Wednesday 29 July 2009

Velcro and Teflon in Pastoral Care

Teams offer the best pastoral care, not primadonnas. One particular reason has struck me recently — the complexity and depth of damage in some people’s lives in a consumer society can exhibit in a tendency to shop around. “I've tried 11 vicars — none of them was any good, so now I'm trying you, bishop.” Dangerously, this can hook into our own need to be needed, flatter our own sense of drama and, when the velcro attaches, we’re stuck — and so are they.

Ministry, and especially deliverance ministry, is one sphere of life where it really doesn’t pay to shop around. Every time a priest introduces boundaries to the conversation you bail out and find another, until, presumably, you can find one who mirrors your dis-ease perfectly = can reinforce your problem precisely. The only hope of healing usually lies in picking a small selection, if not one, taking the blindest bit of notice of any of them, and then sticking with the pastoral relationship for long enough for something good to happen. From the point of view of clergy, we can best offer help by communicating together and integrating care, not flying solo.

When people ask for deliverance ministry, it’s best to offer an organic integrated package where specific spiritual needs emerge as a strand within a holistic and relational approach, not zap-u-up pyrotechnics, silly voices, and cliché storylines from the Hammer House of Horrors. The whole key is not to make a drama out of a crisis. We centre carefully on the health, personal, relational, and spiritual realities involved, and go gently. Whereupon, I find, healing comes swifter and sooner than anyone usually expects.
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Bishop Alan Wilson said...

email from Anne Lee, which I promised to post for her:

Dear Alan,

Thank you for, once again, hitting the nail on the head. Wonderful images conjoured up by your use of velcro and teflon!

You are absolutely right about teams. However, unfortunately few clergy seem to understand the need for or the benefits of collaborative ministry or collaborative working. I've been talking to a variety of theological colleges about the skills and tools they are giving ordinands to help them work together. Unfortunately I have to say that I am not impressed. It's really important that we teach our ordinands to work in teams, building on strengths and helping with weaknesses. Some of us find this easier than others. Those who find this very difficult need even more help to overcome their difficulties.

As human beings we need affirmation. so we are tempted (and I use that word advisedly) to gravitate towards other people who share our views, have a similar outlook on life, or, as Leslie Francis would probably say, personality profile. Trouble is, the strongest teams are those where the members have different gift and abilities, but where they are all able to work together celebrating the differences.

You are absolutely spot on about the ministry of deliverance. It is really sad when it is reduced to the level of mental ill health without exploring a wide variety of other issues...

Pam Smith said...

I trained 2002-2004, the training was spot on in many ways but it struck me that if I hadn't known lay ministry existed before I went to college I certainly wouldn't have worked it out while I was there!

All the more bizarre because in my intake we had a Church Army officer, a youth worker, and a Reader/prison chaplain among others who had been active in ministry before being sent for ordination training. So the knowledge was there in the student body - but apparently not in the tutorial staff.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Not en encouraging story, Pam. I'm often struck by what fantastically resourced places parishes are in humans terms. Sadly, sometimes, pastors think they're the experts, or the only ministry resources, or Lords (it usually is Lords) of all they survey, and consequently do things that end up making this view of themselves a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not as prevalent as it was, but it's a shame.

Sam Charles Norton said...

+Alan -was this prompted by a particular experience of deliverance ministry gone wrong?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Sam, we've been redrafting our protocols for deliverance ministry in the diocese this year; Although I wouldn't restrct comments about teflon & velcro entirely to that context, it's a common thread in many conversations with clergy colleagues around this process, as well as reflection on various ministry situations I’ve found myself in over 30 years, where I've tried to work out what I;ve learnt from them.

Steve Hayes said...

Right on!

It's one of the reasons I resist the hints from my bishop who wants to make me a priest, because the pressure on priests to "fly solo" are far greater than those for deacons who sometimes have to call in priests as I did for a funeral I blogged about recently. And it worked well -- in our knowledge and experience we complemented each other nicely, and both learnt a lot.

UKViewer said...

While I am not a minister or even lay minister, I am about to start a parish placement to test a vocation for Ordained Local Ministry.

One of the first things I am being sent on is a Pastoral Care course at CWR. I have already done some training with the Services Chaplains Centre, but know that to be equipped for any Pastoral role you need to be part of a team with mutual support.

I have had recent experience of providing support to bereaved families and working alongside a Chaplain and with God's help this was team work, and real cooperation to provide the welfare and spiritual care the family needed. I cannot conceive of being able to do it alone.

If my vocation is discerned and I am sent for trainng - I would hope that the Pastoral Aspect of Ordinands training has been addressed. Pam highlighted the issue in her post, the lack of joined up thinking in this key area for all involved in Ministry.

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