsibility. As a result of these discussions, steering committee members canvassed their respective ecclesias in the Fall of 1990 about the feasibility of setting up some mechanism to facilitate a more formalized caring process. Specifically, input was sought from the ecclesias concerning the perceived need for such a mechanism and any concerns surrounding the creation of such a mechanism.
Although no model of such a mechanism was presented, several prominent points of feedback were received and can be summarized as follows (although not all points were expressed by all ecclesias):
1) That the stresses and worldly influences of our present society are
such that there is an increasing need to care for and support our members and therefore such a mechanism should be explored.
2) That such a mechanism should be ecclesially focused and responsive to the needs of the local ecclesia.
3) That any such mechanism and effort relating to its establishment
should not detract from other important individual and ecclesial responsibilities.
The Steering Committee met in late January to formulate a model that would take this feedback into consideration. Along with this, a set of “Principles of Operation” were drafted including a statement on moral issues. Attached then,
are the fruits of these deliberations, namely:
1) Appendix A, which is description of a model for a “Caring Network”
for implementation within the ecclesias of Southern Ontario.
2) Appendix B, which is a list of principles of operation relating to the proposed model.
The model is ecclesially focused, but the local “caring teams” or committees are
linked with the caring teams of other ecclesias through a “resource committee”
in order to coordinate any initial training sessions and to share information on operational issues. There is also provision for an “inter-ecclesial caring network”, which is coordinated by the Resource Committee.
The Steering Committee asks that you undertake the following by March 31st, 1991 (if possible):
1) Distribute copies of this letter and the attached enclosures to all
arranging board members so that the contents may be reviewed at your next board meeting.
2) Make a decision as to whether your ecclesia wishes to participate in the
development of a local “Caring Team”. If “yes”, could you canvass the members of your ecclesia in order to determine who might qualify and be willing to serve on such a team (see list of suggested qualification criteria referred to in “Appendix A”). A team of about three to five members is suggested (based on the arranging board’s assessment of local needs and resources). Any of the brethren on the Steering Committee would be glad to explain the caring team concept to your arranging board or to a wider audience of your ecclesial members.
3) Provide the Steering Committee with any further feedback on the proposal
that might assist in the implementation phase.
It is the hope of the Steering Committee to have a network of local caring teams in place in most Southern Ontario ecclesias by June 30th 1991, Lord willing.
Those participating on local caring teams would be encouraged to attend an introductory 2 day seminar to familiarize the team members with basic methods of operation, the need for confidentiality, and an introduction to effective listening techniques. Such a training session is tentatively scheduled for mid to late April. There will be no attempt to turn team volunteers into social workers. Their task is essentially that of volunteer “listeners”.
We strongly believe that a local team of designated listeners would encourage those within an ecclesia who are reluctant to “bother” another brother or sister but feel a need to talk to someone, to do so. Also, if the members of the team rotated, there would be a heightened awareness within the ecclesia of the importance of the caring process.
You will note that the model also involves an inter-ecclesial caring network. We see this as second a stage to the program, to be considered after the local teams are in place. The members of such a network need not necessarily be on the local caring team, but they would receive similar training. Such members would be selected with input from local ecclesias. It would be helpful, therefore, if your Board were to give some future thought to a few people who might be suitable
for the network role.
We believe that the model proposed is a practical, workable, starting point which meets the needs and concerns of our various ecclesias. No doubt the model will undergo revision as we gain experience or as unserved areas of need arise.
Therefore we ask for your support and your prayers as we collectively seek to advance the “shepherding” role that is one of our primary responsibilities.
Yours in our Master’s service,
for the Caring Network Steering Committee
NETWORK MODEL PROPOSAL
Introduction to the Network
As brothers and sisters who are also members of one body”, we all share a responsibility to foster the well-being of all parts of the body. This responsibi 1 ity manifests itself in various individual and group act ivities: Bible study, prayer, fellowship, worship, visiting the sick, providing spiritual advice and guidance to those in need, to name but a few. The ecclesia, as a kind of spiritual family, acts as the focus of these responsibilities.
However, members struggling to deal with problems in the face of the pressures of modern life, while endeavouring to follow the commandments of Christ, may find the need to seek assistance outside some of the traditional resources listed above. It is desirable that if such assistance is needed, it should be provided, so far as possible, within the Brotherhood before turning to outside resources where the spiritual component may be lacking. The Caring Network is a means of providing confidential access to a Christadelphian brother or sister who has some familiarity with listening techniques and knowledge of specialized resources to assist the person seeking help to discuss and work towards a personal resolution of the problem in the proper spiritual framework.
In addition, the Network is intended to act as a source of information concerning resources available in the Christadelphian community and outside with respect to a wide range of issues. The Network will also endeavour to assist ecclesias in conducting educational programs designed to help members deal with situations before they develop into problems.
Organization of the Network
It is proposed that the Network be organized into three areas, each of which
interacts with the other: 1) ecclesial caring teams; 2) an inter-ecclesial caring network; and 3) a resource committee.
1. Ecclesial Caring Team
• each ecclesia have a local caring team responsible to the ecclesia;
• the size of the local team would depend upon the needs of the ecclesia, but 3 to 5 persons would probably be normal;
• the members would be selected either directly by the members of the ecclesia or selected by the arranging board based on input from the members; (the specific method to be determined by each ecclesia)
• the members of the caring team should have the following characteristics:
• They must be members of the ecclesia in good standing.
• They must demonstrate a caring and compassionate attitude towards other members of the ecclesia.
• They must possess the ability to listen effectively.
• They must exhibit spiritual and emotional maturity.
• They must be able to maintain strict confidentiality in all matters involving individuals accessing the team, or involving discussions with other team members.
• They must recognize the importance of prayer in any such service to a brother or sister.
• the members of the team would receive some training in listening techniques, and would be familiarized with the operation of the Network and the resources that are available.
• caring team members would be accessible by members or friends of the ecclesia, on a confidential basis, either as individuals or as a team.
• it is recognized that a caring team may overlap to some degree with existing ecclesial “welfare committees” or “support groups”, but it is felt that this should not be a problem.
2. Inter-Ecclesial Caring Network
• Members of the inter-ecclesial caring network may be, but need not necessarily be, drawn from members of the local caring teams. They would undergo training similar to members of the local caring teams, would have similar personal characteristics, and would operate on similar principles.
• Since they may be consulted by persons who are not members of their own ecclesias, they would also operate on the basis of the principles of operation (moral issues) set out in Appendix B.
• the inter-ecclesial caring network would fulfil the following functions:
1) To act as the contact point for persons who wish to discuss a
matter with a person or team outside the local ecclesia. A caring person or team could then be assembled (although the person in crisis would be encouraged after this to work with the local team).
2) To seek out individuals with a special type of expertise when
this is not available within a given ecclesial team, but might be available elsewhere in the network. The lOcal team would usually initiate this request.
3) To facilitate communication between various teams in the
network so that they can share experiences (although not confidences) and improve the effectiveness of the network as a whole. The inter-ecclesial caring network could also provide information about educational opportunities, coordinate meetings and seminars etc, as provided by the Resource Committee.
• the inter-ecclesial network listeners would be publicized by a list,
with names and telephone numbers.
The Resource Committee has several functions:
• to coordinate the general operation of the inter-ecclesial network.
• to facilitate communication among various local teams in the Network so that they can share experiences (although not confidences) and improve the effectiveness of the Network as a whole.
• to coordinate meetings, seminars, and educational opportunities.
• to assist in seeking out individuals who have a special expertise
that is not available within a given ecclesial team, but might be
available elsewhere in the Network. The local team would usually
initiate this request.
• to help identify and screen appropriate outside professional resources.
• to organize training for local caring team and inter-ecclesial network members.
Scope of Network Activities and Expertise
The Network would respond, either at the caring team or the inter-ecclesial network level to a variety of problems ranging from issues which may not have a direct moral component, such as financial matters or elder care, to others which do have a moral component. The problems which could be brought to the Network would often be multi-dimensional. It would be up to the individual to seek the method of accessing the Network he or she prefers.
Members of the Network would usually not be identified as dealing only with specific areas. This means that due to the availability and expertise of the network member, it may be necessary to suggest referrals to other network members, or to appropriate outside professionals. All network members would have to be sensitive to the limits of their abilities.
CARING NETWORK – PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION
1. All participants in the Network, including both those seeking
assistance and those offering to help, are operating within a biblical framework, and the specific command to “bear one anothers’ burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2)
2 The “law of Christ” includes obedience to the two great
commandments, as well as to all the corollary commandments which flow therefrom and express God’s will for His people as revealed in the Bible. Accordingly, the objective of the Network is to assist each other in living more closely to the standards set by God’s commandments and the example of Jesus Christ.
3 We would not be human if we did not fail to attain these
standards in many respects. Anyone seeking the assistance of the Network can expect a listening ear that will not condemn the individual, but rather will seek to restore. There is no problem or difficulty that cannot be shared with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
4 The process of restoration, however, must conform to God’s
will as expressed in the Bible. Any assistance or advice
offered will, therefore, be consistent with our best
understanding of that will. For example, it will respect:
• the sanctity of marriage, and the forbidding of sexual
relations outside marriage
• the divine disapproval of divorce
• the requirement to refrain from drunkenness, dissipation, or dissolute living
• the requirement to love one another
• the importance of harmonious family relationships
• the importance of Bible reading, participation in communal worship, and prayer
• the requirement to obey the laws of the land, except
insofar as they contravene God’s laws.
5. The most effective way to assist each other is within the
ecclesial context. Accordingly, one of the goals of the Network is to encourage and help the brother or sister seeking assistance to work with the ecclesia towards a lasting solution in a mutually supportive and caring ecclesial environment. The inter-ecclesial Network is intended to supplement, not replace existing ecclesial resources and obligations. The ecclesial caring teams will be the focus of the Network’s activities within an ecclesia.
6. The Network will respect ecclesial autonomy and ecclesial
decisions concerning members. The Network, however, must remain open to all brothers and sisters in all Southern Ontario ecclesias.
7. The Network will operate on a principle of strict
confidentiality unless otherwise required by law.
8. Members of the Network are not experts or professionals,
although they will have a basic level of familiarization with listening techniques and other mechanisms appropriate to their task. They will endeavour to be sensitive to possible needs for referral to qualified professionals, and to assist in the identification of appropriate referral resources.
9. Members of the Network are not held out as, nor are they, a
-spiritual elite”. They too are subject to problems and burdens and have commitments to family, ecclesia, and jobs. This will mean that at times some may not be available to assist, and that those providing assistance will change over time. All those participating, however, will be expected to respect the principles set out herein.
10. The Network is but one element among many others (Bible reading, teaching, ecclesial care, worship, prayer, etc.) available to assist in the goal of walking acceptably before God. Success in that goal is dependent on God’s blessing and
guidance, and the Network will continue to seek such divine
support, both in its efforts and in the efforts of ecclesias and all the brethren and sisters in Christ.
It should be understood that the Network also deals with many problems that may have no direct moral component: financial problems, bereavement, palliative care, etc. The principles of this appendix primarily address moral issues, but also have