As a Deacon, my call is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. As Deacons, our rule of life compels us to maintain our support network. We regularly meet locally, nationally and internationally; in person, online and across ecumenical divides.
Currently deployed as Chaplain to LHM (Lodging House Mission), a day-centre for people experiencing homelessness, my day might begin before we even open the doors, with people often waiting on the doors step. We must be ready with immediate support in a crisis.
The day centre, based at Barras market in Glasgow, opens weekdays 8.30am-3pm, serving adults with a warm space, a friendly welcome, free breakfast & lunch provision and activities & intervention support.
While I am used to this, I am often asked how do you manage it?
As a mum of four, my husband and children are my greatest champions. Family builds resilience; both home and church family, at Sandyhills Parish. Family is the model of all we do as a staff team at LHM. Our visitors and volunteers are part of that family. Extending the table further, we collaborate with partner agencies to ensure individuals are knit together, all members of God’s family, represented in our photo album on Facebook. Even beyond death, no one is forgotten, as names are added to the book of remembrance.
When my line manager died during the Covid pandemic, specialist support from ‘Healing for the Heart’ helped me with my own bereavement. Following my own life-threatening brain haemorrhage in 2021, prayers of individuals and colleagues across Presbytery and the national church gave me strength to trust in God for my recovery. I continue to receive pastoral care and support from the Presbytery team locally and the administrative team centrally who supported my returned to work.
My line manager meets with me regularly and the board of directors keep my responsibilities under review. When considering support, it is easy to overlook the permission givers and policymakers who move the levers of power and create new space or flexibility to work differently.
The day-centre service continues to increase in demand, going from an average of 60 lunches per day pre-pandemic, to a peak of over 100 lunches per day in December. The needs are complex – poor mental health, relationship breakdown, substance misuse, addiction, and criminality. The pattern of life can be chaotic; often our day-centre rhythm of daily meals and activities is the start of a structured way of living. A harm reduction and prevention model mean we do not exclude anyone – we support anyone who feels isolated, socially excluded, or vulnerable, to stay out of crisis.
Given this frantic pace of work and need, I am grateful for a rule of life which commits me to healthy patterns. I set aside time with God to retreat, reflect and journal. The only way I can maintain this practice is to plan it in from the beginning of the year, ahead of the needs that will emerge, maintaining a practice of working from my rest, as Christ taught.
I must acknowledge we, the church, are in an era of change. Ministry peers have become companions on the way – people who can be honest with me, hold me to account and pray with and for me. They are a vital strand of the family God prepared in advance to support my call to serve. I give thanks for them and pray may all we do together be for Gods glory.
Amid change and post-pandemic fatigue, we do not need another burden.
Jesus died for each of us. If Jesus valued us enough to go through all He went through, we owe it to Him to value what He values. To love our neighbour as ourselves, we need to measure correctly. The measurement within this command is ‘as yourself’. To love yourself, to invest in yourself regularly, takes small steps each day. Today, make a date for coffee with your line manager or a trusted colleague, tomorrow read through the Ascend support, next week book your study leave, holidays or retreat time for the year to come. One investment at a time builds a supportive family network, making the journey forward easier. Don’t put it off until there is a crisis.
Deacon Claire Herbert, Chaplain @ LHM Glasgow