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

660 Million Clergy Abuse Settlement - The Largest to Date

While a monetary settlement can never erase the pain and devastation a victim/survivor experiences as a result of the trauma of sexual abuse at the hands of their clergy, a legal settlement sends the basic message that, "I have been heard and what happened to me matters." May these victim survivors experience some satisfaction of knowing that although sharing their truth does not necessarily set them free, that it helps others move closer to accepting the painful reality of this social problem among us so that we can begin to say, "No more" and mean it. I encourage the overwhelming majority of clergy that are effectively serving with courage, passion, integrity and love to remember that there are at least 38% of our colleagues that are guilty of abusing their power and roles. May we continue to work to build healthy and loving relationships that grow and to work on healing those that have suffered from such abuses of power.
Blessed Be! Qiyamah A. Rahman

Judge OKs $660M clergy abuse settlement By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer
24 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES - Sobs and a moment of silence for those who died during years of negotiations punctuated a Monday hearing at which a judge accepted a $660 million settlement between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and alleged victims of clergy sex abuse.

"This is the right result," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Haley Fromholz."

The settlement is by far the largest payout by any diocese since the clergy abuse scandal emerged in Boston in 2002. Individual payouts, to be made by Dec. 1, will vary according to the severity of each case.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, whose archdiocese counts 4.3 million Catholics, sat through the hearing but did not speak. He issued an apology Sunday after the settlement was announced and said Monday in a statement that he would spend the rest of the day praying for those who claimed abuse.

Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs' attorney, asked his clients to stand during the hearing and thanked them for their resolve and their courage, before breaking down in tears.

"It's their courage and commitment that made this possible, and I think they deserve a tremendous debt of gratitude," he said.

"I know it's hard for most of the victims whose scars are very deep ... and I know many will never forgive the cardinal," he said. "But he took steps that I think that only he could take, and if left to the lawyers and others in the church, he would not have settled this case."

The attorney for the archdiocese, Michael Hennigan, also appeared emotional as he told the court that his views of clergy sexual abuse changed dramatically during the years he spent trying to hammer out an agreement. He said private meetings with 70 of the plaintiffs made the most impact.

"It changed us all, and it changed our perspective on what's happened here," he said.

"I'd like to say that the church would have been reformed without these cases, but I don't know that's true," he said. "These cases have forever reformed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It will never be the same."

Mahony made several trips to Rome in recent weeks to get the Vatican's support for the settlement, Hennigan said.

Dozens of people who have alleged abuse gathered outside the courthouse to talk about the settlement.

Mary Ferrell said she was abused for two years beginning in 1956 by a priest in San Pedro. Ferrell said she never imagined she would be talking about it in a public square.

"When I was 7, I didn't tell anyone," she said. "I didn't know what he'd done to me, and I didn't have the terms. I was totally alone, and I carried it with me for all these years."

Because of the abuse, Ferrell said, she has spent a lifetime battling with alcoholism and drug abuse.

"I isolate myself because it's the only place I feel safe. Having met all these other victims, it's like they're my brothers and sisters," she said.

Esther Miller, 48, said she was repeatedly sexually abused as a teenager by a deacon in Van Nuys. The deacon, who was later defrocked, would sing Gregorian chants and make her wear a scapular while he molested her, she said.

Because of the abuse, Miller said, she has lost 19 jobs and been divorced three times. She currently does not work and has problems controlling her anger, she said.

"This settlement means I was telling the truth, I was telling my truth. It was not an allegation," Miller said, crying. "I'm going to show the world."

Mahony said Sunday that the settlement will not have an impact on the archdiocese's core ministry, but that the church will have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds and borrow money. The archdiocese will not sell parish properties or schools, he said.

The deal settles all 508 cases that remained against the archdiocese, which also paid $60 million in December to settle 45 cases that weren't covered by sexual abuse insurance.

The archdiocese, the nation's largest, will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million.

The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years, Hennigan said. The archdiocese is released from liability in those claims, said Tod Tamberg, church spokesman.

Plaintiffs' attorneys can expect to receive up to 40 percent of the settlement money — or $264 million.

The settlements push the total amount paid out by the U.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion.

Previously, the Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders had paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims. Several religious orders in California have also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.S. church since 1950 to more than $2 billion.

Previously, the Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic orders had paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims. Several religious orders in California have also reached multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.