My father, Ron, was an avid volunteer. His whole life, he did what he could for other people. As a young teacher in a small outport his first “official” volunteer work was to become a lay minister as well as the town’s teacher. He famously told the story of how nervous he was during the first Sunday. He said he sweated through his clothes and his cassock, and sweat dripped off the tip of his nose the whole service. He was seventeen at the time, and when the minister couldn’t get to the community, he held the Sunday service every week. Of course, with more experience and practice he settled into being the lay minister, and he continued in that role for more than 60 years. Even when he was too old to be driving, I would drive dad to various old age homes and hospitals so he could “visit the old people.” He was in his late eighties at the time!
When I was in my early twenties, the minister at my church asked me to become a eucharistic minister. I agreed and I have been involved in that ministry ever since. In my volunteerism at the church, I was asked to help with the services at St. Luke’s, the Anglican home at the time. St. Luke’s led me to volunteering at St. Clare’s Hospital and the Miller Center. Up until the Covid pandemic, every Sunday I was volunteering somewhere to give out communion to those who couldn’t get to the church for a service. I have met, comforted, and chatted with hundreds of people over the years. I didn’t think that I would ever get to continue this ministry because of the pandemic, but in March the hospital chaplain contacted me to see if I would like to return to the hospitals to give out communion. In April, I returned to the hospitals for the first time in three years.
I find it difficult to put into words how I felt going back to this ministry! The patients I visit are in various stages of illness. Many are from other parts of the province and haven’t seen home in a long time. Many are very discouraged and don’t get a lot of company. All of the patients I see express how grateful they are that I came to visit and give them communion, but none of their gratitude comes near to the feeling that I get from going to see them.
Every time I go to a hospital on Sunday, I think about my father and his first experience as a lay minister. I think about the joy he felt having touched people’s lives in his ministry. I think about the joy I feel meeting the patients and giving them the Bread of Life.
The pandemic has taken many things from us over the past three years. We have been shut in and alone, feeling worried and at times, afraid. Now that the world is opening up for everyone again, I urge you all to look into yourselves and volunteer at your churches. The summer is coming, and we all need to relax and de-stress, but the spiritual joy you will receive from volunteering for Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will do more for you than you can imagine! God never goes on vacation from you, and nothing will help you destress more than knowing you are doing His good work by spreading His word!
God bless you all this summer and I hope you spread the joy of his love in your hearts to others!