by Julie Ruchniewicz, BSN, RN, HMA Executive Director

Back in March when it became painfully evident that life was going to be different from now on, there was much brainstorming. I knew that my ministry was going to have to adapt quickly. The Buddy System was created and put in to place. We thought of all the people in our congregation that are vulnerable, for a variety of reasons, and paired them up with other members of our church. They would become buddies and help us to stay connected with them and help each other at the same time. I talked to some of our beloved congregants about how the Buddy System was working and this is what I heard.

“The Buddy System is a treasure.”

“Knowing that you’re in someone’s thoughts and prayers is most comforting and you know you’re not alone.”

“Our phone calls go well and we talk to folks that we wouldn’t normally call, so that has turned out well. I was able to inform a member about the weekly church service online.”

“I have a lovely woman that calls me weekly. I really look forward to hearing from her and sharing how I am and my prayer requests. We have known each other for years, but this has given us an opportunity to become good friends. It is very helpful to keep the larger church in the loop of how I am doing.”

“I have never met the wonderful person that calls me, I cannot wait until the day we can get together in person.”

“It has been very encouraging to know someone cares and is checking in to make certain all is well since we can’t be in church together.”

“I have two women whom I call each week. I’ve known both for many years, but I didn’t know either one well. It’s been a joy for me to call them and catch up on what they’ve been doing during this unusual time. I think they’ve cheered me up more than I’ve cheered them, I think many times when we minister, in the name of Christ, to another, we’re the ones ministered to and that’s been my experience with these two women.”

“I’m so glad our church is reaching out to others during a time when each one of us feels disconnected at some point. This is a meaningful way to remind us that we are, indeed connected.”

“Let me tell you about our church buddies, official and otherwise. The phone calls are such a lift. We have known our buddies for years, but with both of us in isolation I found that we both came to know each other in a new way.”

“Even in our isolation, we feel so connected.”

After my sister in law passed away in May, we received so many cards in the mail. We have a bay window, in our home, and as each card was delivered, we read it and placed it in the window. It brought such comfort to see the collage of colors on the front of the cards and the compassionate words that lived on the inside. As the window filled up, so did our sense of comfort that all these loved ones and friends had thought of us.

It was decided, a team of volunteers could send out cards to others in the church. It would be a simple way to stay connected and provide reassurance that you were thought of that day. I know that a number of creative people were already sending cards to our most vulnerable, but this project was meant to reach out to more of our congregants, especially during the quarantine. I talked to some of those who are receiving cards and this is what they shared.

“I have received a couple of cards and they have been lovely, on the last one they wrote out the complete blessing from the Book of Numbers.”

“We have enjoyed receiving the notes and the pictures are so beautiful that I keep them out where we can see them each day.”

“I feel good about sending out cards because on the receiving end of cheerful cards will be a blessing and a feeling of encouragement, knowing they are not forgotten.”

“I have received two handwritten notecards from a deacon whom I do not know, she has been very thoughtful to send these notes and these days to receive a handwritten note is quite special.”

“I’ve begun a collection of cards displayed over my fireplace.”

“I so appreciate getting cards from my wonderful friends at First Presbyterian Church of Evanston.”

“The card ministry has been a wonderful encouragement to me. It’s encouraging to receive cards telling me that folks are praying for me. I covet prayer very much because I know that my life is in God’s hands and it is he alone who can heal me. I have even received cards from strangers who ae a part of the card ministry and that touches my heart.”

“I cannot wait to meet my new card friend in person.”

“I am so grateful for the cards that have arrived at our home in the past few months from our church family. They are cheerfully written and it is nice to be remembered during troubling times. What is so neat is that we received several cards from young people who said we are praying for you and included an appropriate scripture passage.”

I believe we will all be back together in our churches to worship and serve. However, now is the time to maintain our hope and think creatively on how we can all stay connected during these ever-changing times. Let’s help each other!

The future is uncertain…but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity. 
Ilya Prigogine (a Belgian chemist who won the Nobel prize in 1977)