Rev. Dr. Jim Waters, PhD Chancellor   [email protected]

by...Fr. Jim Waters, FBS, PhD, Chancellor, and Others
Readings In Pastoral Care and Counseling, an E-Book


 Henri Nouwen's Contribution to Spirituality

"The parable of the prodigal son is a story that speaks

 about a love that existed before any rejection was possible

and that will still be there after all rejections have taken place."

                                                      Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son 

      Like many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, I believe I had a personal friendship with Henri Nouwen.  At a special family happening, Henri sent a present, with a letter enclosed, stating: "I am sending you my latest book (The Return of the Prodigal Son) as a gift. Be sure of my love and prayers." As much as this remembrance will be treasured, I know Henri treated many people in a similar fashion.

     On another significant occasion, Henri prayed with me and a few intimates concerning a profound struggle with which I was contending. His personal appeal to readers through his forty-plus volumes and those he attended to one-on-one or addressed in small or large groups made him a very popular pastor and spiritual master.

     Yet, this man of many contacts and friends suffered often from bouts of extreme loneliness and depression. Robert A. Jonas, a psychotherapist, spiritual director, and close associate, says that Nouwen had a neurotic desire for affirmation and a great need to be needed. He lived a prolonged, co-dependent relationship with his mother and repressed considerable anger at his strong-willed, distant father. He felt that neither of his parents acknowledged or understood his rich emotional life. As a result, much of his writing was an attempt to work through significant feelings of rejection. He often felt freer to share openly with his readers than with his own family. He struggled with his sexuality. Only gradually, in later years, did he become more comfortable with his own body. His habits were sometimes eccentric and his behaviour frenetic.

     How could this afflicted soul simultaneously become a major influence for good in the lives of so many? Deeply embedded in him was the personally discovered truth that every Christian's journey is a process. It is necessary to "leave home" and to develop one's own spiritual life. It is also frequently necessary to "come home again," a changed person, to share communally the fruitfulness and fecundity that was gained.

     Here briefly are the key contributions Nouwen shares with those in ministry. He learned them through intense engagement with his own Christian vocation.

From Pastoral Psychology to Spiritual Theology

     Nouwen began his career as one extensively trained in the field of psychology. He studied with some of the great pastoral psychologists on both sides of the Atlantic. Early on he left his Dutch homeland and established himself in North America. He discovered that much ministry training of clergy and lay persons alike followed professional models developed in the social sciences. He grew convinced that a major gift the Church could offer the world were "wounded healers" spiritually reformed by the truths of their faith and the life of Jesus. Therapy could evolve into a healing ministry open to all in Christ's family.

      From Elitist Individualism to Spiritual Community

     Nouwen spent long periods of his career teaching about spirituality in famous academic institutions such as Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. Many of his early books grew out of lectures, sermons, and presentations made to students in highly competitive environments. Over time, he became dissatisfied with what was happening to him spiritually. He believed that many of our institutions, including the church, were reflecting values of upwardly- mobile, self-centred people. Nouwen left the academy, eventually finding his family with mentally dysfunctional adults in L'Arche. In community, Nouwen truly blossomed.

From Protected Ministry to a Vocation of Risk

      Nouwen discovered that, when he was willing to let go of the securities of profession, status, and former influence, he grew better able to find a certain solace for his conflicted heart. He discovered a solitude through which he could experience intimacy and acceptance from others. While he would never discount the importance of professional development for the young, he grew to find healing in his own life by gradually giving up his need for assurance in terms of this world's career protection and allowing the irony of "downward mobility" to give meaning and purpose to his maturing ministry.

      After years of struggling with a gnawing sense of being disowned, Nouwen's search for a spiritual home and the answer to rejection led him, during the last decade of his life, to find a peace and a vocational congruency that had evaded him previously. His spirituality was always a work- in-progress, but his legacy is nonetheless a rich one.

      Henri Nouwen taught us to honour our wounds and to look more intently to the spiritual resources of our Christian faith for healing; to move beyond our society's focus on individualism to places where spiritual community might release newfound gifts and energies; and to venture a leap of faith, a vocational risk that prevents us from trying to be safe or to protect what we think we possess.

          "The more I think about the human suffering in our world and my desire to offer a healing response, the more I realize how crucial it is not to allow myself to become paralyzed by feelings of impotence and guilt. More important than ever is to be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me. I must resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair and make me one more of their many victims. I have to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and on those who followed him and trust that I will know." -- Henri Nouwen


                        Theology of Pastoral Care



In the totality of her being, the church Is a corporate apostle, and an apostle, by definition. Is one who is Sent. The church is God's living outreach to the World.

 The definitive sending that focused on church, and constituted apostolate, came after Christ's resurrection. It started In fear, behind locked doors, when the risen Lord showed his disciples his hands and his side, and spoke that exciting sentence, "As the Father sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21)

The church Is people. We, all of us, we in community are the church. We are sent. Sent when? On the day of our baptism. Sent why? To live the Christian life in obedience to the Gospel. Sent where? Like Christ, we have been sent into the world to every living being.

The church is mission, and the mission Is service, and the service Is redemption. Illness and human misery call for the church's service, not simply because care and concern and compassion are so human, but because the church Is church - an "Apostle" with an Inescapable mission. In sickness we touch not a man with a melanoma, not a woman with a scarred uterus. We offer ourselves to a whole person, one man, one woman. He is sick, not his chest; and she is sick, not her womb. Our apostolate is "church" because what we touch is man. man-in-the-process-of-redemption. In sickness and ignorance, in all the human bondage that cries out for help and comfort, we rarely, if ever, touch only the body or only the spirit. We touch a living person working out his or her redemption.

The church is the people of God. The basic condition of this people is equality - equality because each possesses. Is possessed by, the same Holy Spirit. Similarly, Pastoral Care is, a community of, all who have committed themselves to God in His crucified children. The basic condition of this community Is equality - equality because each is "church", each is an "Apostle", is genuinely "sent", is on mission from the church to man working out his salvation in anguish and agony. This community, servants of the people of God, has an unparalleled witness value, in that it trumpets with one glad voice the gospel tidings that human sickness is not waste and need not be frustration, that disease and death are redeemable and redeeming.

Our mission of service must, with all else, be deeply spiritual. Pastoral Care will prove sterile without spiritual people. Our commitment to the redemption of the whole person will be vital and effective only if we believe not merely In man, but also in God; only if we pray as well as work; only if, in everything we do, we preach not man's death but the Lord's death for man - until He comes

    Pastoral Care Resources

Resources for Pastors

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Major Menno Resources
Mennonite Connections on the WWW

Christian Gateways and Search Engines


| General Pastoral Care | Pastor as Caregiver | Spiritual Growth |
| Mutual Aid | Weddings & Marriage | Birth and Adoption |
| Special Needs | Hospital Care | Dying & Grief |

General Pastoral Care

The American Association of Pastoral Counselors
The AAPC seeks to professionally integrate psychotherapy and spirituality. This web site provides information to AAPC members, potential members and the general public. Includes a listing of pastoral counselors with a search engine.

The Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education
CAPPE is a national multifaith organization which is committed to the professional education, certification and support of people involved in pastoral care and pastoral counselling. The site contains a number of papers of interest as well as resources for members of the association.

International Pastoral Care Network for Social Responsibility
IPCNSR is a an interfaith and international network of pastoral care specialists working together to foster and promote spiritual, emotional and environmental health for all persons, institutions and the planet.

The Pastor as Caregiver


DPS PastorCare Site
From the Desperate Preacher's Site comes some resources primarily for a pastor's self-care. Included among such topics as burnout, money management, and living arrangements, are also topics like guilt and forgiveness, helping people cope, and crisis and grief resources.

Spiritual Growth

Please see our section on the Worship & Spirituality page.

Mutual Aid

Mennonite Mutual Aid
MMA has created a helpful site with information on their products and services, congregational grants, financial calculators, and other services available to congregations.

Weddings & Marriage

Wedding Gazette
Not necessarily Christian, but quite traditional, this is a good website for referral to couples who want help on thinking through their wedding plans. Includes some basic resources on wedding ceremonies. Use this site with care and attention to helping couples think through their own Christian values.

Mennonite and Brethren Marriage Encounter
This is the Anabaptist adaptation of a movement adopted by many Christian denominations designed to foster growth in marriages. Includes a schedule of upcoming encounters.

Marriage Intimacy
Looks at the concept of intimacy as a starting point for building strong Christian marriages. Includes other helpful links to Christian organizations.

Marriage Builders
Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. claims he has saved thousands of marriages from the pain of unresolved conflict and the disaster of divorce. This website presents his basic principles for restoring love. Although not overtly Christian, he has principles that can be adapted to a Christian context, particularly his starting point of having couples practice making their partners happy.

Marriage Ministries International
MMI is a non-profit organization, ministering to marriages around the world. They offer a basic class, "Married for Life", which is conducted in small groups in homes over a fourteen-week period.

Birth & Adoption

A pastoral presence at the birth of a child is a crucial element of pastoral care. Pastoral care is especially important in unplanned pregnancies, particularly where young unmarried parents are involved. To uphold God's forgiving love, affirm life, and provide hope and joy for infertile couples, the option of adoption should be considered. The following links give some starting points for both birth mothers and prospective families as well as some samples of adoption agencies.

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Founded in July 1992 by the late owner of Wendy's hamburger chain, this foundation serves as an active voice encouraging adoptions. There are sections for professionals and for couples seeking to adopt.

National Adoption Center
The National Adoption Center is a non-profit organization whose mission is to expand adoption opportunities throughout the United States for children with special needs and those from minority cultures. The NAC is the home of the largest waiting list in the U.S. of children waiting to be adopted. Founded in 1972, the Center works with social workers and other adoption professionals to bring children and families together through its telecommunications network called the National Adoption Exchange.

Adoption Council of Canada
The ACC is the umbrella organization for adoption in Canada. Based in Ottawa, the ACC raises public awareness of adoption, promotes placement of waiting children and stresses the importance of post-adoption services. The site includes links to provincial government information.

Lifetime Adoption
Lifetime Adoption is a National Adoption Facilitation Center that assists birth parents in finding qualified adoptive families. Their services are free to birth parents and include guidance and encouragement during and after pregnancy. They provide services for prospective parents to adopt newborn as well as older children.

Adoption Services
Adoption Services is a fully licensed, non-profit, private adoption agency that connects birth mothers and couples wanting to adopt. Licensed in three states, but with the connections to help adopting families living anywhere in the U.S. as well as in other countries.

National Adoption Center's Learning Center
This center gives support to adoptive families, primarily through online course materials.

Adoption ... Assistance, Information, Support
A clearinghouse site to exchange information on adoption.

Special Needs

The following site offers offers a wide array of annotated links related particularly to resources on disabilities and mental illness.

Companion Resources
Living in community is a key value for Mennonites. Yet many persons are at the margins of the community as they deal with physical and mental illness, dysfunctional neighborhoods, or permanent disabilities in the family. This site provides information and networking around key themes such as community development, disabilities, and mental illness. New topics added from time to time.

Hospital Care

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education
ACPE is a multicultural, multifaith organization devoted to providing education and improving the quality of ministry and pastoral care offered by spiritual caregivers of all faiths through the clinical educational methods of Clinical Pastoral Education. Includes an introduction to CPE and a listing of CPE sites, supervisors, and more.

The Association of Professional Chaplains
The APC is an interfaith professional pastoral care association of providers of pastoral care endorsed by faith groups to serve persons in physical, spiritual, or mental need in diverse settings throughout the world.

AIDS Pastoral Care Network [Link not currently working; website being revised.]
Founded in Chicago in 1985, APCN supports the spiritual health and growth of individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS through pastoral care, outreach, education and training, and the promotion of social justice.

Dying & Grief

This section deals with issues surrounding death, including funerals.

Hospice Net
The hospice movement offers terminally ill patients appropriate medical services in their homes or in a separate home-like from a hospital. Hospice Net is an independent organization that provides information and support to patients and families facing life-threatening illnesses through its Internet site. Contains a wealth of information that is helpful as pastors counsel families.

Grief & Loss Resource Centre
A Canadian site, spread across a few pages, is divided into three sets of links. The first set includes grief and bereavement resources, called "Grief Links." The second set is devoted to various "losses" in our lives, other than death, that involve varying degrees of grief, called "Loss Links." The third set is comprised of links to Memorials collections. You will find these three categories useful.
A secular site which, nevertheless, has a wealth of practical resources on every aspect of funerals.

The Compassionate Friends
The Compassionate Friends is a national non-profit, self-help support organization that offers friendship and understanding to bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings, following the death of a child of any age. There is no religious affiliation and there are no membership dues or fees.