Pastoral Care

Pastoral care is an example of "practical theology" that responds to the condition of everyday lives, offers healing, growth and transformation, and creates connections between people and within communities. ESR students engaged in the pastoral care emphasis often go on to serve as chaplains in hospitals and hospices, counselors, and staff members in social service agencies.

The pastoral care endowment focuses on elevating our offerings to these students, and is designed to accomplish these important objectives

  • Elevate the pastoral care 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 compassionate care
  • Create scholarships for current ESR students and recent graduates pursuing professional credentials through Clinical Pastoral Education.

Practical Theology at ESR

Friends have historically been well prepared for lives of ministry in pastoral care. Bill Ratliff, author of Out of the Silence: Quaker Perspectives on Pastoral Care and Counseling, identifies six aspects of Friends' faith and practice that 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 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.
  • Skill in reflecting on personal experience and relating to the stories of others.

ESR's Pastoral Care program helps students learn and discover ways to respond in faith to the events in others' lives. The program is skills-based – it develops practical knowledge founded on psychology, sociology, and ethics. And, it is rooted in students’ own theological beliefs and their deep understanding of spiritual practices. Students explore and integrate their own sense of self, faith, belief, method, and practice, so that they can be ready to respond with empathy to the needs of others

Pastoral care encompasses several important areas of ministry

  • Emergency pastoral care
  • Anger, guilt and shame
  • Pastoral care in marriage
  • Pastoral care with family systems
  • Ministry to the dying and their families
  • Human sexuality

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 creating an environment in which everyone is encouraged to minister to others.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE, is one of the most transformative experiences of an ESR education because it is here that theoretical knowledge becomes real. Students are continually challenged to confront questions of life and death, and may find themselves in the presence of God at moments of great power and ministry. They learn to trust in God's presence, and find the capacity to offer support for others even when under intense duress.

This work happens among individuals, families and communities, and students encounter people from many religious faiths, as well as those who claim no faith at all. By necessity, CPE students develop the ability to work within a wide range of religious expressions, while speaking with integrity from their position of faith. And, Friends' comfort with silence is often a gift to others when simply being present is most important.

The pastoral care endowment will support scholarship funds to relieve some of the additional financial burden students face while pursuing Clinical Pastoral Education. The funds will be administered on a competitive basis. For current ESR students, the stipend will assist with application fees, tuition for the CPE program, and travel-related expenses like transportation, lodging, and meals. It may also be used for supplies and materials.

For students entering their one-year residencies after graduation from ESR, the competitive scholarship support may be used however it is most needed, including tuition and personal living expenses. Students who pursue CPE often find that taking one more year of schooling beyond seminary creates a significant financial strain. Scholarship support will make a significant difference, relieving strain from students who are themselves preparing for a vocation of helping others.


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.

Do you feel called to support the work of caregivers, including ESR students and alumni/ae who become counselors, chaplains, and social workers?

Do you believe ESR could usefully provide workshops, retreats, and other resources about pastoral care and counseling to Friends meetings?

Do you value the education in practical theology received by students at ESR, and would you like to help ensure its future?

Do you have the means to help Earlham School of Religion build an endowment to support the Pastoral Care and Counseling Program?

What level of gift are you able to make to manifest this vision for Quaker practical theology?

We offer multiple options for funding this endowment. A donor who chooses to fully fund the endowment will have the option of naming the program.

For more information or to discuss your interest in supporting Pastoral Care at ESR contact Tom Decker at 800-432-1377.