Interview

Community Cares

Q & A with Shane Stanford

by Shane Stanford

You’ve had a lifelong experience of looking at caregiving from every angle. How has your health journey influenced your pastoral journey?

The more we are in relationship with God, the more the divine affects our humanity. We think differently. We speak differently. We find different values. Faith becomes a fundamental system to understand the framework of who we are and what we’ve been called to do. It also changes how we relate to other people—how we are in community with others and how we’re ready for a conversation about who we are in caring for one another.

Giving and receiving care can be fraught with doubt, even for people of faith. How do you respond to that dilemma?

My grandfather used to say that love and hate are two sides of the same coin, but you’re not in trouble until you throw the coin away. A person experiencing faith has pushed doubt far enough away for a time to believe that what’s on one side of the coin is more important than the other. This doesn’t mean the coin will never turn to the other side. Doubt creeps up as a reminder that we’re human and we don’t know everything, but we’re dealing in issues of faith and we’re getting there most of the time. On the other side of fear is hope, and that is the land where God means for us to live in health and well-being.

How does your new book with Dr. Scott Morris, If Your Heart Is Like My Heart, address themes of caregiving?

After I came to Memphis, I began to see that while my story and context were well received, they were also part of a bigger narrative. Church Health helped me see that. The main theme was not only about what God was doing in my life, but the experience of faithfully participating in the journeys of others. Congregations sometimes need to get new glasses. We need to broaden the nature of relationships in our lives and community. Getting involved with issues of caregiving for others will show us things we might never see if we remain insulated in familiar surroundings. Understanding other perspectives will go a long way toward building a coalition of support for meeting caregiving needs in the community.

It’s been important to you to help people in your congregation get involved with the well-being of others in the wider community. How can this be applied to caregiving issues?

Sometimes we make the question more complicated than it needs to be. It helps to have names and faces in front of us. How can we help Joe and Betty, who are in our congregation, be healthier so that they can go into the community and help it to be healthier? People get hemmed in by their own circumstances, and this leads to isolation that both robs us of our sense of dignity and leaves us needlessly isolated. Our paths intersect with people who need to hear about hope and good news. No one should have to feel alone. People in churches are no closer to perfection than anyone else, but they do have the opportunity to choose to make relationships less distant. Intentionally pursuing personal connections brings the human factor back into caregiving.

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