Fourteen volunteer Authorised Pastoral Assistants (APA’s) from different walks of life, have been commissioned by The Right Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow to provide pastoral assistance caring for people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
In a service in Durham Cathedral, Bishop Mark recognised their often unseen work and likening them to the Churches ‘Specsavers’, saying: “The task to which God calls you is to see the world not as you are used to seeing it but to see it as the other sees it and then to see their world as Jesus sees it.
“And sometimes for some of us, to enter into the world of the other requires a very big change to the lenses we have in our glasses: that is why you are the new Specsavers.
APA’s are commissioned for a five-year period, following three years’ training, to work alongside clergy in caring for people, especially in times of particular need, such as old age, illness or bereavement. Their work is essential and much needed, I want to thank them for all their hard work. I would encourage anyone who thinks this kind of work might be for them to contact their local parish.
During the service, two of the volunteers shared their experiences, including Karen Snowden from Preston-on-Tees, who was re-commissioned during the service. She said: “I can’t believe it is five years since I was first commissioned as an Authorised Pastoral Assistant. I learnt so much throughout the course and I continue to learn more each day. I have learnt what a privilege it is to stand alongside someone in their suffering and also in their joy.”
Andrew Maxwell from Heighington being commissioned for the first time said “I come from a business background of finance and business advice and have for numerous years been involved with Church finance and administration. God’s call to become an APA was a real wake- up call for me and one that put me well outside my comfort zone. But I am now able to complement our team ministry with a different set of skills and provide competent support which will enable the other Ministry Team members to focus on some of the many other aspects of Church work.”
Bishop Mark Concluded: “I want to encourage these APA’s to have a big vision for their skills; a vision that will truly enable us as the Church of England in the Diocese of Durham to bless our communities in Jesus’ name.”
Those newly commissioned:
Hazel Campbell – Crook
Carole Dixon – Whickham
Anne Johnson – Hart
Andrew Maxwell – Heighington
Wendy Mills – Cockerton
Amanda Petch – Cockerton
Tina Sanderson – Hartlepool, Holy Trinity
Dorothy Short – Medomsley
Jenn Warden – Heworth, St Mary
Kay Westgarth – Dunston, St Nicholas with Christ Church
Those newly re-commissioned:
Joyce Barber – Darlington, St Matthew with St Luke
Priscilla Davis – Fatfield, St George
Joan Smith – Whickham
Karen Snowden – Preston-on-Tees