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Pastoral Care & Counseling

To create connections between people and communities that offer healing, growth, and change — this is the aim of "practical theology," which begins from a compassionate response to the suffering and everyday situations of people's lives. Students pursuing a pastoral care and counseling emphasis at ESR often come from an unprogrammed Friends background and go on to serve in such roles as counselors, chaplains, and staff in social service agencies. ESR seeks to continue to provide the highest possible quality of preparation for its pastoral care and counseling students, and to create opportunities for outreach in practical theology to the Friends community at large.

This proposal seeks $1,750,000 to endow the Pastoral Care and Counseling Program at ESR. This endowment will accomplish these important objectives:

  • Elevate the pastoral care and counseling faculty position through the creation of a named, endowed faculty chair.
  • Offer resources and programs in practical theology to unprogrammed Friends meetings, where members and attenders support each other directly through counseling and care.
  • Create scholarships for current ESR students and recent graduates pursuing professional credentials through Clinical Pastoral Education.

A donor who funds this endowment in full will have the option of naming the program.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
(Jerusalem Bible)

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying;
A time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted;
A time for killing, a time for healing;
A time for knocking down, a time for building;
A time for tears, a time for laughter;
A time for mourning, a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them up;
A time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing;
A time for searching, a time for losing;
A time for keeping, a time for throwing away;
A time for tearing, a time for sewing;
A time for keeping silent, a time for speaking;
A time for loving, a time for hating;
A time for war, a time for peace.

The world needs ESR alumni. Skilled and caring, they are chaplains, serving in hospitals and hospices. They are counselors in mental health clinics and in addiction recovery programs. They are engaged in prison ministry. They serve in a wide variety of social service agencies. In all of these and many other settings, they accompany others in their journeys through life's difficult seasons. The Pastoral Care and Counseling Program at ESR prepares students to serve as instruments of God's caring: to help those in crisis or engaged in growth or change to find comfort and hope. They may especially assist others at times of great suffering or during major life transitions, but their ministry also unfolds in people's lives at less intense moments — during times of discernment, or during times of recognition and rejoicing in God's daily presence in their lives. By responding with care and support during these large and small moments, ESR students and alumni help to heal the world. They help those around them become more whole and more prepared to minister, in turn, to one another.

The Earlham School of Religion seeks support for three different aspects of the pastoral care and counseling program at ESR: to endow a faculty chair in pastoral care and counseling; to create and expand opportunities for outreach within the Religious Society of Friends by providing resources and connections especially to unprogrammed meetings whose members support each other directly through counseling and care; and to fund scholarships for current ESR students and recent graduates pursuing professional credentials through Clinical Pastoral Education, which includes a required continuing education residency program after graduation from seminary.

Practical Theology at ESR

The pastoral care and counseling program at ESR focuses on helping students learn and discover ways to respond in faith to the events in others' lives. In addition to developing knowledge and skills grounded in such fields as psychology, sociology, and ethics, students must also find ways to draw upon their own theological beliefs and to connect with the spiritual practices of others. By responding with openness to God's movement in the lives of others, they find that caring becomes a spiritual discipline offering growth not only to the intended recipient of the care but to the caregiver as well. Pastoral care requires students to explore and integrate ahead of time their own sense of self, faith, belief, method, and practice, in order to be ready to respond with openness and caring to the needs of others.

Pastoral care and counseling courses at ESR include such topics as emergency pastoral care, group pastoral care, pastoral care in marriage, pastoral care with family systems, ministry to the dying and their families, and human sexuality in ministry. Students also choose a local setting, such as a hospital or social service agency, in which to do a supervised unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). This is an opportunity for students to put into practice much of what they are already learning in the classroom; it is often a very intense and rewarding part of the curriculum. Then after graduation, many students go on to pursue a one-year residency program which leads to certification as a chaplain or member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

Friends may be especially well prepared to serve as pastoral counselors. In the introduction to his edited collection, Out of the Silence: Quaker Perspectives on Pastoral Care and Counseling, Bill Ratliff identifies six aspects of Friends' faith and practice that characteristically inform many Quakers' work in pastoral care and counseling: a quality of deep listening founded on respect for others as sources of God's truth; flexible care that is not tied to a liturgical tradition but is rather led by the Spirit; practice in spiritual discernment and speaking of difficult truths; a heart for justice and an openness to naming and critiquing the larger causes of particular problems; an understanding that pastoral care is everyone's concern in the community, not just that of professional caregivers; and skill in reflecting on personal experience and relating to the stories of others. One pastor has observed that Friends from unprogrammed meetings may have yet an additional edge: they are especially accustomed to silent waiting. Much of pastoral care in certain settings — say, in a hospital — involves a great deal of just such waiting.

At ESR, students learn how to be present with others at times of crisis; how to connect; how to draw in faith at appropriate times; how to create space for people to reflect, to be comforted and secure, to be invited into holy space. Students learn to walk alongside others who may be filled with grief, fear, anger, or despair. They also learn how to be caring presences in many less intense moments, often by fostering an environment in which everyone in the setting is encouraged to minister to others. They may go on to serve as mental health counselors, as chaplains in hospices or hospitals, or in callings as varied as disaster relief, prison ministries, social work, youth ministry, sign language interpretation, work with disabled persons, counseling in domestic violence shelters, health education, serving as a physician or a pharmacist, nursing, K-12 education, counseling in a retirement center, editing a pastoral care newsletter, or running a peace and justice program for schoolchildren.

To ensure a strong foundation for the seminary's pastoral care and counseling program, ESR seeks to endow the faculty position in practical theology.

Outreach to Friends

Whether it is called "ministry and counsel" or "oversight" or "care and support"; and whether it happens through committees or through the individual efforts of members and attenders, pastoral care is a deep part of Quaker corporate life, perhaps especially so at the monthly meeting level. With the Friends who are likeliest to know each other best across the years, both in easier times and in more difficult ones, the discipline of practical theology — drawing meaning out of life's events — and the pastoral care that follows from it, can be both a gift and a blessing.

ESR proposes to place a special emphasis on pastoral care and counseling in the Traveling Ministries program, in which teaching faculty and administrators offer their skills to local meetings as speakers, workshop organizers, and retreat leaders. Outreach will especially focus on unprogrammed meetings, whose unique strengths and needs will shape the direction of the program. The aim is to create connections and opportunities for caring ministries that recognize the giftedness of being unprogrammed as a basis for creating very powerful communities. Each faith community has its own identity and sources of vitality; ESR visitors will seek to help meetings discover how they can enable the ministry that needs to take place in their community. The model of ministry they will suggest centers on helping people find the support they need, whether inside or outside of meeting; and on creating space for healing to occur for individuals, families, and the faith community when each goes through times of difficult change.

Since much expertise already exists among Friends as to how to respond to different life passages and community matters, ESR could perhaps serve as a convenor of conversations among different local meetings who have developed resources for various aspects of pastoral care and counseling, such as care for the dying and their families, support for couples and their families going through a separation or divorce, attention to the needs of a meeting whose membership is rapidly growing or changing, assistance with conflict resolution, and more. Models could be shared for how to respond to individuals in crisis, for how to encourage a vibrant and effective monthly meeting for business, for methods of welcoming newcomers who may be unfamiliar with the worship practices and beliefs of Friends, to name just a few more examples. Of course, a great deal of ad hoc sharing of resources among Friends already occurs, and it remains to be seen whether there is a unique role for ESR to fill in this regard.

Yet another aspect of exploring Friends' commitment to pastoral care would be to examine the many ways in which individual Friends in a meeting may serve in pastoral care and counseling roles in their professional and volunteer activities outside of meeting. Look around the room at a great many Friends meetings, and you will see person after person in the "helping professions": pastors, nurses, teachers, counselors, social workers, physicians, advocates for justice in many settings, and more. How do Friends understand their individual calls to faithfulness in the context of their faithfulness as members of a meeting? When is it important to come together as a faith community to discuss a concern? How do meetings test and support the leadings of individuals? When is collective action as a meeting important?

Clinical Pastoral Education

ESR students often describe Clinical Pastoral Education as a transformative experience. Whether they are standing by the hospital bedside of a dying patient and his family, or counseling a woman in a mental health program who has questions about what is worth living for, the setting and situation will bring all of their previous reading and reflection to bear. They may find themselves in the presence of God at a moment of extreme power and mystery. By trusting in God's presence and care for all those present, they may discover within themselves the capacity to offer support and counseling even in moments of intense suffering.

Each ESR student with an emphasis in pastoral care and counseling completes at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in a ministry setting such as a hospital or social service agency. After graduation, if they wish to go on in the field, they pursue a one-year residency that leads to certification as a chaplain or member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. CPE programs generally include clinical rotations, attention to spiritual and emotional preparation for ministry, classroom learning with a small cohort of peers, and more. By design, CPE is a very intensive program, meant to immerse students fully in the demands of their chosen field.

As they minister to a wide variety of individuals, families, and groups, students encounter a full range of religious belief and nonbelief among those they serve. They are challenged to speak from the center of their own (often Quaker) spirituality, while at the same time being open to the concerns and needs of people with sometimes quite different understandings of God, purpose, goodness, grace, and the nature of human suffering. In addition, people's religious forms of expression — such as prayer, liturgy, and looking to Scripture for comfort or answers — may vary a great deal. Encountering and responding to suffering from across a spectrum of religious faith and practice can itself be a growing experience. Nonliturgical Friends may find it challenging to embrace liturgy; at the same time, their comfort with universalist language may help them connect with a wide variety of faith traditions. Friends' comfort with silence may be a gift to others at a time when simply being present is what's most important.

ESR seeks scholarship funds for seminary students and recent graduates to help relieve some of the additional financial burden these students face while pursuing Clinical Pastoral Education. The funds will be administered on a competitive basis. For current ESR students, the stipend is meant to assist with application fees, tuition for the CPE program, and such travel-related expenses as transportation, lodging, and meals. It could also be used for supplies and materials (e.g., to photocopy a devotional article that may be of special meaning to a patient; or to make posters as part of a chapel service).

For students entering their one-year residencies after graduation from ESR, the competitive scholarship support is meant to be used however it is most needed, including tuition and personal living expenses. Students will be asked to make a report on their use of the funds. Students who pursue CPE often find that taking one more year of schooling in addition to seminary presents a significant financial strain. Most programs try to take this into account, and they may address the problem in various ways, e.g., by providing student housing or offering scholarship aid. However, it is still typically a difficult year financially for students, who are simultaneously immersed in an intensive program, seeking their first job in the field, beginning to repay student loans, and through it all trying to make ends meet. Scholarship support would make a significant difference, relieving some strain from students who are themselves preparing for a vocation of helping others.

Care for the Caregivers

At the heart of all three pastoral care programs described above — endowing a faculty chair in practical theology; expanding outreach to Friends, especially to unprogrammed meetings; and creating scholarships for students pursuing Clinical Pastoral Education — is a commitment to supporting those who are helping to bring about the world as God envisions it can be. Care for the caregivers, who aim to heal the world: this is what enlivens an invitation to support the practical theology program at ESR.

Queries for Consideration

These queries are provided to help you prayerfully consider whether this major gift proposal is a priority for you as you act as a steward of your resources.

  1. Do you feel called to support the work of caregivers, including ESR students and alumni/ae who become counselors, chaplains, and social workers?
  2. Do you believe ESR could usefully provide workshops, retreats, and other resources about pastoral care and counseling to Friends meetings?
  3. Do you value the education in practical theology received by students at ESR, and would you like to help ensure its future?
  4. Do you have the means to help Earlham School of Religion build an endowment to support the Pastoral Care and Counseling Program?
  5. What level of gift are you able to make to manifest this vision for Quaker practical theology?
  • Full funding of $1,750,000 by gift, pledge, or irrevocable estate gift?
  • Partial, but major, gift of $100,000 to $1,000,000 by gift, pledge, or irrevocable estate gift?
  • Supporting gift of $10,000 to $99,000 by gift or pledge?

Contact Jay Marshall, Dean, at Earlham School of Religion to discuss your interest in this project.

765-983-1689 • 800-432-1377 • marshja@earlham.edu