December 14, 2011

Offering Hope and Healing: Stephen Ministry

On November 19, 2011 a service of Hope and Healing was held at The Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas Texas. This holiday prayer service provided a place of meaning and comfort for those experiencing the loss of a loved one. The parish’s Stephen Ministers sponsored and participated through candle lighting, reading scripture, and providing refreshments.   

Stephen ministry has been active at Transfiguration for over twenty years. Laypeople are given 50 hours of training in the parish by Stephen Leaders who have attended a weeklong training program. Topics covered in the Stephen Ministry training include: The Person of the Caregiver, The Art of Listening, Crisis Theory and Practice, Confidentiality, and How to Refer to Mental Health Professionals. At the completion of training Stephen Ministers are commissioned during a Sunday Eucharist and then matched with someone in the parish who is dealing with a significant life challenge such the death of a loved one, a divorce, or caring for a family member with dementia. 

Founded in 1975 by Lutheran pastor Kenneth Haugk and his wife, this one-to-one caring ministry [based in St. Louis, Missouri] now serves 11,000 congregations within 150 denominations. Through the training provided and ongoing participation in a peer supervision group, our Stephen Ministers become a healing presence and part of the parish’s pastoral care team. Rather than trying to give advice or solve problems, they compassionately share the journey of individuals struggling with a significant life transition. Without much fanfare, Stephen Ministers wear their Stephen Ministry badges each Sunday providing a quiet but reassuring presence in the congregation.

Reaching out to others in emotional need during the holidays is a natural extension of their ministry. Four large candles were lit during the Service of Hope and Healing - to recall memories of loved ones, to remember the grief of those present, to redeem the pain of loss, and finally, to reconnect with the hope of the gospel.Individuals then came forward to light their own candles of remembrance as harp music played in the background. Before the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations, respite was found for tears to be shed and the peace that passes understanding softly permeated the room. Come thou long expected Jesus…. How often Christ’s presence is tangibly made known through the vital lay ministries within our parishes. Stephen Ministry is one of those life-giving ministries. More information can be found at