Sarah Bradley
Sarah Bradley 2023


I’ve often been asked this, especially by those new to the church or unfamiliar with this slightly ‘church jargon’ term.  In my role as Church administrator, the task falls to me to ask people’s permission to contact them if any pastoral concerns arise.  I am often looked at slightly suspiciously and quickly told that they have no need of anything like that thank you very much.  It turns out that this is a term that can raise images of herding sheep in quite a forceful and coercive way (think sheep dog nipping at your heels), rather than the image of Christians caring for each other and looking after each other as a loving shepherd would!  Others have an image of pastoral care as something the church leadership do when someone is in crisis.

And yet, pastoral care is pivotal to the church and definitely not just a nice added extra for some people in the church who are ‘into that sort of thing’. 

John 13 v 34 gives us one of our most important instructions as children of God

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

Here at Portswood, we try to live this out practically in a variety of ways from providing meals on wheels to new parents for a couple of weeks during those difficult often sleepless first weeks, to helping with shopping for those needing to isolate due to Covid 19, to picking up prescriptions.  During the pandemic we have made sure that those most isolated have been ‘buddied’ with someone else within the church to make sure that we can all stay connected and cared for.

In the past we’ve even had painting parties; when a couple moved into a house in desperate need of decorating, they called upon their home group to come and pitch in for the day.

More recently, a number of people in the community have taken part in ‘Easter blessings’.  Acknowledging how very difficult the first few months of this year had been particularly for families juggling home schooling with working, Suzanne (our Children’s Ministry team leader), arranged for a number of people to bake cakes and biscuits for all of the families in the fellowship and drop them around with an encouraging note.  As one of the recipients myself, I can vouch for how much my family appreciated the thought, love and prayers sent with this simple gift.

At the same time, some of the Oasis ladies organised deliveries of cake to the older folk in our community, making sure they know that whilst not seen as often, they are very much loved, missed and are being prayed for.

Practical gestures of love are just one of the ways in which we show care and love to each other. It happens in such a variety of ways - through our home groups & other small groups, networks and friendship groups. We strive to build up the fellowship, caring for one another in our day to day lives, offering support, prayer, guidance as well as practical help where needed.

Prayer is key to all of this and we very much value our ‘prayer warriors’ who cover all of our activities in prayer both when we run specific activities as well as throughout the week.

This is the loving community that God calls us to be and the amazing thing is that this isn’t a closed clique but a community of God’s people who are connected across our city, across our country and across the world.   A community with open doors for anyone who wants to join or find out more.

Do we always get it right?  No!  But we strive to with God’s strength.  If you’d like to learn more about what it means to be in a community like this, then why not get in touch, come along to Church on the forecourt every Sunday at 10am or try one of our Alpha online courses?  We’d love to meet you!

Sarah Bradley