How pastors (shouldn’t?) care…

A few thoughts on pastoral care, in my latest column in the Christian Courier.

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You would think that pastoral care would be a straightforward practice at this point in the church’s history. After all, we have centuries’ worth of pastoral images to work with. In Psalm 23 and the prophecy of Ezekiel we discover a God who leads his sheep into a places of peaceful comfort and who accompanies them and restores them. In Jesus we have the image of a shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. This is to say nothing of the writings of Paul or the myriad of modern books that expound on the ways pastors might care for their flock.

Notwithstanding this breadth of resources, however, there remain significant challenges today for understanding how exactly a pastor should care. Although the language is strong, we can characterize these challenges in terms of temptations faced by clergy and other pastoral care providers. A couple these temptations are worth mentioning. Continue reading

summer reading

mccrackenJust finished reading a fine little book entitled An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination: A Memoir, by Elizabeth McCracken. It’s a thoughtful exploration of McCraken’s life and experience in relation to the stillbirth of her full term baby – affectionately named Pudding prior to his death in utero. The narrative also works toward the birth of her second son, Gus, approximately one year after the death of her first.

There are a number of levels at which I find the book compelling, but I would simply say here that it would be a helpful book for those who are training for ministry – particularly for getting a grip on the task of patoral care. It’s not that McCracken writes from such a perspective (indeed, she describes herself as decidedly agnostic), but that she ably brings the reader inside her own narrative, honestly told. Continue reading