This is an introductory course in practices of care and theology for ministry in communities of faith. While the primary focus of the course is the local congregation the material will be relevant to other settings as well. The course begins with the assumption that practices of care are not exclusively one-to-one interactions that occur in the pastor’s office. Care involves the whole community of faith as it is called to create and nurture the faith and wellbeing of all people. Throughout the course pastoral and prophetic points of view will be held together as we explore the needs of people in diverse settings. Walter Brueggemann says, “There are no personal issues that are not of a piece with the great public issues. To divide things up into prophetic and pastoral is to betray both.” This implies that as pastoral theology reunites with its prophetic legacy it will become a public pastoral theology.
We will look at various contexts for pastoral care and how they inform the issues facing people. This means our pastoral practices will attend to the societal pressures that impact people’s lives. This means that pastoral listening cannot just be listening; rather it needs to be just listening – or justice oriented listening. We will ask what is required of religious leaders to be able to engage situations for personal and communal wellbeing. With this “double vision,” the individual person and the person’s context, we will explore some of the critical issues facing people today and how the pastoral practices of faith communities can be mobilized to respond to them. Throughout the course we will be asking what difference does race, gender, class and culture make in the way we understand the meaning and practice of care in a world hungry for just and compassionate communities?
As a backdrop to our work together, we will be guided by two questions: What is our vision of a just and compassionate world? How is this vision expressed in pastoral practices and celebrated in worship?