Monday, July 16, 2007

My Theology of Pastoral Counseling

(photo by Qiyamah A. Rahman - The Light of the Day Shineth Forth)

The last weekend in September I will appear before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee in a process that will confer the title of "reverend" on me. The process begins with a ten minute sermon that I will deliver to the Committee, followed by an interview process that invites me to begin the questioning with a question of my choosing. After sharing my response to my questioin then they will pose questions to me to determine if I am in deed a minister and whether I show up as such and whether I possess the knowledge and understanding needed to be a Unitarian Universalist minister.

There is much paperwork involved. I am required to submit a packet and write numerous essays which I will later post on my blog. Below is a brief reflection I did last year for my ministerial internship committee on pastoral counseling, an important component of ministry.

I am beginning to get excited about appearing before the Committee since it represents the next important phase in my incredible journey called life!

I am on my way!

A World Transformed by Our Care: My Theology of Pastoral Counseling
By Qiyamah A. Rahman, minister in formation

My theology of counseling is informed by several primary beliefs that include the following:
• Humans are social beings and thrive in association with one another and therefore in community.
• When our lives work holistically we are sustained by networks of support that promote and inspire our growth, resources and accountability.
• Pastoral care exists to form a bridge between those places of brokenness and wholeness, thus essentially serving as a lifeline back to wholeness and health.

Negotiating the impacts of life’s changes, discerning and healing from hurtful moments can leave us reeling and vulnerable according to community minister, Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson. These are moments when we are in need of love and support fueled by the faith and inspiration of others. Those “other” are pastoral care providers and counselors.
The care of the vulnerable and those in need is a message clearly sanctioned by our religious tradition of Unitarian Universalism. And while our religious insights and beliefs have expanded to include many faith traditions, much of our original understanding of ourselves is biblical. So it is only appropriate that we look to the bible for understanding the sources of our authority for pastoral care. One such source is Deuteronomy 15:11, “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, open your hand to the poor and the needy neighbor in your land.” Surely we must interpret this charge to serve the “poor and needy” being those not only who lack little in the way of material matters but those poor and needy in spirit.

Generally, pastoral counseling is offered to the members of a particular congregation. I interpret our charge to “the poor and needy” to extend beyond the four walls of our individual congregations and beyond Unitarian Universalism. Thus, my efforts to invite an interfaith theme into a pastoral care conference that I initiated in September, 2004. Once again, as a community minister in formation, I reflect upon the words of Farber-Robertson, “The divine is spoken on human lips, unclean lips, by people who often live on the margins of the gathered community.” There is a great need in the world not only for the message of Unitarian Universalism but for kind words, compassionate listening, non judgmental ears and gentle loving hands of encouragement. We have much to offer and much to learn as we embody these gifts to the world.
I close with the words of Rev. Gordon McKeeman, Universalist minister, former President of Starr King School for the Minister, one-time candidate for President of the Unitarian Universalist Association and a current resident of the Thomas Jefferson District, as well as words from Rev. Ben Hall, hospital chaplain and UU community minister at Bell Street chapel in Providence, RI. McKeeman asserts, …We’re talking that every child of God is worthy, and that the point at which someone of those creatures is in pain, we are all in pain in the religious sense… Hill says, “Pastoral care ministry gives a person in crisis the gift of knowing that he is not alone, it gives the chaplain the privilege of seeing another person’s woundedness not as an aberration but as a part of the truth of living…It is a chance to be reminded of the fact that we are all in this together and to embrace this.”

May the ministry that I seek be a healing to others and myself. Blessed Be!
Qiyamah A. Rahman

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