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Pastoral Care

You don't have to do it alone

Pastoral care is walking together. 
Walking together is a multidimensional activity. Beyond the worship life, the milestones and rites of passage, the social justice advocacy, and the spiritual development of the congregation comes the art of walking together through joys, sorrows, fears, hopes, pain and struggles. Walking together is the art of caring for each individual in the congregation, and for the congregation as a whole. Pastoral care is a process of getting to know the whole person, from the inside to the social context, and of listening for what runs deepest.
Walking together happens in the usual places: at a hospital bedside or in the minister's office and in the less obvious places: during a committee meeting, or a contentious community protest event.
Walking together is not therapy. In fact, meetings in a minister's office need to lead to referrals if therapy is what is needed or wanted. 
The art of walking together involves deep listening. Deep listening (and the courage to truly hear) requires that the minister know him or her self well, that the minister have concrete listening skills and that the minister have sufficient life experience to comprehend what is being conveyed. The art of walking together involves assessment without labels or judgement. This is a delicate dance of identifying spiritual needs, and constantly revising, or discarding and starting anew. The art of walking together involves being willing to take into account the whole picture: a person's spiritual needs are defined by their personality, thoughts, beliefs, experiences, by their relationships with family, friends, institutions, by their identity and relationships with the broader society, and by their history and future possibilities.
Walking together also requires permeable boundaries when it comes to empathy and impeccable boundaries when it comes to ethics. The touchstone of the ethical boundaries is knowing who owns what information and practice involves avoiding seeking to meet the minister's needs within the 
pastoral relationship.
This leads to the importance of self care: A good pastoral care-giver is also someone who is able to care for themselves, with a rich spiritual life, and loving home life.
Walking together is an honor and a responsibility. It is not to be taken lightly but is perhaps the most rewarding part of ministry.