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Listening for the Soul: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction

Author: 
Jean Stairs (Author)
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Description

This book explores the relationship between the practices of pastoral care and the practices of spiritual direction with the aim of enabling pastoral caregivers to draw upon the guiding principles, resources and techniques of spiritual direction within the Christian tradition. With an emphasis on both "practice" and "presence," the book reclaims the tradition of "soul care" for the pastoral ministry, thereby complementing the medical, or crisis intervention, model of pastoral care with a wellness/growth model of pastoral care.

Listening for the Soul:
  • Challenges clergy to take seriously the relationship between pastoral care and spiritual direction.
  • Integrates theological and psychological insights with issues of spiritual life and formation.
  • Includes a chapter on the spiritual formation of children.
  • Provides practical guidance for integrating spiritual direction with pastoral care.
  • Tends to the pastoral caregivers own needs for spiritual deepening
  • Includes reflection questions and case studies to enable the text to function on both the individual reader and classroom levels.
ISBN: 
9780800632397
Price: 
$25.00
Release date: 
August 21, 2000
Pages: 
222
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Appendix

Appendix Two

[CT]Three Congregational Stories

[epi]
If my people who are called by my name
humble themselves,
pray,
seek my face,
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Now my eyes will be open
and my ears attentive
to the prayer that is made in this place.
For now I have chosen and consecrated this house
so that my name may be there forever;
my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

(2 Chronicles 7:14-16)

This book extends an invitation to congregations to practice soulful pastoral care so that individuals and communities can live authentically in full companionship with God. But the final shape, substance, and character of soulful pastoral care can only be discerned in relationship to the particular context of a faith community. Soulful pastoral care has common and recognizable features, yet it will be practiced in the light of the distinctive needs, vision, and available resources of local faith communities.

For this reason, the actual experiences with spiritual development of three different Protestant congregations are helpful starting points for formulating a vision of soulful pastoral care.¡ In our search for soulful pastoral care, it is important to take a close look at the experiences of actual congregations who are being intentional in this regard. In many respects, these three congregations can be described as ordinary, and each of them is a work in progress. Like most congregations, they struggle to discern their mission and ministry and to identify how they can most effectively provide pastoral care that listens for the souls of individuals and faith communities. None would claim to have the best or only solution for responding to the widespread yearning for personal and communal spiritual renewal. None would describe themselves as having set out to develop and test a model for linking pastoral care and spiritual direction, yet each distinctly journeys toward a complementary relationship and does so in ways that are unique to the situations. All would say that they are learning as they go and that their efforts are subject to review, modification, and expansion.

It is not my intention to present these particular congregations as ideal models for soulful pastoral care. Rather, I present them as differing but authentic examples of congregations that are intentionally enhancing their approach to the soul. Each approach has merit, credibility, and strength, as well as distinct challenges and opportunities. We can listen for the soul of each congregation, consider particular models and methods for practicing soulful pastoral care, and discern what may be transferable to congregations with which we are more familiar. These stories offer inspiration and invoke respect for their communal spiritualities of perseverance, daring hope, vulnerability, and faithful risk. Common to all three is their contagious enthusiasm as they aspire to be hospitable environments for the many souls who yearn to find and connect with God.

Christ Church Cathedral (Vancouver, British Columbia) is the cathedral church of the Diocese of New Westminster, The Anglican Church of Canada. Housed within and accountable to Christ Church Cathedral is The Cathedral Centre for Spiritual Direction. Christ/Crossman United Methodist Church (Falls Church, V.I.) is the result of a merger of two United Methodist congregations. Throughout the amalgamation process, it demonstrated a strong commitment to the spiritual development of its members and to being intentional about spiritual discernment for its new mission and ministry. Harcourt Memorial United Church (Guelph, Ontario) is a congregation of the United Church of Canada. Over two decades, it focused deliberately and by various means on the development of spirituality within the congregation. It also developed a ministry called the Spiritual Companionship Program and commissioned two members from the congregation as spiritual directors.

[A]Christ Church Cathedral: An Organizational/Professional Model

[B]The Genesis of the Model

The motto of Christ Church Cathedral best describes their primary spiritual objective: "For the Soul of the City." The cathedral is publicly identified as "a house of prayer and a symbol of hope." A recent readers' choice publication honored it as the "best place in Vancouver to experience worship and the presence of God." The cathedral, declared a heritage site in 1974, is the city's oldest surviving church building (since 1889) and is both a parish church and the cathedral church of the Diocese. Once surrounded by private homes and some stores, today it stands as a symbolic contradiction to the homeless, the high-rise condominiums and apartments, and the soaring towers owned or leased by corporate businesses and banks.

The cathedral is home to an active worship community that also gathers for study, prayer, healing ministries, and various expressions of service. Through all of its ministries, it aims to serve the spiritual and support needs of both parishioners and the surrounding community, including the homeless. Public worship takes place on weekdays, evenings, and on Sundays which include Holy Eucharist, Choral Eucharist, Compline (Gregorian chant), and Evensong. The cathedral is open at all times during the day for meditation and prayer and church members are present to answer queries and guide persons accordingly. Following the tradition for cathedrals, it is also a diocesan center, a civic center, and a place to celebrate and promote the arts, music, and learning. It boasts an extensive music program and its choral groups have been heard on local and national radio broadcasts.

In June 1993, a conversation began that led to the genesis of the Cathedral Centre for Spiritual Direction. The Very Reverend Michael Ingham (then dean and rector of the cathedral), Ms. Shiella Fodchuk, and Dr. Bonnelle Strickling (members of the cathedral) began to talk about a vision they held in common for providing a safe place for people to explore their spiritual lives. Following several lengthy conversations, they tested their inspiration within the congregation and the diocese. The church committee agreed to form a board of directors for a Cathedral Centre for Spiritual Direction (hereinafter CCSD) with accountability and linkages to the church committee. The dean became president of the board of directors, Shiella Fodchuk was named executive director of the CCSD, with reporting accountability to the board and the church committee, and Bonnelle Strickling became the senior spiritual director. The CCSD was established as a non-profit, charitable organization located within the cathedral building.

Although the diocese views the CCSD as a diocesan ministry and resource, in fact the center makes its ministry of spiritual direction and counseling available and accessible to members of the wider Christian community and to all people in the Vancouver area. It is the center's stated aim to provide "a safe and open context for individuals, within the Church or without, in the process of spiritual questioning or awakening, or spiritual formation, to grow spiritually and to develop their own authentic relationship to religious tradition and to the divine." The spiritual direction relationship is normally understood as a long-term one in which there is time for the person to grow spiritually within a confidential relationship and a private setting. The center charges a fee for services on a sliding scale according to the ability to pay, and donations to the center enable the provision of some fee subsidies.

In addition to spiritual direction, the center staff and cathedral priests provide education about the spiritual life by various means ranging from credit courses at local theological schools to various retreats, seminars and lecture series. CCSD staff also provides training and supervision to interns in the field of spiritual direction and peer consultation to other spiritual directors. There are plans to add a part-time psychologist. Currently Shiella and Bonnelle are the two salaried spiritual directors who provide individual spiritual direction and counseling. Both are registered clinical counselors and members of local and international associations of spiritual directors. Between them, they hold certificates and post-graduate degrees in the areas of the arts, religious studies, philosophy, and spiritual direction, with emphases upon counseling and psychology. They continue to share and develop their work by conducting research, granting media interviews, and presenting articles or lectures to local associations of clinical counselors, therapists, academic societies, and spiritual directors. The bishop has licensed the center's executive director to practice spiritual direction and ministry within the CCSD and the cathedral. Within the cathedral, the executive director assumes regular liturgical responsibilities, including occasional preaching.

The CCSD is a highly structured, professional, accredited, and accountable ministry of spiritual direction. It operates with a clear set of ethical guidelines and subjects itself to periodic objective, professional, and external review. CCSD staff uses an intake interview form to assess suitability for spiritual direction and counseling and whether referral is necessary. Following each session, a staff member fills out a spiritual direction session report as a means of record-keeping, session reflection, and ongoing assessment. They hold weekly confidential two-hour case conferences to enable staff members to examine their ministry with spiritual directees, increase their effectiveness, and benefit from peer support and review. The CCSD maintains insurance under a combination of secular and ecclesiastical policies that cover the staff as counselors and supervisors, directors of the governing board, and general office liability and contents. A grievance board with policies and procedures has been established for clients who wish to register informal or formal complaints.

Although center staff remains in the cathedral congregation as active parishioners, they have chosen to restrict their involvement to avoid dual relationships and to protect the professional and confidential nature of the relationships formed with congregational members seeking spiritual direction. Each staff person has an ongoing relationship with a spiritual director from another locale, and these relationships are a positive means for diminishing potential difficulties that may arise from the plurality of roles they hold within the parish community. CCSD staff members have willingly accepted the loss of more personal relationships within the faith community in favor of ensuring their full availability to church members seeking spiritual direction. Aiming for high standards of respect is an enabling factor in the center's provision of spiritual direction.

[B]Opportunities and Challenges of the Model

The cathedral uses an organizational/professional model as a means to move toward soulful pastoral care. There are several significant opportunities and challenges presented by such a model. Because the center is publicly identified with the cathedral and is housed within the cathedral building, it maintains both a real and symbolic connection to the church. Pastoral care is integrally connected to a specific congregation and to the wider church through financial sponsorship, governance, and public relations, yet it is also positioned to offer care at arm's length from the church through its non-profit, charitable, and professional structure. The distinct opportunity here is that the model provides a means for the church to deal with people whose relationship with the church has been damaged or who feel marginalized from the church. The CCSD serves as a safe entry for those who left the church in a wounded state and have been unable to find their way back into the church or to an authentic spiritual life that enables them to connect with God.

While it is certainly not the center's purpose to produce more faithful church members, the search for authentic spirituality may well lead individuals to a deeper understanding of community and cause them to reflect on the creative, even sacred, tension generated by the human desires for spiritual authenticity and inclusion. Because the CCSD provides a safe context for marginalized persons to take their sorrow, rage, conflict, and critique, it serves as a bridge that enables individuals to cross over to a restored and authentic relationship with a faith community. The process of spiritual direction may well result in persons working through their negative experiences of the church and becoming "creative irritants" as they participate in restorative acts - now able to demand justice and seek change in the life of the church.

Another opportunity provided by this particular model is in the interface generated between spirituality and psychology. Staff members can draw upon therapeutic expertise and skills even as they maintain their primary focus on spiritual direction. This may lead to some overlap in function, but generally the psychological realm remains a resource for the primary spiritual direction process. For example, the spiritual director may draw upon psychological skills in making an assessment for service. A spiritual directee may reveal ambivalent feelings about God and may view the church as highly moralistic and judgmental. The spiritual director may recognize that such a conclusion presents obstacles to prayer and to a deeper relationship with God. If God is perceived as a punitive or abusing figure because of past experiences with an abusive parent, a staff member may make an appropriate and necessary referral to a family therapist to deal first with past relational dynamics. Or it may be that the act of simply naming the correlation may be sufficiently freeing to continue spiritual direction. Someone may also choose to see a spiritual director and a therapist concurrently, experiencing the differing processes as beneficial both to spiritual and psychological growth.

A clear guideline maintained by the CCSD in determining whether a person is ready and suitable for spiritual direction is that presenting issues need to reflect existential issues about the person's relationship with God. It is true that someone may not always identify concerns as spiritual. A person may have questions about drafting a living will or selling a house in preparation for moving into a care facility. Yet it is possible that such apparently practical questions may disguise a deeper spiritual search. Though lacking a spiritual language to describe these struggles, an individual may truly want to develop their trust in God and a readiness to die in the presence of God.

The presence of the center within the cathedral leads to several opportunities and challenges for the cathedral itself. At a basic level, cathedral ministry staff or lay pastoral caregivers can refer parishioners on a regular basis to the center and thus adjust the pressing pastoral commitments accordingly. The Cathedral publicly identifies its pastoral care ministry as including "counseling and visitation, sacramental rites, healing prayers, and spiritual direction through the Centre for Spiritual Direction." Congregational members referred to the center for spiritual direction may discover dimensions of themselves that were hidden for a long time. Individuals who develop a greater authenticity in God will have a notable impact on the congregation.

On another level, the presence of the center in the cathedral emphatically highlights spirituality and thus brings it into the focus, mission, and everyday life of the congregation. The interconnectedness of the CCSD and the cathedral has helped the cathedral to clarify that the preaching, liturgical, pastoral, and mission priorities in the church aim to take the life of prayer seriously and are designed to help people find soul in all of its personal and communal dimensions. In striking contrast to the city's messages of "retail, tourism, industry, competition, and capitalism," the cathedral has the opportunity to claim a role in helping people "get in touch with the true and living God so that all being and doing is shaped by being in touch with God at the deepest levels of being."

Not long ago, the cathedral's church committee formally agreed to disband all other church committees in favor of the establishment of small groups that focus on the spiritual life and ministry in the world, home, and places of influence. The development of grassroots projects in the cathedral and community-centered ministry and mission has been an obvious outcome of these small groups. The pastoral care emphasis that has developed on healing ministry and healing prayers is a clear example of the cathedral's efforts to embody the traditions of Christian spirituality. The healing ministry is based on the understanding that "all human beings have brokenness in their lives and are called toward healing the divisions of the world in themselves and others through meeting God within." Not only does the cathedral offer midweek healing services, but trained lay teams also offer individual prayers for healing (as an option for those who request them) during the weekly Eucharist. This healing ministry is a direct outcome of the cathedral's intentional focus in its pastoral care on listening "for the soul in the city."

The systemic linkages of the ministry staff of the cathedral and the ministry staff of the CCSD unquestionably lead to greater opportunities for ministry and a vibrant interdependence that is mutually beneficial. The presence, mission, and expertise of the center aid the cathedral's pastoral and educational program developments in spirituality. Similarly, the center benefits from the built-in support, resourcefulness, and capabilities of cathedral staff and laity. The interdependent nature of the relationships contributes to the prevention of lay leadership and ministry staff burnout and increases the overall potential to respond creatively to spiritual needs and congregational objectives. The leadership, energy, and vision exist for promoting, planning, and executing spirituality events, congregational quiet days, small group ministries, workshops, study events, and retreats. Satellite centers of the CCSD, located in other city churches, are now being considered as part of the CCSD's long-range visioning process.

An organizational/professional model also contains many challenges. An obvious one is that such a model runs the risk of identifying pastoral care as a "professional business" that severely restricts accessibility to soulful pastoral care. Access can be restricted in several ways. First, because spiritual direction and counseling is available only at an additional cost to the parishioner or spiritual seeker, many simply may not view it as an option. Second, clergy themselves may become less inclined to spend individual time with spiritually seeking persons. Either by default or intent, the danger is that pastoral care can be too easily relinquished to the professional form of spiritual direction, which not everyone will prefer. Third, as this model is presently defined, children are excluded. The model reflects a bias toward self-initiating individuals and financially resourceful adults.

Besides the accessibility factor, other challenges are evident in this model. Preferential time and energy is clearly allocated to the spiritual development of individuals rather than communities. Although the CCSD does offer some education about spirituality that brings disparate groups of people together, the orientation is less communal and more individual. Also, staff composition is an important factor that can present both opportunity and challenge for any organizational/professional model. In this case, both salaried spiritual directors are female. Consequently, the nature of the spiritual direction offered, and its appeal, may be limited by the lack of gender equity on the center staff. Obviously, the relative effectiveness of such a model will be largely dependent on its leadership and the particular competencies, personalities, and availabilities represented.

As mentioned previously, the intentional integration of spiritual and psychological approaches is an opportune way to move toward soulful pastoral care. However, the opportunity presented by such an integrative approach equally becomes a challenge. In this case, the interface of spiritual and psychological approaches can be solely attributed to the particular combination of educational backgrounds and training achieved by the center staff. Until more interdisciplinary trust and understanding is developed at a broader societal level, and multidiscipline educational programs are created and undertaken, such leadership in the church will be rare.

[B]Evaluating the Model
Ultimately, in evaluating whether an organizational/professional model moves a congregation toward the provision of soulful pastoral care, we need to keep in mind some implementation factors. These may determine how and/or if such a model is transferable to other congregational contexts. Clearly, a model such as this requires an intentional, long-term commitment of time (at least ten years) and resources (human and fiscal) from the congregation and its leadership. Even more critical is the development of a common set of core beliefs to undergird the formation of a spirituality center. Will spirituality be understood within a Christian framework or a multifaith context? Will spirituality be viewed as an individual or communal enterprise? Will the primary focus be on spiritual care, psychological counseling, or an integration of both? The core beliefs will determine the goals and objectives of such a center for spiritual direction. In this case, the CCSD was founded on the assumption that the spiritual nurture of individuals will transfer over to the whole life of a church. Over time this assumption may be tested, but like most matters of the spirit, the winds of influence may blow in mysterious and immeasurable ways.

It remains to be seen whether all of this energy has positively and irrevocably transformed the soul of the cathedral, and if it will persist should it happen to face an unexpected shift in ministry staff. In its early years of existence, it was not yet possible to ascertain all the ways it might have a broader impact on other churches, clergy, denominations, local theological schools, the immediate church neighborhood, and the surrounding city and region. Nevertheless, the cathedral merits commendation for responding to the gifts for spiritual development ministry that have emerged from within. The cathedral remains uniquely positioned to be an invaluable resource for people taking the spiritual path.

[A]Christ/Crossman United Methodist Church: A Community Development Model

[B]The Genesis of the Model
Lutheran pastor Timothy Kuenzli once gave a prescription for what he called the "fatigue trap" leading to pastoral burnout: "Clergy must take good spiritual care of themselves and help find ways for their people to take care of each other." In many ways, this prescription began the journey toward soulful pastoral care at Christ/Crossman United Methodist Church (hereinafter CCUMC) which is in suburban Falls Church, Virginia, within commuting range of Washington, D.C. While many factors contributed to congregational transformation, the minister's own spiritual life and development provided significant impetus for the spiritual renewal of the congregation.

Soon after the 1990 arrival of the Reverend Doctor James "Jim" Melson as pastor of the Crossman UMC, Jim discerned that a long-term leadership commitment was required. Little did he know that this commitment would lead him to become the first minister of CCUMC, a congregation birthed from the amalgamation of two United Methodist congregations on June 29, 1997. To sustain himself spiritually in a longer pastorate, Jim made a personal commitment to deepen his own spiritual life by participating in some educational courses on servant-leadership, sponsored by the Church of the Savior, Washington, D.C. These courses led Jim into deeper awareness of his own spiritual life and strengthened his disciplines of prayer, meditation, and devotional reading. For him, these became increasingly and integrally connected to worship, responsiveness to the claims of the poor, and a compassionate sharing of his resources and livelihood.

That the Church of the Savior significantly influenced Jim's self-understanding and style of ministry is reflected in the way spiritual development has happened at CCUMC. The congregation demonstrates a high degree of intentionality in all their processes, decisions, and actions. Correlating inward spiritual practices with outward expressions of compassionate service is an important touchstone for the congregation and its minister when assessing the church's spiritual health. Although most members of CCUMC are middle-class, their commitment to society's marginalized persons is clearly apparent in their faith and practice.

Further reflecting the Church of the Savior influence, and mindful of their Methodist heritage, the congregation is comfortable using religious language that includes such terms as call, commitment, discipleship, stewardship, discernment, and service. The church's mission statement expresses CCUMC's intent "to help people experience a vital relationship with God by providing a community in which (1) all people are welcomed, accepted, and loved; (2) people are invited, encouraged, and challenged to grow in Christian faith; (3) people openly express the love of Jesus Christ through the sharing of faith, gifts, and resources in service to others." This stated mission's dominant assumption is that when people experience a vital relationship with God, they provide a community in which people take care of each other and reach out in loving and compassionate service to others.

At CCUMC, the integration of pastoral care and spiritual direction occurs through a community development model. Pastoral care attends to the soul by helping people experience a community where God is present and known. As with any congregation, there are pastoral circumstances, such as bereavement or hospitalization, that require individual attention from the pastor and church members. But at CCUMC, primary attention is given to small groups, the core leadership, and communal processes in order to foster relationships with God and to listen for the presence and voice of God. Whenever "two or three are gathered," or the entire community assembles, people are invited to notice that God is there and to discern whom God is calling them to be and what commitment God is asking them to make. It is by the fruits that emerge from CCUMC's spirit that an assessment can be made as to whether souls have been nurtured. As one church member put it: "If there is a congruence between inner growth and outer expression in ministry that is other-centered, then our church is spiritually alive."

This inner and outer development of spiritual lives and the fostering of community has been addressed by several intentional actions which are most clearly highlighted and emphasized in the amalgamation process. A mile away from Crossman UMC stood Christ UMC. For Christ UMC, changing neighborhood demographics, a declining membership, and a tightening financial situation prompted discussions with their neighboring congregation, Crossman UMC. The potential for a merger grew and the negotiations increasingly required more detailed investigation and planning in order to develop a merger proposal. Each congregation was simultaneously invited into a process of spiritual discernment and prayer. A transition team, including clergy and lay representatives from each congregation, met regularly during the year prior to the merger. The responsibilities of the transition team included paying attention to the spiritual/pastoral needs that would emerge over the course of the year and responding compassionately to the issues of change, loss, and grief that would inevitably arise. The congregations were living out the spiritual rhythm of death and resurrection. Each church was experiencing the death of multiple facets of its ministry and each was being invited to listen for what was dying and to discern signs of life emerging in what was to become a new faith community.

Throughout the merger year, the two churches' clergy exchanged pulpits and provided leadership to adult education classes in the other congregation. The congregations worshipped together occasionally and were invited to hold each other in prayer and to be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Members from each church were given names of individuals, including children and teens, from the other congregation. They were invited to get to know these persons and to pray for them during the merger discussions and the decision-making year. The clergy from both congregations were invited to reflect with their district supervisor on their call to ministry and to discern the ways God was beckoning forth their gifts during the merger and beyond. It was clearly communicated and experienced that the merger was not merely an exercise in survival or an organizational process; it was an invitation to embark upon a spiritual journey.

The report submitted by the transition team and the governing bodies of the two churches testified that they were shaping a new faith community and were paying attention to the spiritual life and witness of that community. Setting their development in the context of their scriptural heritage, the writers of the report invited the community to prayer and discernment:

[ext]
. . . God calls people to move out and follow God's direction into a future that appears to be uncertain and uncomfortable. Yet the journey becomes the way to blessing because God provides what we truly need-God's presence and promises. Remember just a few of those who journeyed with God in Scripture-Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Peter, Paul. When God became a person in Jesus Christ, he invited people to follow him . . . Each and every person who believes in God as revealed in Scripture is on a journey of faith with God and the people of God . . . The people of Christ and Crossman United Methodist churches are at a special place in our journey with God. Through prayer and discernment, we believe that God is calling us to follow in a direction which is new for us . . . May we begin this new stage of our journey by recommitting ourselves as individuals and as a church to being open to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. This is the way of blessing. This is the way of life.

Not long after the merger, the newly elected leadership (a mix of Crossman and Christ Church representatives) and their newly called pastor (Jim Melson) went on a retreat together to deepen their sense of being a new faith community and to begin the process of moving from an inward focus to an outward one. Led by an external facilitator and a church consultant, they set guidelines for the financial resources brought to the merger by the Christ Church. The focal question for this phase of the process was a spiritual one: "What mission is God calling us to now?" By framing the question as a spiritual matter for discernment, the newly merged congregation intentionally sought to move from a stance of institutional survival to mission development.

Money, and its use, was defined as a communal spiritual matter. The leadership understood regular church giving and tithing to be a spiritual discipline and determined that money from the sale of the Christ Church facility and property was not to be used for the regular operating budget, but was to be directed toward mission and ministry development. The congregational guidelines that emerged were based on a comprehensive decision to invest the money and apply its accrued interest for ministry development as follows: 50% allocated to new ministries connected to the church and determined in response to a communal discernment process; 30% to mission-related projects that connect the congregation to local, national, or global needs; and 20% for capital improvement projects that would strengthen the Crossman facility for ministry. These guidelines demonstrate the spiritual development that was taking place and contributing to the shaping of a new faith community. Members were cultivating their relationship with God, praying that God would make them truly alive and reveal direction for their journey, and discovering that to be truly alive meant giving so that they would have enough while also sharing their abundance. The congregation's inward spiritual journey was equally reflected in its commitment to an outward journey. One made the other possible.

This process of spiritual discernment continued into the winter months following the merger and the leadership retreat. With the assistance of the same external church consultant, they planned a congregational event to determine specific areas for ministry and mission development. As preparation for the event, they distributed a congregational survey to help identify possible areas of involvement. To assist in completing the survey, a small group of laity prepared and distributed a Lenten prayer and devotional guide to the entire congregation. People were invited to "ask God about the unfolding work in our personal and community lives," which again reinforced that the congregation was involved in far more than organizational reconstruction. In fact, it was participating in the formation of a vital relationship with God that contributed to the spiritual development of community.

The survey results revealed four potential ministries that were subsequently highlighted in a consciousness-raising mission fair held following a Sunday morning worship service: (1) ministries with mentally challenged persons; (2) local ecumenical ministry projects; (3) short-term volunteering for international denominational mission projects; and (4) inner-city ministries associated with established programs in Washington, D.C. At the congregational event, the central question posed was, "Who feels called to ministry in this area?" This question reveals that the congregation was engaged in spiritual discernment. People were given the opportunity to identify their own gifts for ministry and to determine where their interests were best matched and where they felt energy for mission could be generated. They were invited to make a commitment to one of the four areas for ministry and to follow-up in ways that would establish a spirit of cooperation among the four ministries. Fostering a congregational spirit of commitment and prayerful support for all of the ministries was an important part of the process.

[B]Opportunities and Challenges of the Model
What is so hopeful about this community development model is the opportunity it presents to identify boldly pastoral care as spiritual ministry that belongs to, and addresses, the whole people of God. The community development model can be viewed as broadly inclusive in that it has the opportunity to appeal to all ages and has the potential to address all sorts and circumstances. Caring for one another means caring about shaping a community that is alive in the Spirit and constantly discerning the presence, voice, movement, and invitations of God to be blessed and to join hands and hearts together to bless the world. To quote one church member: "If God resides among us, stuff will happen."

Undoubtedly, in the case of CCUMC, the capacity to envision ministry and respond in compassionate service was strengthened by the significant financial resources and increase in church membership and lay leadership that occurred as a result of amalgamation. CCUMC may be unique in this regard, but the process it has used to move toward communal spiritual development need not be. The process reflected in this model is generally transferable to other faith communities. A spiritually healthy faith community where people readily sense and acclaim that "God is here" is a community where people will repeatedly experience the invitation to find, know, and respond to the abundance of God. That abundance need not be tied to money. It can be connected to processes that foster a deeper listening for the beckoning voice of God. As souls are attended to and emphasis is consistently placed on listening for God, the soul of a faith community is on the way to becoming ever more compassionate, other-centered and hospitable.

The communal focus of this model is its strength and it holds great promise for the future, but several challenges also exist in this approach toward a soulful pastoral care. Apparently, the language of call, prayer, and spiritual discernment is well suited to the denominational context of United Methodism. It is advantageous to spiritual development in this context because the language connects with the historical and cultural experience of the people. This may not be the case in other Protestant faith communities and the question of "what language shall we borrow" will need to be seriously asked and answered. What ought not to be compromised in the process is the foundational concept of commitment or intentionality as a way to nurture a vital spiritual existence. At a basic level, one cannot be connected to God without a commitment to be in the company of God.

Admittedly, fostering the notion of commitment in this era is somewhat countercultural. The challenge is to be deliberate and to use intentional communal processes that can help us to grow together in the spiritual life. Fostering a self-conscious awareness that belonging to the Church is belonging to a distinct people who are called to be in the world but not of the world will be a difficult piece of the process. It will challenge our best intentions to be relevant and accommodating to the world. It will require of us a willingness to devote concentrated time to those prepared to experience the spiritual journey and to develop practices that nurture it. Developing the awareness in others that their primary life vocation is to be spiritual beings is a critical dimension that needs to be included in a pastoral care aiming to be soulful.

Another challenge of this community development model lies in the fact that, within a faith community, not everyone will choose to participate fully in the processes that lead to the development of community. Some may genuinely want to belong but may lack the will or means to become participatory agents in the development of a community that practices listening for the soul. On the one hand, a core group can serve to lead the way and mirror spiritual vitality for others. On the other hand, the existence of a core group may lead to the development of factions and the perception that some expressions of spirituality are inferior to others. Still others may hang out on the fringes, either because they fear the implications of choosing spiritual vitality or because they harbor a hope that, by lingering on the edge, the vitality will rub off. Developing a spiritual community requires leaders who possess a spirituality that can be sustained in the midst of questions, flack, and fray. Active resistance or indifference inevitably will manifest within a community concerned with growing spiritually. Finding and practicing the ways and means to communicate about the practices and promises we affirm as brothers and sisters together is essential in addressing the challenge of who participates and who is absent from the spiritual work of community development. It is important that we regularly remind (covenant with) one another that prayer, study, worship, tithing, and compassionate service are commitments that enable us to glimpse hope for renewal and the fullness of life.

[B]Evaluating the Model
As a means of moving toward soulful pastoral care, a community development model has the potential to be highly effective. Its effectiveness, however, is contingent upon the quality and constancy of its leadership. As with the previous organizational/professional model, any congregation's best intentions to offer soulful pastoral care are largely dependent upon the openness, commitment, spiritual passion, and competency of its leadership. Selecting a community development model requires either a long-term planting of leadership or growing seeds of dedicated, credible, and informed leadership from within. Such leadership requires people who are willing to share their spiritual lives, to learn continually, and be willing to change and be accountable for the ways they nourish their spiritual lives and engage in ministry. Additionally, it is important to have access to leadership that is trained in the principles and processes of community development, especially collaborative and consensus building efforts.

What distinguishes this model from the previous one is that such leadership need not necessarily be professional or salaried. A community development model can be fully initiated and implemented by church members who hold fast to the vision that commitment to community is a way to be more connected to God. A member of CCUMC described how this spiritual vision motivates spiritual development: "I will be with you and I welcome you to be with me. It is in your being with me that I come to know who I am and who God is. It is in our being together that it is possible to know that God has the power to change both of us and to be at work in us to make a difference in the world."

It is yet to be determined whether this model can resist the typical temptation faced by Protestant congregations. Simultaneously enslaved to the Protestant work ethic and captivated by the desire for spiritual wholeness, congregations can fall into an all too familiar pattern-doing compassionate service in the wider community and world becomes busy work rather than spiritual vocation. To be most effective in its practice of soulful pastoral care, a congregation using this model will want to balance the attention it gives to the church's programmatic outreach ministries and the laity's involvement in their daily work. Helping people relate their spiritual life to everyday life and work is an indispensable dimension of soulful pastoral care.

[A]Harcourt Memorial United Church: A Connection Model (Spiritual Life and Daily Living)

[B]The Genesis of the Model
Situated in a residential district near a major university, Harcourt Memorial United Church (hereinafter HMUC) is well-known for its spiritual orientation and the centrality of its focus on helping persons make connections between the spiritual life and daily living. One may quickly see that there is a sense of spirituality in the congregation and a desire to make faith relevant to life's daily circumstances. As one church member said to me, "Spirituality is a way of life at Harcourt, and anyone who comes here finds that out very quickly."

Worship services are imbued with moments of contemplative silence and various forms of praying. There are monthly services of healing, study groups, spirituality groups (gender-specific and gender-mixed), a prayer circle, two monthly sacred circle dance groups, and several other regular and seasonal programmatic events, including workshops or retreats designed to nurture spiritual development and a life of prayer. Church bulletin boards, newsletters, prayer request forms, devotional booklets (written and assembled by members of the congregation), and meeting agendas all reflect attention to prayer and the spiritual life.

An ethos of hospitality in the church building itself speaks of a spirituality that is prepared to stop, look, notice, listen, and pray for souls that enter there. At the start of any weekday, ministry personnel, student interns, and administrative and janitorial staff can be found in a quiet room, gathered in a circle around a lighted candle, sharing where the presence or absence of God has been noticed in the last twenty-four hours, lifting up pastoral or personal concerns for the day, and praying spontaneously and in silence. Office space, furnishings, hallway and sanctuary murals, and art and decor communicate spiritual themes and disciplines. Glass doors from the church sanctuary lead directly outside to the grass, flower, and herb gardens and the stone paths and sculptured art. In the midst of the garden sits what has become known to some as the prayer bench. Occasionally, someone can be found sitting there in quiet meditation and reflection.

Whether at home or in church, a significant number of church members converse easily, openly, and authentically about what it means for them to relate an inner spiritual life of prayer and devotional disciplines with outward action in their daily lives. In an unsolicited church newsletter article, a lay member voluntarily reflected on the place of prayer during a crisis in his family's life:

[ext]
It was Friday, July 18, 1997 . . . [our son] had been hit by a van and was being taken to [the] Medical Centre by air ambulance . . . Despair settled in that Saturday. We called relatives and friends to let them know what was going on . . . As the days went on, I could hear people in my head. Each was sharing her or his gifts of love and strength and hope with me . . . I knew that no matter what happened, God cared for [my son], for [my wife], and for me . . . I knew that he was giving to us your gifts which you had offered to God on our behalf. Does prayer work? Of course it does.

This kind of reflection on prayer is not at all unusual at HMUC. Rather, such reflection happens naturally and frequently. Many members speak openly about the importance of prayer and see a clear connection between the depth of their faith commitment and their intentional practice of spiritual disciplines.

In seeking to integrate pastoral care and spiritual direction, this church developed a connection model whereby helping individuals connect daily living with the spiritual life is the primary goal for pastoral care. HMUC did not get this way by coincidence, accident, or random acts. In large measure, the spiritual focus of the congregation was a direct result of the congregation's commitment to the long-term ministry of the Reverend John Buttars and the Reverend Jean Wright, each of whom has extensive experience, training, and daily practice in spiritual disciplines and the ministry of spiritual direction. As a ministry team, it is clear that they believe what congregational members most need are real and intimate experiences with God. They do not see themselves as pastoral counselors but as ministers who "dip into the box" of spiritual direction and whose primary concern is for the quality of a person's relationship and prayer with God. As John expressed it, "God has not called me to the work of ministry but to love a particular group of people. I see my call as inviting people into a rhythm of connecting with God, which is a ministry of absence and a ministry of presence."

Church members frequently speak of Jean and John as models for living the spiritual life authentically. Their honesty and vulnerability about the dryness and the richness of their own prayer life with God is an enticement for others to deepen their connection with God. They declare that time for their own spiritual development is important and they plan with the congregation the times that they will each be away for a week of silent retreat. Each of them has a personal spiritual director with whom they meet at least monthly. They are honest about changes they make in their spiritual disciplines and that these are linked to their individual personalities, life issues, and personal growth. As they seek to feed their souls on a daily basis, they continually ask themselves: "What do I need to do to honor the call of God in my life?" The congregation's adjustments to their ministers' respective responsibilities are significant. Each of their job descriptions once placed "spiritual and personal development" at the bottom of the list with only 5 percent of their time allocated to it. Now it is rated as the second highest priority for each minister's time and attention, and in both cases, church administration has moved to the bottom of the list.

A key factor in the development of this congregation's self-declared focus on the spiritual life and prayer is its geographical location. It is extremely fortunate to be in close proximity to Loyola House, The Guelph Centre of Spirituality, which provides for the wider public several experiences based on the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. Among these are traditional and contemporary Ignatian forms of retreats, spiritual direction, and training programs for spiritual directors. Having access to this resource has not only contributed to the personal spiritual development of the Harcourt ministry team, but it has also enabled laypeople from HMUC to receive spiritual direction and to participate in training events to become spiritual directors.

This relationship between Harcourt and Loyola House began in the late seventies and continues into the present. Sometimes the training of Harcourt laity through Loyola House programs happened as a result of direct encouragement from the ministry team. Others registered for events on their own initiative and then shared their experiences with friends at HMUC. Over the years, a number of people have completed the Ignatian Exercises and now act as prayer guides within and outside the congregation. Both the ministry personnel and trained laypeople are now viewed as resources for referral by spiritual directors at Loyola House (and vice versa).

HMUC fosters a relationship with God through prayer by giving spiritual development a high priority in its rhythmic and programmatic congregational life. People are regularly given opportunities to participate in experiences that will stretch the soul and enable a deeper listening for God's presence and movement. Among the many invitations presented to church members over the years, three stand out as intentional means to assist church members in deepening their connection with God and in making connections between their spiritual life and daily life: (1) The Week of Guided Prayer; (2) L.I.F.E. Groups; and (3) The Ministry of Spiritual Companionship.

[C]The Week of Guided Prayer
The Week of Guided Prayer is an annual directed retreat that takes place in the church. In 1983, HMUC held the first congregational retreat; it soon developed into an ecumenical, citywide experience of a week of guided prayer. The ecumenical experience was fully supported by the Church Board and assisted by spiritual directors and staff from Loyola House. The concept of a week of guided prayer is for church members to take a spiritual direction retreat in a local church in the midst of their daily living, their own home, and their working week. A spiritual guide offers a listening ear so that the participant and guide can discern the work of God in the participant's life.

The daily format involves two thirty to forty-five minute periods-one for prayer on scripture and one for receiving spiritual direction. Monday through Friday, participants have the prayer experience at home and come to the church for the session of private prayer direction. Full group sessions are held on the first Sunday for orientation and guidance, and on the following Sunday for appropriating the week's experience and discovering ongoing resources for a life of prayer.

The structure of the week is simple. Trained prayer guides volunteer to work with individuals who have applied, been accepted, and assigned to a particular guide. The prayer material is based on scripture according to a suggested prayer pattern or another pattern that may be helpful. Participants are encouraged to pray the Bible and not merely to read it as an intellectual exercise. The Bible becomes a means for God to speak, and participants are encouraged to listen with their hearts and notice their feelings, thoughts, memories, dreams, and emotional responses to God. Immediately following each prayer session, they are invited to reflect on their prayers, moods, distractions, and patterns, and challenges or themes that may have emerged. The prayer guide listens and helps to sort out questions and concerns, suggesting ways to strengthen the time of prayer. The prayer guides are paired so that they can pray for each other, receive peer support and guidance, and pray together for the participants.

The weekly format can be adapted in several ways. For example, a two-week directed retreat experience can schedule spiritual direction on alternate days with a group activity at the end of the first week. The retreat is inserted into the normal course of weekly events in the life of the church. "Prayer is not so special," commented one of HMUC's ministers, "that you would cancel anything for it." Over time at Harcourt, the average involvement of twenty-five individuals annually (some of whom participate every year) has had an experientially observable affect on the congregation.

[C]L.I.F.E. Groups

In 1995, the ministry team offered five evenings of training sessions for an initial group of eleven. These individuals had responded to an invitation issued to forty church members thought to possess the qualities necessary for small group leadership. After their initial training, these leaders then led a small group experience for eight to ten persons in the congregation who responded to an open invitation to participate in a L.I.F.E. group. The last few sentences of the invitation letter expressed the desire to foster the spirituality of the congregation:

[ext]
We hope that you will consider joining for your own sake but also for the sake of seeing if this is a way that God is calling us to move in Harcourt. When the congregation completed a visioning process a few years ago, both genuine friendship and spiritual development were high on the list of core values. L.I.F.E. groups are an attempt to respond to those stated values in our congregation.

The acronym L.I.F.E. stands for learning, insight, friendship and encouragement. The primary purpose of the L.I.F.E. groups is "to provide an opportunity for spiritual growth, faith development, friendship, mutual support, and encouragement within a small group setting." Each group has its own character and schedule for meeting but maintains four ingredients common to all groups: (1) a check-in time; (2) an opportunity to explore a passage from the Bible in the light of everyday experiences; (3) an opportunity to learn how to pray and to spend time praying; and (4) a time of refreshments. People are guided to pray in ways that express adoration and thanksgiving, seek specific guidance, and offer petitions for self, others, and the world, and then to reflect afterwards on the time of prayer. Initially, the groups met four to six times during Lent with a barbecue for all participants at the end of the experience. Although some groups have become more of a social time than a time for intentional spiritual development, most have faithfully followed the original design and intention for the groups.

Since their inception, L.I.F.E. groups continue to form annually and are held at different times and seasons throughout the church year. Two pot-luck meals are held during the year that bring all the groups together along with persons who have expressed interested in joining a group. One L.I.F.E. group has continued to meet well past its original schedule and does so by ?meeting? bi-weekly on-line through e-mail and chat room exchanges. One woman noted that "the caring concern that people grow spirituality is a high priority for mission and pastoral care in this church and it is most experienced through the L.I.F.E. groups."

[C]The Ministry of Spiritual Companionship
The formal development of the spiritual companionship program began in 1995 when Lorraine Dykman, a lay member of the congregation who was trained in the ministry of spiritual direction, explored with the church board the possibility of developing a public ministry of spiritual companionship for laypeople. The board recommended formalizing a one-year relationship from 1996-1997. Following that year, a second woman, Ellice Oliver (a diaconal minister serving part-time as chaplain at a regional correctional facility, and who possessed additional training and experience in spiritual direction), became a part of the program. After a thorough investigation and discussion of the denominational policy regarding the commissioning of individuals to lay ministry within a congregation, the church board agreed to establish a formal five-year relationship (1997-2002) with Lorraine Dykman and Ellice Oliver. In late April 1997, they were commissioned to The Ministry of Spiritual Companionship during a regular service of worship. A spiritual companionship subcommittee of the board's lay ministry committee was constituted for purposes of accountability and support, and a fee structure for the ministry was established.

The present ministry aims to become a long-term spiritual companionship ministry within and beyond the congregation. The term spiritual companionship was chosen deliberately as a means of translating the term spiritual director for a United Church ethos. The primary purpose of the ministry has been defined as "providing individuals with ongoing spiritual companionship, to lead persons through the Ignatian Exercises, and to reach out to persons beyond the congregation who are interested in developing their connection with God."

The formal five-year relationship has not yet been reviewed and the nature of its impact on the congregation and the wider community is yet to be determined. What is important is that the ministry has emerged from laypeople within the congregation for members of the congregation and beyond. The trained laypeople serving as spiritual companions may be in ministry with those who sit across the table at church potluck suppers or those they sit next to in church pews on a Sunday morning. In spite of the potential for role confusion or conflict, these two spiritual companions are committed to a confidential process and have an understanding that they will not enter a formal spiritual companionship with one whom they consider to be a personal friend.

[B]Opportunities and Challenges
The strength of HMUC's connection model is that it has resulted in a congregational nucleus of individuals who have a vibrant, transparent, ever-deepening connection with God that leads them to speak freely of their life of prayer and their experience of a living God. When asked, individuals at HMUC can actually describe what spirituality means to them and can witness to God's presence in their daily lives, especially during times of crisis.

Also contained within this model is the opportunity to make connections in several ways, thereby taking seriously the deep hunger for wholeness in our time. HMUC's recent efforts to connect spirituality with the body as well as with the mind and soul are evident in the formation of two sacred circle dance groups. Another example of a connection that can be emphasized by this model is that the particular spiritual struggles of individuals in prayer are common to others within the faith community. This model provides a way to be intentional about resisting the cultural trend toward rugged individualism. No one need be alone as they walk the spiritual path.

A connection model also presents some serious challenges for a congregational practice of soulful pastoral care. It is questionable whether the intentional focus on spirituality in the congregation would have developed as quickly, or at all, if a resource such as Loyola House were lacking. In this case, HMUC is to be commended for establishing a linkage with an available and accessible spiritual resource. Finding and accessing helpful spiritual resources will be a challenge for most congregations, especially those in rural and remote areas. Also, the potential influence of such a resource upon a congregation needs to be considered. Will it supplant or strengthen a Protestant congregational understanding of spirituality that is rooted in a particular denominational ethos and a reformation heritage of spirituality?

Another set of challenges resides in the methods used in this model to develop the spiritual lives of congregants. The methods are somewhat restrictive because they value the development of the spiritual lives of individuals more than the development of a communal spirituality, they assume a more introverted learning style, and they are primarily directed toward adults and mature youth. Also, the approaches taken toward spiritual development clearly have greater appeal to women than to men. It is important to keep in mind the ways this model can deny or undermine the life circumstances and experiences of some, especially those who are marginalized, poor, or disenfranchised in other ways. What leads one person to feel spiritually alive can lead another to say "this is not for me," or "I feel ignored and my voice is not heard."

[B]Evaluating the Model
HMUC has made several significant and commendable strides toward soulful pastoral care through its connection model. It is being faithful to its goal to assist people in living out their spirituality in their daily lives. It is a testimony to its pastoral effectiveness that people come to HMUC because they have heard that "it values the soul and cares about spiritual development." Especially noteworthy is the church members' affirmation that "there now is a spiritual light present that is inextinguishable." This model's effectiveness may be rooted in a long-term approach of its ministry staff to pastoral care, but it no longer seems to be leadership-dependent.

However, beyond the observable facts that HMUC has changed individual lives, is gaining a reputation, and is experiencing modest numerical growth, it is difficult to assess other ways this model may be having an impact on the surrounding neighborhood and city. The recent development of The Ministry of Spiritual Companionship is clearly a commendable attempt to reach beyond the church walls. To be a haven in a heartless world, caring for the world's casualties, is an important dimension of pastoral care. But the haven also needs to challenge the world's various assumptions that imprison spirituality within the private realm. Soulful pastoral care is most effective when it moves beyond the promotion of an individualized approach and includes addressing and acting upon spiritual matters with a voice of solidarity in the public sphere.

Congregations employing a connection model can experiment with ways to connect prayer and communal response, perhaps including opportunities to pray and reflect together upon the absence, presence, and grace of God in the faith community's public words and deeds. Some of the closest moments with God occur, not in prayer and meditation, but in the midst of a community's involvement in the darkest, dirtiest, and most tragic of life's places. Making this sort of connection strengthens a congregation's journey toward a soulful pastoral care that confers upon men and women a life broader than their narrow personalities.

[A]Signs of Soulful Pastoral Care
These three congregations are moving courageously and creatively toward a soulful pastoral care. To a large extent, they are doing so because they have made intentional commitments to long-term goals and methods for individual and communal development. They have leadership that values and exhibits authenticity and intimacy in relationship with God. Common to all three congregations are lay leaders who have caught the vision of a soulful pastoral care and empowered themselves to be active participants in the creation of new, spirited, and life-giving faith community. Each has skillfully taken advantage of local resources and has developed a model that incorporates contextual realities and denominational particularities. Each has included intentional methods for soul-listening within their pastoral care. Each has valued the role of small groups in the development of individual and communal spirituality.

What can other congregations do to move toward soulful pastoral care? This is the pressing question of this book. Although there is no easy answer to the question, there clearly are several dimensions that contribute significantly to the emergence of soulful pastoral care. Moving toward soulful pastoral care first requires a congregation to make its primary agenda that of intentionally and evocatively listening for the soul.

Reflection Questions
1. Bring to mind a congregation with which you are familiar. How does it help people listen for God and the things God pays attention to in the world?
2. What do you imagine when you hear the phrase "soulful pastoral care?"
3. Which congregational story caught your attention the most? Why?
4. After reading all three stories, what dawns on you about the search for soulful pastoral care?

Spiritual Exercise
This exercise can be done individually or as a group experience. Read this exercise first. Then engage in the steps.
1. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for several minutes.
2. Repeat very slowly, several times, these words:
You are very near.
You do not abandon my soul.
3. Open your eyes and go for a walk outside. Choose an object from nature that best expresses God's care for your soul.
4. Give thanks for how you experience God's care and closeness.
5. Before the day's end, share your object and its meaning with someone else. If you keep a journal, reflect on how your object contributes to a definition and practice of soulful pastoral care.

The stories were gathered during 1998-1999 by interviewing laity and ministry personnel, reviewing congregational materials (annual reports, historical summaries, mission statements, newsletters), conducting focus groups, and observing and participating in worship, study, and spirituality groups and mission projects.
The cathedral trustees and parish committee made financial contributions that include the provision of cathedral office space, furnishings, and administrative support. The Diocese of New Westminster provided substantial start-up funding through its Parish Partnership Program. This seed grant was allocated with the understanding that the CCSD would move toward self-sufficiency within a five-year period. The current CCSD board of directors currently is developing strategies for long-term financial sustainability that include the establishment of a foundation, a multimillion dollar capital fund, and a sizable donor base.
The current dean and rector of the cathedral is the Very Reverend Peter Elliott Dean, and the priest associate of the cathedral is the Reverend Doctor Robert Korth. Both of these men are extremely supportive of the CCSD, and to a large extent were appointed to cathedral ministry for this reason. They endorse the vision of the CCSD and are intentional about the ways they foster spirituality within the congregation and city.
The History of Christian Spirituality and Theory and Practice of Contemplative Prayer are examples of credit courses taught by center staff.
They are registered with The British Columbia Association of Clinical Counselors.
Timothy J. Kuenzli, "Facing the Naysayer in the Mirror," Congregations 24 (November/December 1998), 17.
For a more detailed description of the story of the remarkable Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., a prototype of the renewed church, see Elizabeth O'Connor's classic Call to Commitment (New York: Harper & Row, 1963) or the later volume, Journey Inward, Journey Outward, (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), that describes some of the church's earlier innovative ministries.
The minister of Christ UMC viewed the pending merger as an appropriate occasion to initiate a move to another pastoral appointment within the Virginia Conference in the UMC. Christ UMC was sold and Crossman UMC became the new home of the new Christ/Crossman UMC.
Of the approximate $2 million that came from the sale of the Christ Church building and property, $1 million was immediately accessible, with the remainder to be financed over a twelve-year period.
Paralleling this threefold approach were five key values that were outlined for ministry and mission development: (1) Christ-centered; (2) Risk-taking; (3) Mission-oriented; (4) Discipleship-oriented; and (5) Community-building. The prayer circle is called "The Group That Never Meets." Participants receive a prayer list from one of the ministers each Sunday, based on individual requests received (for example, "pray for "X" on Tuesday, the first anniversary of her child's accidental death) and public matters for prayer that range from concerns for the environment, job-related issues, church programs, mission projects, ecumenical matters, political election campaigns, forthcoming events, refugees, and hot zones in the world.
The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Learning to Journal, and Different Models of Praying with Scripture are examples of workshops and retreats.
When assembling seasonal congregational devotional booklets, various church members, including teenagers, are given a scripture passage (based on the weekly lectionary) and asked to respond to it with an ah ha experience: "What about this connects me to God? What connections can I make between my faith and my daily life?" These connections are then summarized in a couple of written paragraphs, along with the scripture and a prayer, as a contribution to the booklet. More recent versions of the booklets are beginning to include pages for children.
The Reverend John Buttars began in ministry at Harcourt in 1976 and the Reverend Jean Wright in 1989. Jean's first appointment was as ordained supply. In September 1990, she was appointed to a position in ordered ministry until her retirement in June 1999.
The church charges a modest registration fee to cover programmatic costs such as child care, promotional materials, and photocopying.
The covenant relationship with the church was formalized during a service of worship:

[ext]
Do you intend to be open to the work of God, both in your own life and the lives of those to whom you offer ministry, in your activities as spiritual companions?
(Yes, God being my helper.)
Are you willing to engage in the ministry of spiritual companionship with accountability to this congregation?
(Yes, God being my helper.)
Members of the Spiritual Companionship subcommittee and people of Harcourt Church, are you willing to offer Lorraine and Ellice support, prayer, and help so that they and we can grow in the ministry of spiritual companionship?
(Yes, God being our helper.)
The Spiritual Companionship subcommittee established criteria for determining qualifications for a lay ministry of spiritual companionship. These included either the completion of the Ignatian Exercises and/or completion of an extensive and certifiable training program in the ministry of spiritual direction. Also, a "Policy and Procedures for Fees to be Charged and Costs to be Recovered" was formulated. The fee is payable to HMUC. Recently, a Spiritual Companionship trust fund was formed for to receive charitable donations for the ministry that can be used for subsidies and honoraria.

In a pamphlet about the ministry, spiritual companionship was described as: ". . . a one-to-one relationship in which a trained person assists another person in the search for a closer union of love with God. Lay and ordained people practice this ministry. In this partnership, both persons share a belief in the reality of the spiritual and agree that relationship to the spiritual realm is life's primary purpose."

Excerpts

Excerpt from the Introduction

(pre-publication version)

Look on my right hand and see—
there is no one who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for me.

I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."

I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Psalms 142:4-5; 143:6


Those of us who are privileged to carry out the ministry of pastoral care are becoming increasingly aware that we have neglected to listen for the soul. What North American mainline Protestant churches once understood to be central in pastoral care is now marginal in pastoral practice. Because we have neglected to foster soulfulness (soul fullness), the church and the world alike cry out like the psalmist of old: "No one cares for me. . . . My soul thirsts for you like a parched land." A jarring dichotomy exists between society's pervasive longing for meaningful spirituality and the faltering pastoral responses of Protestant churches.

The Public Quest for Soulfulness

The world is crying out for the church to be more like the church, to represent the space and place where holiness, meaning, and God can be found, experienced, understood, and reimagined. Yet even at the beginning of a new century, for many, the traditional patterns of religious life remain too patriarchal, inadequate, and even obsolete. For others, the church seems too much in appearance like the world-too busy, too tired, too involved, too demanding, too unstable, too spiritually impoverished, too leadership deprived.

At the same time that such strong and ambivalent feelings are being expressed about the church, people remain interested in spiritual matters. Spirituality is newsworthy and remains marketable. Pollsters report on religious trends and affiliations. Popular television programs from "Touched by an Angel" to "NYPD Blue" regularly address spiritual matters. Also, the increased plurality of North American society and the visible presence of Eastern religions have heightened our consciousness of spiritual traditions and the spiritual life. People are consistently providing evidence that there is a deep-seated craving for religious sensibilities and rituals. Even taking into account the sentimentality triggered by the Christmas holiday season, the notable increase in attendance at Christmas Eve services can be partly attributed to the fact that people want to connect in some way with the holy mystery of the Christmas event. Some men and women openly confess the need to feel more spiritually connected and alive. These needs are frequently demonstrated through pursuits that seek to merge the psychological, medical, and spiritual paradigms. Zealous interest in Yoga, Tai Chi, massage, meditation, and relaxation therapies, and chiropractic, homeopathic, and naturopathic care indicates that ours is a time of intense personal and social yearning for spiritual wholeness.

In such a climate, it is not surprising that enrollment levels for university and college religious studies courses have soared. People are devising personal spiritual belief systems and seeking with renewed vigor places and practices that put them in touch with spiritual values. Most bookstores contain entire sections on New Age spirituality, women's and men's spiritualities, and alternative health. The number of books (including this one!) published in the last few years with the word soul in their titles is staggering. We gorge on books, hoping to digest clues for fixing our bodies, our businesses, our relationships, our addictions, and now even our souls. No longer are retreat centers the sole/soul enterprise of the church. All sorts of healing, inner renewal, and spirituality centers are springing up in a secular context, advertised as getaway places from the stresses of work and our technological addictions. Alternative and holistic approaches to caring for body, mind, and soul are rapidly finding their way into an eager consumer-driven market. Attending to the soul, in all its emptiness and fullness, has now become a trendy and profitable enterprise. When our hunger is so intense, it seems that we will eat anything put before us that promises nourishment.

Many pastoral caregivers are acutely aware that people are desperately seeking to make connections with holiness, the mystery of life, and the divine force of creation. The reordering of priorities brought about by a decrease in financial resources, changes in employment and work patterns, and external stresses placed upon personal time commitments has led to a lack of balance in life. Many people simply are overextended and unable to discern what leads to a balanced life and what leads to burnout and long-term disability, the new dis-eases of our time. The fact of change has produced increased anxiety and turned up the volume of noise in our souls. So, too, the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and a growing discomfort with the idolatrous nature of consumerism have evoked in many a quest for simplicity and a renewed spiritual life.

Protestant churches are now scrambling to respond to this renewed interest in matters of the soul, but it is clear that they are ill equipped to do so. Indeed, they are almost frantic in their quest to catch up with the public's emphasis upon matters of the soul, and they fear that inaction may indeed hasten the demise of the church's capacity to address spiritual matters and care for the soul. The church fears that its failure to attend to the soul has contributed to destructive patterns of disconnection with God, others, ourselves, and the earth.

While the public's interest in soul matters is surging, Protestant churches continue to flounder in their response to this phenomenon. Why is this so? Excerpt from Chapter One

(pre-publication version)

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear.

Isaiah 50:4-5a

Over and over again, I am struck by the transforming significance and profound simplicity of the ministry of listening. Maybe that is why Simone Weil once reflected upon attention as the only faculty of the soul that gives us access to God. God both wakens our ears so that we may listen and opens our ears so that we may hear. Listening for the soul is the primary and essential form our pastoral care takes when we are concerned with fostering spiritual depth in the lives of those within our faith communities and neighborhoods. As we live our ordinary routines, experiencing moments of difficulty, surprise, and play, we can develop in ourselves and others the habit of listening for the soul. This includes listening for our own soul as we also practice listening for the souls of others. It is about letting our ears be awake and attentive to the voices of yearning, weariness, and supplication in the form of words, holy screams for new life, or sighs too deep for words.

To listen seems like such an ordinary thing; perhaps we too readily underestimate its extraordinary value as an approach to pastoral care. The essential role it can play deserves a closer examination. What might it mean if the people of God had open ears? We need to open our own ears to hear what it means to listen for the soul, and in particular, to discover how we might become habitual in practicing such listening. To enhance our own practice of pastoral care, we need especially to learn from the types of listening done by spiritual directors.

Listening as an Act of Intentionality

I use the term listening deliberately. In many ways, to listen for the soul, both our own and those of others, is more central to life than anything else we do. Pastoral care has spoken historically of "curing the soul," then of "caring for the soul," and more recently of "minding the soul." It seems to me that, unlike the notion of "listening," these approaches seek to avoid damage, find an end to trouble, provide protection by watching over and tending, eliminate disease, see to the safety or well-being of another, and encourage freedom from anxiety or worry. We use regularly such expressions as "plan with care," "handle with care," "leave in your care," "take care of," "not a care in the world," "minding the shop," "minding the baby," "minding the step," "minding one's P's and Q's," or "finding a cure." Clearly, we are concerned with both care and cure as ways of minding; I am not recommending we obliterate the positive dimensions of these approaches to the soul. Sometimes the first things we need to do are provide protection, help the individual recall what is important, and ensure hospitable conditions so that he or she feels safe to tune into the soul's own trembling voice.

I suggest that the term listening be used to describe an overarching framework for pastoral care in our current societal climate. People will still need physical and mental healing of ailments, and they will frequently need help in exploring ways to cope with their immediate problems or crises. But the underlying dimension of the soul, the core of our lives and its denial or cultivation, remains the primary ministry given to the church, and we do this ministry best through the intentional act of listening. If we listen only partially and are too quick to cure the soul, the soul may simply get on with daily living without addressing the deeper issue of how life should be lived now and in the future. The immediate pain may dissipate long enough for familiar routines to be restored and for daily functioning to return, but if the deeper gnawing in the interior life remains unaddressed, the soul's restlessness will be experienced yet again. Our hearts are restless, after all, until they find their perfect rest in God, not in a cure.

Listening for the soul is not a quick fix or a limited intervention. Nor is it haphazard. Cultivating the soul essentially requires attending, in deliberate, habitual, and sustaining ways, to every aspect of our lives and all levels on which we live life, both consciously and unconsciously. To listen is to wait with a posture of alertness, in anticipation of hearing something of the voice and presence of God, who longs for us to be whole and abundantly alive. But we do not listen in order to make God present. We open our ears as a way of responding to the presence of God, who is already and always present in our lives, with or without our recognition.

In placing such a prominent emphasis upon listening, it needs to be said that I am not describing a passive act, but a process that engages us actively in response to what is heard. Listening is about more than a well-honed skill (although certainly skill is involved). Undeniably, listening for the soul will involve those essential skills normally identified with the act of listening, such as expressing interest by caring behavior, using appropriate facial expressions and posture, posing open-ended questions, closely observing nonverbal clues, responding by paraphrasing, clarifying, supporting, probing, understanding, confronting, evaluating, and recommending. Such responses and ways of listening have a necessary function in listening for the soul. To listen for the spiritual dimension in every human experience and life circumstance, however, requires listening with a definite spirit and intentionality. We are listening for more than what is consciously expressed. We are listening for the very voice, presence, or absence of God in the soul, the core of our lives where meaning is created.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Listening for the Soul Again

1. Soul Inquiry: Evocative Listening for the Soul

2. Contemplative Living: A Preventative and Restorative Approach

3. The Soul's Rhythm: Death and Resurrection

4. Credible Caregivers: Sustaining Spiritual Practices

5. Soul Companions: Listening for the Soul in Daily Life and Work

6. Children's Spirituality: Listening for the Soul of the Child

7. Toward Complementarity: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction

Epilogue
Signs of Soulful Pastoral Care
Appendix
A Case Study: Listening for the Soul
Notes