Qualities Of A Pastoral Carer
Length: 1237 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Describe the essential qualities of a pastoral caregiver. Outline literature used to support your assumptions. Discuss the qualities you believe that you have already and what you recognise you need to develop. Include how you intend to do this.
“The shepherd was with his flock day and night, often in remote places far from home, and he had to be skilled in keeping the flock together, in finding wanderers and stragglers, in recognising the ailments of his sheep and knowing how to cure them, and in ensuring the safety of the vulnerable members of the flock.'; This definition of the role of a pastoral caregiver highlights the necessity for certain fundamental qualities within an individual in this role. These qualities include integrity, relevant response to issues of the time, deep knowledge of the heart of God, humility, and love.
Deep knowledge of the heart of God, is the most important quality for someone in a pastoral role. “Do you know the incarnate God? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of god, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal…The knowledge of Jesus’ heart is a knowledge of the heart. And when we live in the world with that knowledge, we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.'; Spiritual maturity is essential as the above quote of Henri Nouwen explains and is further defined by St Gregory the Great where he wrote, “That man, therefore, ought by all means to be drawn with cords to be an example of good living…who studies so to live that he may be able to water even dry hearts with the streams of doctrine…'; , for a rounded and biblically sound approach as a carer. However the relationship between the individual and Christ is inevitably ever changing. The pastoral caregiver has to have an open mind to this spiritual development in such things as his or her spiritual gifts, for growth within him or herself and within his or her care giving.
In conjunction with this relationship with Christ the quality of relevant response with regard to current issues arises. Contextualising pastoral theology is achieved through this partnership with God and the original attitudes and awareness that come from an experience and understanding of the present situation. Here the wounded healer has the opportunity to address these issues more totally as they have an empathetic depth of understanding.
For them “…it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.'; These experiences can only be useful however if the pastoral caregiver is prepared to share his or her self. As Henri Nouwen shows “What it means is that ministers and priests are also called to be full members of their communities, are accountable to them and need their affection and support, and are called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves.'; A biblical justification can be taken from Hebrews 13:16 “…and do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased…';
Integrity, I feel is perhaps, second to Godliness as an important quality in a pastoral care. As Paul says in his letter to Titus, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…'; (Titus 2:7) And as DC Talk say on their album “Jesus Freak'; “The greatest cause of atheism in this world is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny him by their lifestyle.'; How can one appropriately counsel and care for another when his counsel is shrouded in hypocrisy? The simple cliché of “practising what you preach'; is fundamental and can make or break the effect the carer has on his or her subject.
Another essential quality in pastoral care is that of humility. As Nouwen wrote “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.'; To be humble is to be unpretentious, without pride, and modest. This too can be related to the wounded healer. Nouwen says “We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.';
Lastly, a quintessential quality in any care giving position, Christian or otherwise is that of love. As Paul writes to the Corinthians “Love is patient love is kind. It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.'; (1 Cor 13:4-8) The essence of God is love, therefore in pastoral care, a love of the community should be the foremost reason for being a pastoral figure. Mike Riddell writes, “Pastoral care is human loving rooted in the incarnation of God’s unqualified love, expressed in the context of communities of faith…'; And this definition can be biblically justified in John’s first epistle where he writes “Dear friends, since god so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.';
I feel that all of the five qualities above are in some way manifested in me. All to different degrees, I feel that all however can be improved. With regard to integrity, my life would seem to be rife with hypocrisy. A co-worker at work asked me what I was studying and I told him theology. After explaining what this is and about, I could not help but contemplate my actions and what I had said previously to him and I was drawn to the words of DC Talk I quoted above. However much I denied Christ in my workplace though, this is only one place of many where I have done it. In humility I struggle, in unconditional love towards my neighbour I struggle. The only place where I feel I sometimes succeed is in knowing the heart of the Lord, whether I take heed of it is a different story, but undoubtedly I feel that he always lets me know when I am in the right place or not. I feel the best way to develop the qualities I lack however is to live in Christ and for Christ and through experiencing life in Him will I gain the tools and qualities I need.
The qualities described above are I feel integral to the work of pastoral care. To have a knowledge of Christ and his heart and to be able to contextualise that. To have integrity and steer away from hypocrisy. And to be humble and loving. Eugene Peterson’s “Message'; bible version of Matthew 5:13 says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste Godliness?'; And with this commission Christ sends us out.