Sanctus Theologial Institute

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

Major Chaplaincy Training Video for clergy and laity

                   End of Life Pastoral Care
Hospice, Palliative, Pastoral Care, and Nursing Conferences Pastoral Care, Bereavement, Hospice Events Calendar Links for Spiritual Caregiving, Palliative Care, Pastoral care and Hospice
Reviews of End of Life Care and Hospice related Books and Articles Prayers for Dying
About the-great-adventure
  RESOURCES for SPIRITUAL and COMPASSIONATE END OF LIFE CARE  
home
  Links for Spiritual Caregiving, Palliative Care, Pastoral Care, Complementary Therapies, Caregiving, Bereavement and Hospice

Caregiving

http://www.caregiving.com – probably the best site we’ve seen with good discussion groups, blogs and support for caregivers

http://caregiver.org/ – Family Caregiver Alliance in SF, lots of information but you have to dig around and explore

http://nfcacares.org/ – good all around non-profit site but again, you have to dig

http://americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3039829 – excellent, has an online journal and other good resources

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/caregivers.html – factual, a good resource, you can sign up for email newsletters on any health related topic

http://www.caring.com – comprehensive, somewhat commercial

http://www.caregiverstress.com – also a bit commercial but user friendly

http://www.caregiver.com/ – good, friendly, has newsletter

http://caregivershome.com/ – a good site sponsored by a publisher with a newsletter…it has a good “ask an expert” section

http://familycaregiving101.org/ – good all around site with message board

http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org – see NFCA site above

http://www.growthhouse.org – comprehensive death and dying resource

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ – very interesting, lots of information and approaches to spirituality

http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/caregiver-stress.cfm – good page about stress

http://www.strengthforcaring.com - connecting caregivers

http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/Publications/22-277.pdf – Family Caregiver Handbook, worth downloading!

www.carolodell.wordpress.com – Carol O’Dell’s site

http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/ExerciseGuide/ – a free online book about exercise – very well done, easy to read.

http://www.netofcare.org/content/your_needs/spiritual_needs.asp – this is a nice discussion of spirituality and caregiving that links to a good site about caregiving

Complementary & Holistic Therapies

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Excellent database for Complementary Therapies

Art Therapy on the Web – good connections for the artist in all of us.

Holistic Nurses Association – “the heart of nursing, the science of holism,” they have a yearly conference that promotes holistic practices for caregivers

Legal Issues etc…

Aging with Dignity – Find out about FIVE WISHES: America’s most popular advance directive

Dying Well – Ira Byock’s homepage, very informative

Americans for Better Care of the Dying – a non-profit public charity dedicated to social, professional, and policy reform aimed to improve the care system for patients with serious illness, and their families.  A very important site, check out  20 things that an internist could  do  to improve the quality of a patients end of life experience (under public policy link).

Bereavement

ADEC – Association for Death Education and Counseling – excellent resource base per bereavement, newsletter and conference information

Living With Loss Magazine – a support group in print and a complete grief resource center, the links page will give you a complete bereavement index

Beyond Indigo – changing the way you feel about grief and loss

Crisis, Grief & Healing – this page is meant to be a place men and women can chat or browse to understand and honor the many different paths to heal strong emotions.

Hospice, Nursing & Palliative Care 

http://www.aahpm.org - American Academy for Hospice and Palliative Medicine this is the comprehensive site for palliative and hospice care, but we don't need to tell you that!

http://www.abcd-caring.org/  - Americans for Better Care of the Dying is a non-profit public charity dedicated to social, professional, and policy reform aimed to improve the care system for patients with serious illness, and their families.  A very important site, check out  20 things that an internist could  do  to improve the quality of a patients end of life experience (under public policy link).

http://www.ahna.org - American Holistic Nurses Assn. "the heart of nursing, the science of holism," yearly conference that promotes holistic practices fror caregivers

http://www.americanhospice.org/  - The American Hospice Foundation

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is dedicated to increasing the availability of quality palliative care services in hospitals and other health care settings for people with life-threatening illnesses, their families, and caregivers..

Dale Larson's Hospice "Great Ideas" Page - another must see for hospice administrators and personnel

http://www.dyingwell.com  - Ira Byock's homepage, good resource

http://www.eapcnet.org/index.html - European Association for Palliative Care

http://www.epec.net/EPEC/Webpages/index.cfm - Our mission is to educate all healthcare professionals on the essential clinical competencies in palliative care.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation  The EKR foundation is dedicated to preserving and promoting the pioneering life work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross MD and others committed to compassionate care for those who are near the end of life, those who have died, their loved ones, and their caregivers.

End of Life Nursing Education Consortium Project (ELNEC) is a comprehensive, national education program to improve end-of-life care by nurses, and is funded by a major grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Primary project goals are to develop a core of expert nursing educators and to coordinate national nursing education efforts in end-of-life care.

http://www.edc.org/lastacts/  - Innovations in End of Life Care - The purpose of Innovations in End-of-Life Care, an international journal and on-line forum, is to improve the quality of care provided to patients near the end of life and to their families, through the dissemination and critical examination of innovative practices being implemented throughout the world.   

http://www.gwish.org/   - The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish) is a university-based organization working toward a more compassionate system of healthcare.  "The spiritual dimension cannot be ignored, for it is what makes us human." Viktor E Frankl

http://www.growthhouse.org/  - Growthhouse- “The Yahoo of Death and Dying”, all purpose good site

http://www.helpthehospices.org.uk/ - Help the Hospices Charity in the UK

http://www.hospicecare.com/ - International Association Hospice and Palliative Care -  good newsletter and calendar of events    

http://www.hospicefoundation.org  - HFA- Hospice stories, Journeys Newsletter per issues in the grieving process, Clergy to Clergy section, good links

http://www.hospicenet.org/ - good links on hospice topics

http://www.hospicepatients.org/  Hospice Patients Alliance

http://www.hospiceworld.org/ - Hospice Education Association

http://www.hpna.org/ - Hospice and Palliative Nurses Assn. 

http://www.ncoa.org  - National Council on Aging, very comprehensive website, a real must 

http://www.nhpco.org   - NHPCO- excellent data base for administrators and hospice personnel, hospice directory, conference information, and very good, well-described links 

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hospicecare.html  - Medline+ hospice page...excellent!!


http://www.wholenurse.com - Alternative health and good search engine for nursing topics


Spiritual Resources

www.aapc.org   - American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC). Represents and sets professional standards for over 3,000 Pastoral Counselors and 100 pastoral counseling centers in North America and around the world.

www.acpe.edu  -  Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). A multicultural, multi-faith organization devoted to improving the quality of ministry and pastoral care offered by spiritual caregivers of all faiths.

http://www.alayainstitute.org/ - The Alaya Institute offers up-to-date resources that support individual growth, spiritual development, End-of-Life education and policy, compassionate service, and access to hospice and grief support. Also offering an end of life care practicioner program whichoffers the absolute best in end of life care education with leaders in the field such as: Ram Dass, Ange Stephens, Frank Ostaseski, Rachel Naomi Remen MD, Cheryl Nelson, Charlie Garfield, and Ramita Bonadonna. The program is centered in the SF Bay area and consists of monthly sessions with certification at the end of a year.

http://www.bardo.org/   - The Bardo of Death Studies - "Our mission at the Bardo of Death Studies is to assist in the development of discourse, discussion, and archival materials related to personal experiences in Death and Dying. We serve as a friendly net repository for these personal reflections both from the professional and the lay public) and a crossroads resource for others who happen by in search for personal reflection in their own time of need."    

http://www.beyondtheveil.net/  -  "A Near Death Experiencer answers questions most people are afraid to ask"   

http://www.buddhanet.net/ebooks_g.htm - Here's one you have to check out  for it's sheer weight in gold - another one of those "read-it-by-Acrobat Reader" sites. The book called From Womb to Womb is the one to note for references to the bardos. 

www.cappe.org  - Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education (CAPPE). A national multi-faith organization which is committed to the professional education, certification and support of people involved in pastoral care and pastoral counseling.

http://www.cpsp.org/   College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, Inc. (CPSP). A theologically-based certifying and accrediting covenant community dedicated to "recovery of soul," and granting diploma status in pastoral psychotherapy.

http://dyingwell.com/spiritualcarehp0704.htm -  Spiritual Care at the End of Life, an excellent article
http://www.gwish.org/   - The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish) is a university-based organization working toward a more compassionate system of healthcare.  "The spiritual dimension cannot be ignored, for it is what makes us human." Viktor E Frankl

http://www.holyisland.org     one possible path here is to click on Links - Samye- Spirituality - Buddhist Teachings - In-Depth Teachings - VOLUME 2, NUMBER 3 DEC. 1998 Teachings on the bardo by  Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche .  At this point you'll nee Acrobat Reader which if you don't you can  download from www.adobe.com for free. Download  "Get Acrobat Reader"   
(for free) at the bottom of Adobe Home page.

http://www.khandro.net/mustardseed_1.htm - nice all around website with Buddhist and other teachings

http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/exhibits/dead/otherworld.html  - an incredible look at the Tibetan Book of the Dead, also see http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/exhibits/dead/dying.html  and http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/exhibits/dead/western.html

www.nacc.org  -  National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) An association of pastoral ministers who participate in the church´s mission of healing whose mission is to promote professional development and support services for our members.

http://www.OmMaNiPadMeHum.com/  - turn your harddrive into a prayer wheel  

http://www.slimeworld.org/lrs   -  The Labyrinth Readers Society, learn the art of reading from sacred texts for those who are in need or dying.   

http://www.spcare.org/  The aim of the Spiritual Care Program is to demonstrate practical ways in which the compassion and wisdom of the Buddhist teachings can help those facing illness or death, their families, and medical caregivers.

http://www.urbandharma.org/   - Website of Kusala Bhikshu and friends, plenty of information here about Buddhism - very clearly presented and practical

http://www.worldprayers.org/index.html   -  The World Prayer Collective, excellent site!! 

http://www.zenhospice.org - very good workshops

    Confessions of a Small Church Pastor

Crafting a new definition of forgiveness

Debbie commented today, after looking at all the books on my desk, “Do you know you have 31 books on forgiveness?” Actually, I didn’t but she’s pretty close.  I’m working on a writing project about forgiveness.  In the process, I am trying to craft a new definition for forgiveness, which is harder than you might think.

I’m interested in a definition of forgiveness that can be applied in pastoral ministry in the local church.  In other words, I’m looking for a definition of forgiveness that pastors can share with their members to encourage them to practice “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I am advocating for a new definition of forgiveness that:

  • Takes into account the idea of forgiveness as a process;
  • Produces an effect that is recognizable, so that a person can determine if they are acting in a forgiving manner;
  • Values the broken relationship;
  • Is useful both in situations where the offender has asked for forgiveness, and in situations where he has not done so;
  • Seeks reconciliation as the final goal of forgiving acts;
  • Attends to the psychological and spiritual health of the offended;
  • Deals with the problems of memory and emotions in the forgiving process; and,
  • Can be practically applied in local church ministry to assist and encourage the forgiving process.

When Death Comes To Our Community

This is the sermon I am going to preach on Sunday, February 21, 2010.  It comes on the occasion of the death of one of our members tonight, Saturday, February 20.

When Pope John XXIII lay dying, the Pope’s physician is reported to have said, “Holy Father, you have asked me many times to tell you when the end was near so you could prepare.”  The Pope replied, “Yes.  Don’t feel badly, Doctor.  I understand. I am ready.”

With that the Pope’s secretary, Loris Capovilla collapsed at the Pope’s bedside weeping.

“Courage, my son.  I am a bishop, and I must die as a bishop, with simplicity but with majesty, and you must help me.  Go get the people together.”

His reply was, “Santo Padre, they are waiting.” — Accompany Them With Singing, Introduction.

Last night one of our own left us.  Earl Hedrick went home to be with God.  I had planned to preach today on angels as God’s ushers, bringing us at death and at the end of time into the presence of God.  And while that might be a subject of great interest to us at another time, I felt today I needed to speak to you as your pastor about death, and what happens when death comes to our community.

This is not Earl’s funeral or eulogy, but because his death came so close upon our gathering here today, and came as such a shock to each of us, I want to take a few minutes today to talk about death and how we as followers of Christ deal with the grief and loss that accompanies death.

Dying Is Part of Our Life’s Journey

We all know we are going to die someday, but the will to live that beats in our chest does all it can to push death away.  We have sought to remove death from our lives, our homes, even our churches so much that when death does come in unexpected and surprising ways, we are struck with its finality and force.

There was a time when death was seen as the shadow companion of life.  Walk through any old cemetery where the grave stones display dates that reach back a hundred or more years.  What strikes me each time I visit an old cemetery is the number of small

Reveiw: Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures by David Augsburger

With the rise of multi-ethnic congregations, global mission trips, and world-wide communication, church leaders should read Dr. David Augsburger’s book, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures.
Augsburger guides the pastoral counselor, or church staff member, on a tour through alternative worlds by exploring the care of souls across the rich variety of social contexts found around the globe.  Augsburger carefully and in compelling detail expands the Western pastoral counselor’s worldview to include a rich panoply of cultures which approach differently the experiences of conflict, individuality, the social group, mental health, family, and other issues of concern to our common humanity.  The reader learns, in other words, that her or his own culture is not normative for all cultures, thereby opening the reader to new insights in the pastoral counseling task.
Helpful chapter themes include subtitles which both describe and guide the reader on the intercultural journey.  Subtitles include: A Theology of Presence, A Theology of Culture, A Theology of Humanness, A Theology of Grace, A Theology of Value, A Theology of the Family, A Theology of Liberation, A Theology of Moral Character, A Theology of the Demonic, A Theology of Human Frailty, and, Models of Pastoral Counseling and Theology.
Two particular insights emerge as the reader moves from chapter to chapter.  First, human beings, despite wide cultural variance, hold basic human traits in common.   In other words, we as a species are similar in our common humanity, while at the same time we are diverse in our cultural expressions.  Secondly, the existence of dominant cultures does not mean that one culture is inherently superior to another.  The intercultural pastoral counselor learns to move from his or her culture into another culture, and back again, providing help at the “borders” of cultural intersection and insight.
Taking these two insights as the guiding light for the “interpathy” of the pastoral counselor, she or he is then able to resist the temptation to make others in their own image, or the image on their own culture.  Rather the aware intercultural pastoral counselor is able to help those in need within the context of the counselee’s cultural values, groups, constructs, assumptions, and traditions.  This allows the person helped to find their way to wholeness as defined by the society in which they live.
Intercultural awareness also enables the counselor to move beyond the idea that his or her culture is superior, and by extension, that his or her culture is the norm preferred by God.  This insight expands the theological framework of the intercultural pastoral counselor, providing the opportunity to relate to the God of all creation and cultures in a new, positive, and helpful manner.
By the same token, the book opens the idea of community to the whole world of cultures encountered by the counselor.  By developing cultural awareness, bridges can be built from the counselor’s culture into the cultural milieu of others, thereby expanding the communal relationships available to the counselor, and reciprocally to the counseled.
Augsburger even tackles the world of the mystical and apparently supernatural, providing access through both reason and faith to that which seems to be beyond scientific analysis.  Augsburger’s even-handed approach to the mysteries of demon possession, shamanism, and supernatural healing grounds the counselor in a real world, while allowing for the inexplicable and transcendent.
I commented to Debbie as I read through this book, that Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures contains enough material for several books.  This is not a fluffy, insubstantial volume.  But the persistent reader will find tools for personal reflection, and cross-cultural engagement.  If you need a good book about pastoral counseling, that also expands your cultural horizons, then this is the book to read.

Augsburger, David W., Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures. The Westminster Press (Philadelphia:  1986), 373.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of this book from Amazon, and received no inducement to write this review.

Grief as the surprising companion of cancer

As cancers go, it was the best kind to have, the doctor said.  Basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, that lives at the base layer of the skin, but rarely metastasizes to other parts of the body.  The bad news, he said, was that it was in the worst place it could be — in the middle of Debbie’s upper lip.  It would have to be removed.  There would be a scar.  He couldn’t work miracles.  That was only for Hollywood, he said.

Debbie had noticed what appeared to be an enlarged pore just at the bow of her lip.  Early last summer, she noticed a lump inside her lip just under this pore.  Summer was busy, though.  We had Vacation Bible School in June.  In July, my brother died and we made a week-long trip to south Georgia for his funeral.  In August, I spoke at a conference at Myrtle Beach, where we had a few days in the sun.  In October, Debbie went to a new dermatologist because the lump was bigger.

The dermatologist immediately diagnosed the enlarged pore and the lump as skin cancer, probably basal cell.  We were both stunned.  Neither of us had thought about cancer.  A cyst, maybe.  A clogged pore.  But cancer was a complete surprise.  A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.  Then we had to wait for an appointment with the surgeon.  Debbie had the option of scheduling a consultation with the dermatological surgeon prior to her surgery.   On a November day we met him in his office.  That’s when he told us the good and bad news.  Most of it seemed bad to us.  Surgery was scheduled for December 11.

Last Friday, she went in for what would be called minor surgery by a casual observer.  With Mohs surgery, they don’t even put you to sleep.  She walked into the clinic, then out again four hours later.  The cancer was excised, and the doctor, who is also a plastic surgeon, did a wonderful job of repairing her lip where the cancer had been.  It was larger than he thought it would be, he said.  About the size of a nickel, right on her upper lip.

What surprised us both was the grief that was companion to the cancer.  Our first reaction was shock and disbelief.  How could this be cancer, even the least invasive kind?  It didn’t look like cancer.  Not like all the warning signs of cancer you typically see.  Our shock turned to anger at another doctor who had dismissed the enlarged pore with an “I don’t know what this is, but don’t worry about it.”

And then we prayed.  And read books on healing, and wondered if somehow God would not heal her so she wouldn’t have to go through the surgery.  And we prayed until we could not pray about it anymore.  We had no more words, no ability to sit together and ask God for anything — healing, peace, grace, calm, nothing.  We had come to the end of our prayers.  We had to hope that Paul was right, that the Spirit would pray for us because we did not know how to pray for ourselves.

And we cried.  We cried in our private moments, when we turned out the light at night, lying in bed.  We held each other and cried for the uncertainty, the loss, the fear, and the anxiety.  We wept because we had no words with which to comfort each other in the face of this disease that had crept into our life and now occupied almost our every thought.

We cried for each other when we were not crying for ourselves.  We grieved the loss of this part of Debbie’s body, this part of her lip on which I had seen a million smiles take form and blossom.  We grieved because no one else could grieve for us.  Because all the well-intentioned assurances did not help.

But the prayers of others did help, we believe.  The surgery went well, the doctor was skillful, and Debbie is healing.  Her lip no longer has its Cupid’s bow, as that little curved part is called.  But she’s well, the cancer is gone, and we’re on the other side of this experience.  What surprised us was the grief, whose shadow is just now fading.

I have always tried to visit my members who were facing in-patient surgery, and I have sat with families waiting the outcome of open-heart, cancer, and other types of major surgical procedures.   Day surgeries don’t seem as serious.  Medically, I suppose, they are not.  But few will know the emotional and spiritual pain accompanying those procedures we call ‘minor.’  Grief, however, makes no distinction and visits us at surprising moments of our own vulnerability.  I’m going to remember that, I hope.

Jesus never denied the presence of grief, never dismissed it, but always was present with those in grief.  ”Blessed are those who mourn,” he said, “for they shall be comforted.”  I want to be among those who are the comforters, as well as the comforted.

Promoting Marriage As Community Care

Churches can care for their communities by providing resources to encourage and strengthen marriage.

The Brookings Institute’s Ron Haskins writes — “Higher marriage rates among the poor would benefit poor adults themselves, their children, and the nation.”  Haskins believes that churches and other non-profits should encourage marriage by offering courses on marriage, parenting, money management, anger management, and other family-related issues.

Out-of-wedlock births continue to increase in this country, as marriage rates continue the decline begun in 1972.  Haskins contends that –

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, children living in single-parent families are about five times as likely to live in poverty. There’s also a high probability they’ll drop out of school, get arrested, be involved in teen pregnancy themselves, have more mental health problems, and be less likely to be employed or in school as young adults. Indeed, parents themselves are physically and psychologically better off when married than single.”

But churches will also have to address the reasons that some choose not to marry.  According to Amanda Drew’s article, Declining Marriage Rates, young adults are choosing not to marry for a variety of reasons:

  • Couples choose to live together before marrying;
  • College graduates are taking a year off after graduation to travel before settling down;
  • The expense of a full-blown wedding is not appealing to some;
  • The decline in church attendance and the moral values that come from practicing one’s faith;
  • Fear of divorce.

I am convinced that the task of the church for the decade of the 2010′s is going to be a reimagined “care of souls.”  Churches can have a positive impact on their own communities by providing nurture and care for marriage and its attendant benefits.  Because the poor have a disproportionately lower rate of marriage, churches could find themselves caring for the “least of these” within their own communities in this vital area.  What is your church doing to encourage marriage and the advantages marriage brings in your community?

Finding Our Place Among The Hungry

More world citizens and more Americans go hungry each day than ever before in the history of the world.  One billion people out of the 6-billion who inhabit the earth, do not have enough to eat.  Almost 17% of the world’s population — 1-in-6 people in other words — are undernourished or malnourished.

In the United States of America, the numbers are no better:  16%, or 49-million Americans do not have access to adequate food.  Again, 1-in-6 in the most affluent country in the world go hungry.

The reasons for this record rise in world hunger lie in the global economic crisis coupled with the rising cost of food.  Food costs worldwide have increased 24% in just 4-years.  Civil unrest has followed the increasing cost of food and threatens to be the next global catastrophe.

But, here’s the interesting part:  In a newly-released Pew Forum survey, a majority of Americans prefer that religious groups feed the hungry and homeless.  Faith-based programs remain popular with the American public, and 52% said faith-based organizations are best able to feed the hungry.  Interestingly, those numbers are actually up from 8 years ago when the same questions were asked.

But are faith-based groups, churches included, doing what we can to feed people?  If 1-in-6 persons are hungry in America and the world, they should no longer be invisible to us.  Unfortunately, the hungry are disproportionately poor, minority, and marginalized by society.  They remain invisible to a vast majority of Christians because our paths do not cross, our children do not go to the same schools, and our social calendars do not coincide.

But this is a golden opportunity for faith-based groups to step up and fulfill the vision that America has for us.  If we as churches can do what our culture thinks we ought to do, which includes feeding hungry people, then we might find our place again in our own culture.  With church attendance continuing its 50-year decline from a high of 40% to today’s 17.5%, we need to reclaim our place in the world.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the church reclaimed its place in culture by finding its place among the poor?  Of course, that’s what Jesus did.  And he fed them, too.

Who cares for the pastor?

Lillian Daniel sparks an interesting conversation about clergy self-care in her article at Out of Ur, What Clergy Do Not Need.  Lillian’s point is that the “self-care talk” given at ordinations has become a joke, a cliche.  What we as clergy need, she asserts, are  deep relationships with fellow pastors and with God.

Further,  Daniel states:  ”My hunch, based upon my own experience in times when I have not taken care of myself, is that what I was missing was not within me already. I was lacking something, but it was not something that a lecture in self-care would fix.”

Here’s my comment in response to her post:

While the “self-care talk” may have become a cliche, that does not invalidate serious conversation about the need of pastors to pay attention to their own emotional, spiritual, and physical signals.

Self-care should not imply “self-reliance,” but rather recognition that I as a pastor need to mind my schedule, my commitments, and my relationships — the one with God included. Only we can do that for ourselves.

Blaming the pastor in need of physical, emotional, or spiritual renewal is not productive or helpful. We have too many instances of self-imposed failure to add  failure to care for self  to that list.

The answer lies not just in ourselves but in community with others. While community with fellow pastors is welcomed, my own faith community has most often provided the support, encouragement, and prayer I need. My approach is not to circle the wagons with fellow pastors, but to allow my own community to care for me, as I care for them.

I had another opportunity to experience that communal care this past summer when my brother died. I found being on the receiving end of care a difficult and humbling experience. I am trying to allow my own faith family inside my emotional and spiritual fence so that they can exercise their care for me in a shared call to “bear one another’s burdens.”

What do you think?  Do pastors need each other, or is our own church family a place of healing and care?  Who watches out for your emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being?  This should be interesting, and with hundreds of clergy leaving the ministry each month, this is a conversation we need to have.

A New Model Merges Pastoral Care and Social Action

I am speaking tomorrow at Duke Divinity School to students in the Rural Ministry Colloquia, a monthly gathering of students involved in, or interested in, rural church ministry.  I have been asked to tell our story of how we started a community center, community music school, and several other projects here in our small town of 1300 people.

In addition to telling our story, I’m also going to share some very quick thoughts about the role of small churches in rural areas.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the theology and practice of pastoral care in a missional church, and how that is different from pastoral care in traditional churches.  I think I’ve come up with a least a few questions, if not fully-formed answers.  Here’s some of what I’ll share tomorrow:

  1. Missional theology and praxis calls for contextual, incarnational engagement with the community.  How does “the care of souls” fit into the missio Dei and our part in it?
  2. Why is pastoral care largely ignored in the on-going conversations about the tranformation of the church?
  3. Given the social structures of rural society, and the aging populations of small town and rural America, shouldn’t “the care of souls” be a part of our intentional ministry, and not just an afterthought during times of crisis?
  4. Considering the rampant poverty, increased alcohol and drug abuse problems, lower educational levels, and other social issues affecting rural areas, shouldn’t our care of people also include care for the community, and the transformation of communal issues?

I am also proposing tomorrow a new way to look at pastoral care and social action (which is not a term I like, but I can’t think of another more descriptive).

The typical pastoral care model is a dyad of both the spiritual and psychological care of a person or family.  The typical “social gospel” model (or social action model) is a dyad of  spiritual and sociological engagement with a community, or group in a community.

I am proposing a new model that is a synthesis of both pastoral care and social gospel — a triad of the spiritual, psychological, and sociological concerns addressed by both individual approaches to care, and communal approaches to care.

In the Bible, salvation is often seen as coming to a people, not just individuals.  Certainly, the salvation of Israel was not thought of as future, but as a present reality that God could, and often did, provide.  This does not diminish the importance and necessity of a personal response to Jesus’ call to “come and follow me” but rather it broadens that call to include the salvation of social systems and communities.

I believe that “the care of souls” is going to burst into our theological imaginations in new and exciting ways.  Some of those will be that care will be more relational and less educational; and, more contextual and less general.

The “care of souls” will also fill the gaps in the social fabric of rural communities who have lost much of their social framework to chain stores, increased mobility, and the loss of public spaces.  I am convinced that we need to see our communities, not just as potential additions to our membership roles, but as “sheep without a shepherd.”

Creating networks of caring, training spiritual directors, offering healing solutions to intractable social problems — these are some of the new ways in which pastoral care in the missional church finds new expression.   One of the primary tasks of churches is to make meaning out of life’s stages and events.  By viewing our communities, and the individuals and families within them, as in need of Christian care, I believe we change the tone and effect of what we are doing.

What do you think?  How has your church, small or large, had opportunity to express care both for individuals and the entire community?  How have you brought about community transformation through “the care of souls?”  I’m really interested in gathering examples of churches doing this because I think it’s the next new awareness of the missional movement.

The Care of Souls as Outreach

My latest interest focuses on exploring pastoral care as outreach.  I talk to lots of small church pastors and leaders, picking their brains for stories of smaller churches doing effective ministry.  More and more I’m hearing stories of people helping people — people caring for people –  as a means of outreach.

Pastoral care, to use the well-worn phrase, has not been in vogue in the past 20-years or so — really since the church growth movement changed the pastor from shepherd to CEO.  (But that’s another story for another post.)

David Augsburger, Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Fuller Seminary,  bemoans the neglect of pastoral care in evangelical churches today.  In their new book, Connected, sociologists Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler point out that 12% of Americans have no one in their network with whom they can discuss important matters, or go out with socially.  That in itself should present churches with new opportunities for caring ministry.  But, too often the care of souls, or “the cure of souls” as it was called about 500 years ago, conjures up images of the pastor as pseudo-counselor or chaplain. Hand-holding is not what most pastors aspire to, even if we all have to do some of it on occasion.

But the kind of care I’m talking about isn’t psycho-spiritual navel-gazing.  Nor is it practiced only by pastors.  I’m talking about the kind of care that seeks out those in need and helps them.  And, help isn’t just defined in spiritual or psychological terms.  Help, or care, is that which responds actively — with food, rent, a warm meal, a heartfelt conversation, or a word of encouragement.

Just about every church I’ve written about exhibits some form of caring ministry.  Small churches can do that because caring is about relationships with people; not programs or marketing.  The big kicker is that the unchurched are ahead of us on this one — they think the church ought to do more caring for people in need.

What are your experiences?  Have you used a caring ministry as outreach?  What were your results?  How did caring change both you, and your church?  Let me know because this is a topic I’m going to visit regularly from time to time.

How Pastors Spend Their Time

The old joke is that pastors work only one hour a week — Sunday morning at 11 AM.  If I could get a gig like that, I’d take it, but the reality is that pastors, and other church leaders have very busy work schedules.  I was thinking about this the other day, and here’s how my week gets divided up:

  • Worship Services: 6-8 hours at church for worship and Bible study, depending on the season of the year.  We don’t have a Sunday night service; those who do will spend more time just at church for services.
  • Pastoral Care: 8-10 hours per week talking, visiting, counseling church members and others.  This includes hospital visitation, homebound members, nursing homes, in-office appointments, telephone calls, pastoral visits, as well as funerals or weddings.
  • Administration: 8-10 hours per week working on bulletins, newsletters, committee meetings, deacon meetings, preparing for meetings, calendaring events, going over finances, and meeting with church leaders.
  • Prayer and Preparation: 8-10 hours per week in sermon preparation, prayer, Bible study preparation, and general study and research for future sermons and Bible studies.
  • Outreach: 6-8 hours per week working with community groups, contacting prospective members, visiting with community members I encounter casually or intentionally to discuss community projects.

Some weeks I spend more time on some categories than others.  But I try to maintain a balance in ministry and a rhythm to my week.  I like to start my week with Sundays and work through Thursdays.  I take Friday and Saturday off, but the majority of weeks I usually have at least one event on at least one of those days.  That seems to go with the territory.  Of course, the all-too-frequent emergencies that send you off to visit the hospital or nursing home come at any time of the day or night.

I try to spend mornings in my office at church, and afternoons out of the office making visits when needed.  I publish my cell phone number, have an answering machine both at home and at church, and return phone calls as soon after I get the voice mail as I can.

In my personal and professional schedule I strive for a flow that gives me some time each day both to engage with others and have time for quiet reflection.  Most weeks that works out, but when things get really hectic I try to be flexible and responsive.  I remind myself that people come first, and other projects are secondary.

That’s my week. How do you structure yours? Or have you thought about where and how you spend your time?  Do you have time-management tips or practices that have proven useful in your own ministry?  If so, please share them with the rest of us.  Of course, if you only work one hour a week, the rest of us would like to know how to do that, too!

 

 
   Best Practices in Professional Pastoral Care
by....George F. Handzo, MDiv, MA

Consensus is developing in the field of professional pastoral
eare around the several best practiees. The discipline is
becoming a multi-faith, referral serviee. Generally, it is no
longer the case that particular clergy come in and visit ali of
the patients of their faith tradition. This model does not make
efficient use of pastoral eare resources and does not promote
integration into the health care team which is so essential to the
continuity of care and quality practice. In current best practice,
ehaplains are assigned to specific locations, generally selected
for their strategie importance to the institution, and visit patients
of all faiths selected according to specific protocols.
While there are no fonnal agreed upon practices adopted
by industry groups, the following practices are increasingly
accepted as representing the highest quality in professional
pastoral care.
• Based On a Plan with Outcomes, Pastoral care services are
based on a plan agreed to by institutional management and
other stakeholders.' This plan is key to the mission and
strategic plan of the organization, lays out specific objectives
and goals and is consistent with institutional culture.
By example, if the institution has a trauma center, the pastoral
care plan will have a foeus on 24/7 availability and
swif^ response to crises. In a community hospital, a foeus
will likely be on relationships to the loca! faith community.
• Targeting of Pasioral Care, Pastoral care resources are
targeted to particular services or patient populations chosen
for their strategic importance to the institution and/or the
demonstrated impact of pastoral care on those patients and
staff This is preferred to having chaplains cover all parts of
the hospital equally. Generally, the clinical services chosen
have high volume and/or high acuity. Intensive care units
often receive priority coverage along with cardiac and cancer
units where spiritual issues related to mortality and
meaning in life are eommon.
• Protocol-based Referrals. Except for units which are targeted
for daily coverage because of the issues outlined above, pastoral
care visits are generally initiated by protocol-based referrals.
A major emphasis for many institutions is patient
transition from one level of care to another within the system,
From Clinical Pastoral Services. The HealthCare Chaplaincy. New York.
NY,
Reprint requests to George V. Handzo. MDiv. MA, Clinical Pastoral Services.
The Healthcare Chaplaincy. 307 East 60tli Street, New York. NY
10022, Email: ghandzo(u'healthcarechapiaincy.org
Copyright C 2006 by The Southern Medical As;^ocialion
0038-4348/0 - 2000/9900-0663
George F. Handzo, MDiv, MA
as well as end of life eare. These changes, whether they are
from hospital to hospice, assisted living to long term care
facility, regular medical unit to intensive care,, or from curative
treatment to palliative care, tend to raise religious/spiritual
issues including meaning and hopefulness where pastoral care
ean make a contribution. Chaplains should generally be included
in protocols covering codes, deaths, organ donation.
radical change in prognosis, execution of advanced directives,
and disasters, A clear protocol must be established for covering
pastoral care needs outside of regular business hours. This
protocol should spell out which situations will generate a pastoral
care referral as well as how the chaplain on call is to be
contacted,
• Spiritual Screening and A.ssessment Processes. There should
be protocols for assessing and diagnosing spiritual distress
in patients and families which contain algorithms for referral
to pastoral care. The screening should, at minimum,
evaluate how important religion and spirituality are to the
patient's coping, how well those coping strategics are working
at the moment, and whether the patient has any immediate
religious or spiritual needs that require pastoral care
intervention,"^ The success of the referral system depends
on the ability and willingness of nonpastoral care clinical
staff to reliably do spiritual screening.^ Staff needs training
for this task and the protocols and infrastructure must be in
place to transmit referrals reliably and efficiently. To this
end, chaplains participate in the orientation of new clinical
staff Patients referred for pastoral care should have an
in-depth spiritual assessment by the chaplain on the initial
visit and periodically thereafter aceording to an agreed upon
protocol,^
Multifaith Ministry. Professional chaplains are trained to
minister to people of all faiths or no faith.*' This ministry is
accomplished by being able to work within the patient's
own faith and belief system. Rather than imposing answers
or solutions, the task ofthe chaplain is to assess the strengths
and weaknesses ofthe patient's own spiritual resources and
Southern Medical Journal • Volume 99, Number 6, June 2006 663
Special Section: Spirituality/Medicine hterfoce Project
help the patient maximize those in the service of the patient's
healing. The denomination ofthe chaplain will come
into play when religious rituals are required. At this point,
the chaplain needs to have available elergy of various faith
groups to funetion in this capacity. This strategy is parallel
to that used by mental health professionals who work with
and strengthen the patient's existing coping mechanisms
rather than impose a set of mechanisms which may be
foreign to the patient and therefore not effective.
Staff Training tfe Support. The impact of professional chaplains
is broadened by having them provide training for staff
on such topics as cultural awareness and sensitivity, listening
skills, advanced directives, and spiritual issues,^ The
training allows ali staff to better serve patients' and families'
emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. While the chaplains
are the spiritual care specialists on the team, all clinical
staff play a role in the assessment and delivery of
spiritual care.^ By having chaplains on units that tend to be
stressful for staff, the chaplains can provide immediate support
for staff after particularly stressful incidents, thus reducing
down time and improving staff efficiency.
Certification of Pastoral Care Staff. All pastoral care staff
should be certified according to the Common Standards for
Professional Chaplains and agree to abide by the Common
Code of Ethics for Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors,'
Basic requirements for certification include graduate theological
education, 1,600 hours of Clinical Pastoral Education
in an accredited program, endorsement for chaplaincy
by a recognized faith group and an appearance before a peer
review committee. The Common Code of Ethics is significant
in that it prohibits proselytizing or in any way imposing
one's own beliefs and practices on a patient. This limitation
is consistent with the emphasis on working with the
patient's own belief system, Volunteers and community
clergy provide ministry in carefully defined roles under the
supervision of the professional staff
Contributions to Cost Enhancetnent, While pastoral care
should be primarily considered a contribution to the fulfillment
ofthe institution's mission, it can make financial contributions
as well. Intentional pastoral care of staff during
times of professional and personal stress can contribute to
reduction in staff down time and turn over. These interventions
can be informal or can be formally incorporated into
an Employee Assistance Program, In the latter case, chaplaincy
staff should also have pastoral counseling training
which is different from clinical pastoral edueation. Pastoral
eare staff often conduct memorial services where elinieal
staff can commemorate the death of a specific patient, a
group of patients on a specific ser\Mce. or a beloved colleague.
While positioning chaplains as the primary organ
requestors in the institution is somewhat controversial in
that it removes ehaplains from their neutral role in relationship
to patients and families, it has been shown to significantly
raise the organ recovery rate for the institution.
• Participation in Ethics Processes. Sinee ethical decisions
for many patients involve religious beliefs, at least one
chaplain should serve on the ethics committee. Given the
concepts of multifaith ministry described above, it is not
necessary to have all major religious groups represented.
The chaplain should develop resources in the local religious
community to provide assistance where necessary. In deciding
on pastoral care involvement in the ethics processes,
it should not be assumed that every chaplain has training in
ethics by virtue of being clergy. Specific chaplains may
need training in the basic principles of biomedical ethies as
well as in the process of ethical consultation before being
ready to assume this role,
• Involvement in Disaster Preparedness. The Pastoral Care
Department should have a specific role in any institutional
disaster plan. Often this role involves care of family members
and/or being part of a general labor pool. The department
should have a speeifie protocol for mobilizing its staff
and possibly selected community clergy during normal business
hours and off hours.
• Quality Improvement, The Pastoral Care Department should
fully participate in the institutional quality assurance efforts
to the same extent as similar departments. The department
should have agreed upon goals for data collection, analysis
and reporting,
• Oiher Institutional Involvements, Depending on the character
and mission ofthe institution, chaplains can contribute
in various other ways. In community hospitals, chaplains
should be active in marketing and community outreach
efforts aimed at the local religious community. In academic
medical centers, chaplains should have a role in teaching and
research. Chaplains should be recruited with the requisite skills
and given appropriate training to fulfill these roles.
References
1, Hatui70 Ci. Wint7 S. Professional chaplaincy: cslablishiiig a hospilalbascd
department. Healthcare Exeeutive 200(i;21:38-39,
2, Distress Management Guidelines; National Comprehensive Cancer Network,
Available at: http://www.nccn,org/physician_gl.s/f_guide lines, htm I,
3, Puchiilski CM, Romcr AL, Taking a spiritual history allows clinicians to
understand patients more fully, ,/ Pall Med 21)()r);3:l29- 137.
4, Fitchett O, Screening for spiritual risk. Chaplaincy Today IWQ; 15:2-9,
5, Fitchett G, Assessing Spiriliial Needs: A Guide for Ccirei^ivers. Minneapolis,
Augsburg-Fortress: 1993.
6, VandeCreek L, Burton L, ProfesHional Chaplaincy: Its Role and Importance
in Healthcare. Schaumburg, the Assoeiation of Professional Chaplains:
2001.
7, The Joint Commission on ihe Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations,
Providing Ciiltunitly and Lingiii.sticcdly Competent Heulib Care. Chieago.
Joint Commission Publications, 2006.
8, Hand7o G. Koenig H, Spiritual care: whose job is it anyway? Southern
Medical Journal 2004:97:1242 1244,
9, Common Standards for Professional t haphiins and Comtnon Code of
F.thics for Chaplains & Pastoral Counselors. Available at: http://www.
professionalebaplains,ori;.
664 2006 Southern Medical Association

          Words of Faith for Clergy from Fr. Henri Nouwen

           Fr. Ken Howard writes on The New Middle Way,                                    A new  paradigm of Faith Community

http://sites.google.com/site/revkenhoward/

A New Middle Way?

Surviving and Thriving in the Coming Religious Realignment

“May You Live in Interesting Times…”

This ancient Chinese aphorism – said to be both blessing and curse – has clearly come true for The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion.

Our long-simmering conservative-liberal conflict has come to a boil. Dozens of conservative congregations and several dioceses have severed ties with TEC to align with conservative provinces on other continents. A reverse exodus of moderate-to-liberal (and some conservative) individuals and congregations have cut ties with the departees to return to TEC. And what about all the rest: the vast majority of Episcopalians who haven’t gone anywhere…yet? Since a potential liberal-conservative rift exists in every Episcopal congregation, might it not, left unaddressed, eventually unravel TEC and the Communion? That we are living in interesting times may be the only thing everybody in the Communion can agree on. 

O.K. Got the curse. When do we get the blessing?

My own congregation – actually, two successive iterations thereof – has experienced both the curse and the blessing. The first, planted in the early 90’s, experienced the curse. A relatively conservative congregation, it grew quickly at first but within two years had disintegrated in conflict over human sexuality issues.

Two years later, blessing followed curse. A new congregation, with a relatively newly-ordained leader (me), composed largely of “survivors” of the first plant, rose from the ashes of the old. Determined to learn from painful experience, we dedicated ourselves to discerning and living into a new way of being Church, in which conservative and liberal Christians could live together in love, and which conservative-liberal theological differences could not kill. We have been engaged in this journey of exploration for more than a decade.

The purpose of this article is to give you a small taste of what we have learned on this journey, and how that learning continues to help us survive and thrive in the midst of the current conflict.

Living In an Age of Collapsing Paradigms

To begin with, we realized that to be effective church leaders we could not be blind guides, but had to be good interpreters of the spiritual signs of the times (Mt 16:1-3). We needed to open our eyes and, with God’s help, look critically at ourselves and the Church. We quickly discovered that neither we, nor TEC, were transiting these turbulent times alone. The whole Church is wracked by this conflict. It’s just that we Anglicans have always been more public in our disagreements than others. (A healthy sign, we think).

In time, it dawned on us: this conflict was not your average, everyday schism, but a paradigm shift of seismic proportions. The blossoming “Emerging Church” movement is one example. Originally an Evangelical phenomenon, Emergent movements have sprung up in almost every denomination (ours is “Anglimergent”), critically reexamining their denomination’s assumptions of what it means to be Church. Some suggest that this “Great Emergence” is part of a cyclical pattern of upheavals in the Church, on a par with the “Great Schism” or the “Great Reformation.”[1]

Knowing that we live in – and what to expect in – an age of collapsing paradigms has helped our congregation respond to the changes around us with less anxiety and more compassion. Realizing that what we had thought was a field of battle between unalterably opposed sides was really an emerging and still mist-covered landscape helped us understand that we needed each others’ eyes to find our way safely through.

Helping Our Congregations Interpret the Signs of the Times

What did we learn to expect in an age of collapsing paradigms?

We learned that major paradigm shifts are almost always accompanied by turmoil and disorder. Take science for example. The primary mission of science is the discovery and integration of new knowledge. Yet studies have shown that, when confronted with data that conflict with the dominant paradigm, scientists reacted anxiously. Warring camps developed: “liberal” camps prematurely proposing new paradigms based on insufficient data; “conservative” defending the old paradigm by attacking the new data and the proposed paradigms. Eventually, the old paradigm always fell, yet neither camp really won. Some aspects of the liberal camp’s proposals found their way into the new paradigm, many did not. Some aspects of the old paradigm, which the conservative camps, were protecting remained standing, many did not. Because their vision was still limited by the old paradigm, both camps were blindsided.[2] 

It should come as no surprise that major paradigm shifts have been even more traumatic for the Church, provoking anxiety, anger, and reactivity in the form of conflict and even violence.  The Great Reformation resulted in decades of war and thousands of deaths. Yet somehow, with God’s help, the Church has always found a way to survive the fall of the old paradigm and eventually adapt to the new.

Helping Our Congregations to See Their Blind Spots

Coming to terms with our natural anxiety and reactivity in the face of paradigm collapse has helped our congregation exercise more humility and tolerance toward those with whom we disagree. Conservatives have to ask: “Are we truly acting to protect God’s will (as if God needs our protection) or merely protecting the status quo?” Liberals have to ask: “Are we truly prophetically promoting God’s will (as if God needs our promotion) or merely enamored of our own innovations?” Understanding the human propensity for violent reactivity has tended to give us pause about attributing evil intent to those who oppose our theological point of view. Recognizing that the dominant paradigm has created blind spots in our theological vision has helped us realize how much we need the insights of those who disagree with us.

What Paradigms Are Collapsing?

The End of the World (As We Know It):

Many of us believe the Church is facing a particularly rough patch this time around because it is losing several familiar paradigms of Christian community:

Christendom. An approach to Christian unity grounded in institutionalized power and control, which came into full play when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The Church buried the Christendom paradigm long ago, but has not yet fully exorcized Constantine’s ghost. Neither conservative nor liberal churches are happy about their continuing loss of influence. Conservatives seek to maintain it by beating back change where they can; liberals by accommodating it where they can.

Foundationalism. Conservative and liberal Christianity, as we know them today, have their roots in the Enlightenment paradigm of Foundationalism (a.k.a. Modernism), which assumes that ultimate foundational truths can be grasped through human rationality. Foundationalism had two main schools of thought: one which sought to establish universal truths by objective observation of the outside world; another which sought to discover universal truths through objective analysis of internal human experience. The modern conservative belief in Biblical inerrancy grew out of the first approach. Modern liberal Scriptural analysis grew out of the second approach. Both forms of Foundationalism are now collapsing under the combined weight of relativistic theory and quantum physics, which have demonstrated that the requisite absolute objectivity is impossible to attain.

Religionism. Organized religion is itself a paradigm based on the assumption that spiritual unity requires the security of an organized system of beliefs and practices. Where Foundationalism sought unity in certainty about truth, Religionism has sought unity in the security of organizational self preservation. If the increasing number of people identifying themselves as “spiritual, not religious” is any indication, Christianity conceived as organized religion may also be teetering on the brink of collapse. In light of the lack of Biblical evidence that Jesus, Paul, or any of the original disciples ever conceived of Christianity as a discrete and separate religion, one has to ask if this was not bound to happen sooner or later.

From the collapse of the above paradigms of Church unity we take two important lessons about what no longer works: 

The Conservative-Liberal Argument Has No Future.  Conservative Christianity and Liberal Christianity are modern creations, deeply rooted in the paradigm of Foundationalism.  They are like two punch-drunk boxers locked in a clinch after fourteen rounds. The only reason either remains standing is the other’s embrace. It’s time to end the fight.

Unity is Not Uniformity. These collapsing paradigms of Christian unity share an assumption that uniformity is a prerequisite of unity. While the world certainly operates on this basis, when it comes to the Church (with apologies to George Gershwin), “it ain’t necessarily so.” If anything, the more the Church has strived for uniformity, the more it has splintered.

What Will It Take To Put the UNITY in Christian CommUNITY)?

When we have sifted through the rubble of these collapsed paradigms, what will remain standing that we can rely on as our source of unity?

The Collapse of Christendom: From Power and Control to Agape Relationship. Take away power and control as the binding force of Christian community, and we are left with love: the love of Christ experienced in common worship and fellowship.

The Collapse of Foundationalism: From Certainty to Faith. Take away certainty as the basis for Christian community, and we are left with faith: faith in the incarnate person of Jesus Christ.

The Collapse of Religionism: From Security to Hope. Take away the security of a systematic set of religious beliefs and practices as the organizing principle of Christian community, and we are left with hope: the hope of organic and emergent spiritual community.

Faith, Hope, and Love . . . Sound Familiar? 

Individual Christians have long ordered their lives by these words of the Apostle Paul (1 Co 13:13). Yet the Church has been strangely reluctant to use them to order its corporate life, borrowing instead the culture’s dominant organizational paradigms. But what would it look like if we did apply them corporately?


A New Middle Way? A Different Sort of Orthodoxy?

The True Meaning of Orthodoxy (Defining Terms)

Asked the difference between “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” (i.e., heresy), William Warburton, 18th century Anglican bishop of Gloucester, replied “Orthodoxy is my doxy. Heterodoxy is another man’s doxy.”[3]

Orthodoxy has come to mean different things to different people:

Conservative Christians, though differing on details, understand orthodoxy as holding the right beliefs. Let’s call this approach “Propositional Orthodoxy.”

Liberal Christians, uncomfortable with the term, have renamed it orthopraxy: living right practices. Let’s call this approach “Ethical Orthodoxy.”

Yet orthodoxy originally meant “right praise.” Informed by this meaning, we have come to understand orthodoxy as simply appropriate response to the incarnate presence of God, which we take to be awe, love, a yearning to worship, and desire for relationship. Right beliefs and practices are not inappropriate responses, just secondary. Let’s call this approach “Incarnational Orthodoxy,” or – recognizing the paradox of the Incarnation – simply “Paradoxy.”

Incarnating Incarnational Orthodoxy (Practicing Paradoxy)

How do we practice Paradoxy?  The principles we have discerned are both beautifully simple to recognize and a great challenge to live out faithfully:

The Greatest of these is Love. We believe the only force powerful enough to unify Christian community is Christ’s love for us.  Everything else is secondary.

·         Understanding that diversity held together by Christ’s love is evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst, we don’t just tolerate it, we welcome and engage it.

·         Realizing that Christ’s love for us has made us family, we stick with each other no matter how severely may disagree.

·         We are fundamentalists about the Law of Love: love God, love each other, the rest is commentary.

If Anyone is in Christ, There is a New Creation. We understand that Christ’s love, experienced in the worship and fellowship of Christian community, is transformative of the community, its members, and of creation.

·         Realizing that changing hearts is Christ’s job, we set aside our need to convert others.

·         Realizing that our job is to make Christ’s love tangible, we welcome all people into full fellowship without precondition, trusting Christ’s love to make us all more like Christ.

The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ Her Lord. Our faith is not in doctrine (believing things about Christ), nor in practice (trying to live like Christ), but in relationship (loving the incarnate person of Christ). We understand the Incarnation as the greatest of all paradoxes wrapped in the most inscrutable of mysteries.

·         Embracing the mystery and living into the paradox, we live as if we believe, while doubting our doubts.

·         Acknowledging that the essential Truth of Christian faith is beyond human comprehension, we “curb our dogma,” refusing to make any beliefs or practices prerequisites to fellowship in our community.

You Are the Body of Christ and Members of It.  As the body of Christ, we see ourselves more as organism than organization.

·         Realizing that the rules, roles, and structure of organized religion are more expressions of our need for stability than essentials of Christian community, and that the only completely stable organisms are fossils, we try to wear those rules, roles, and structures loosely.

·         Realizing that a church is a living organism, our leadership is informed as much or more by the gifts and callings of our communicants as by the needs of the organization.

·         Recognizing that we need those whom God sends to us as much as they need us, we keep our boundaries permeable and our barriers to entry low.

Summary and Invitation

The limitations of this kind of article are obvious. Space limitations render such an article both oversimplified and incomplete.[4] Speculations about emerging paradigms are bound to be inconclusive. Looking through the lens of the old paradigm, we can never fully see the new. But we can begin to explore its outlines and place them tentatively on the map for future explorers to refine. At the very least, I hope I have shared enough of what my congregation has learned so far that you will want to join us as we continue to search for the blessings of these “interesting times.”