Thirteen volunteer Authorised Pastoral Assistants (APA’s) from different walks of life, have been commissioned by The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham to provide pastoral assistance caring for people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
In a service in Durham Cathedral on 1st July, Bishop Paul recognised their often unseen work, saying: “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, three of the volunteers shared their experiences, including Deborah Hodge from St Brandon’s, Brancepeth, who was re-commissioned during the service. She said: “Although we deal so often with suffering, sickness and death, I really love this work and find it very rewarding.”
A recurring theme in the stories was the sense of APA’s growing in skills and confidence throughout their training and practice, equipping them to support people in the local community.
Elizabeth Slowther, from Washington, also re-commissioned at the service, said: “People who are in training are often already engaged in pastoral ministry and the course offers a way to develop and build on that experience.”
The service was accompanied by a scrapbook of reflections from the APA’s being commissioned, one of which from Alison Swarbrick from St Nicholas Church Durham said: “Within the parish I lend a hand to a variety of situations from new mums, hospital visits, carer support and just occasionally very deep listening at a time of crisis.”
Anyone interested in exploring becoming an APA should contact Pamela Wilson on 0191 374 6024 or email@example.com.
Those newly commissioned:
Helen Bartlett Durham, St Giles and Shadforth and Sherburn
Jayne Davies Preston on Tees
Jennifer Meadows Longnewton
Ann Panton Tudhoe
Panny Pighills Upper Skerne Team Ministry
Marian Scott Bishopwearmouth, St Gabriel
Alison Swarbrick Durham, St Nicholas
Chris Vass Preston on Tees
Malhalha Wachepa Stockton on Tees, St Thomas
Those newly re-commissioned:
Pat Fisher Chester le Street
Deborah Hodge Brancepeth
Pam Lovelass Great Aycliffe
Maria Turner High Spen and Rowlands Gill