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Clear Spring trio living their faith

February 20, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Laura Bair didn't have to take a course to become a caring person.

But after a week of training in the Stephen Ministries, she feels she has strengthened her natural ability to work with people in crisis.

"It's going to be a wonderful experience ... to have a chance to live out our faith," Bair said.

She and Colleen Newell joined with the Rev. Terry Foor for the intense training session recently in Orlando, Fla. All three are part of St. John's United Church of Christ in Clear Spring.

Stephen Ministry, named for St. Stephen, is a program that equips lay people in congregations to provide one-on-one care to those who are experiencing all kinds of life needs and circumstances, both in the congregation and the community.

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"We went in January," said Newell, who explained that the three of them were among representatives from 43 states and three foreign countries.

"It's care, not cure," Newell said. "Sometimes people may just be lonesome, but lonesome is terrible."

A veteran of a lot of hospice training, Newell said she used to worry about what to say. But she learned in Stephen Ministry that most of the time, you don't talk, you listen.

Foor, Newell and Bair learned to be leaders in the ministry. Now they will share what they have learned by training others.

Pastor of the church, Foor said he wanted to participate because he believes in his congregation's commitment to caring.

"This congregation is very caring and has been for years," Foor said. "We can just multiply that now."

Bair said she works in the medical field and often she sees patients who get their medical needs met but not their spiritual needs.

"I wanted to go because it was a calling for me," Bair said.

She said pairings are always female to female and male to male. In addition, only those 18 and older are eligible.

Newell said that all Stephen ministers will meet with each other about two times a month to share information and techniques. Any talk about their clients is confidential - no names are mentioned.

Recruitment will be the next step after the congregation is made aware of the program through sermons and newsletters.

"There is about 50 hours of training, half in the spring and half in the fall," Foor said. The training consists of learning to listen, confidentiality and networking through the referral process.

Each Stephen minister will then be linked with a care receiver - a member of the congregation or someone in the community in need, Foor said.

More than 6,000 congregations from 78 different denominations are enrolled in the Stephen Ministry program.

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