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Hallo again to all.

Like most Anglican congregations, ours has an active ministry of helping people (not just parishioners) in need. The phrase 'in need' usually connotes economic need or its consequences: food banks, overnight shelters, or maybe holiday distribution of toys for children. Those who have provide for those who don't have.

A parish taking care of its own often requests rides to church or medical appointments for members who cannot drive and cannot afford a taxi or an Uber. Our parish once offered career counselling and job-hunting assistance to all who needed it. (We stopped that service when it became hopeless—too many unemployed and not enough jobs.)

Many parishes host alcohol or drug recovery programme meetings or grief counselling groups. A parish we once attended that was in an area with a high immigrant and refugee population offered English classes and assistance with government paperwork.

Even a well-intentioned parish cannot easily provide services that require licensing or certification or a long-term commitment. You will never see a parish providing dermatology or legal defence services to those in need, but we have seen occasional cases of a parish coordinating and publicising affiliated programmes that include parish members suitably trained, licensed, and employed in such specialty fields accepting pro bono referrals from clergy.

A large percentage of the people who have been in our parish for a few years have participated in some of these 'outreach' programmes. They feel that helping is their Christian duty, and giving only money to help often feels unsatisfying. It is harder to give time than money, but ultimately can feel more satisfying. Helping those in need certainly feels like God's work, and can be its own reward. Through the years, as we moved from one place to another and one parish to another, we always raised our hand to be a contributor and always felt good about it.

A week ago we suffered two unrelated minor physical injuries that, together, rendered us startlingly helpless. At the medical clinic we were told to go home, wait it out, take responsible doses of non-prescription pain medication, and to walk a little bit from time to time, as we could, to prevent muscle atrophy. When the clock said it was time to stand up and walk around, we discovered that because of injured joints and muscles we couldn't get out of the chair without help. So there we were, trapped until we could find and accept help.

It was hard. We'd spent our entire life offering to provide for people in need, and now, out of nowhere, we had become one, and we didn't know quite what to do. Either logistically or emotionally. The logistics solved themselves; our partner came home from an errand and together we worked out the best procedure to exit the chair, which worked. The emotional processing took longer, as we reflected on the reasons we were reluctant to ask for help, to admit that we simply couldn't do this alone. In order to continue, we had to lose the arrogance of self-sufficiency and admit to ourselves that although it always felt good to be able to help someone in need, it is more difficult to be in need and to accept help.

Worldwide, the average age of Anglican church members is increasing, and as people get older, they become less able to be self-sufficient. It happened to us. It might happen to you. Be as ready to receive help as you have been to provide it.

See you next week.

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25 September 2016

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