Review: Professional Spiritual and Pastoral Care

April 5th, 2012

To meet the needs of the rapidly developing field of professional chaplaincy, this handbook brings together Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic perspectives on spiritual and pastoral care. Edited by Rabbi Stephen B. Roberts, Professional Spiritual and Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain’s Handbook (Skylight Paths, 2012) is a handbook/textbook created for congregational clergy and seminarians, and those involved in CPE, as well as professional chaplains.

The articles have all been written by recognized leaders in the field. They will assist clergy and chaplains in exploring and developing best practices in such areas as theology of spiritual/pastoral care, assessments, strategic planning, quality improvement, and so forth. Articles reflect sensitivity to gender issues, care with persons with disabilities, addressing family needs, pediatric chaplaincy, GLBT issues, multi-cultural populations, and more.

Professional Spiritual and Pastoral Care is designed as a resource, not so much to be read cover-to-cover, as a critical reference and learning tool to be revisited as needed related to specific areas. It was created, in part, in recognition that many clergy might not have received extensive preparation in pastoral care to support the care they are called to provide. Part 1 invites readers to develop and clarify their own theological grounding for the work of spiritual and pastoral care. Articles in this section of the book are particularly instructive in helping practitioners think through their theological stance in an interfaith context, recognizing that those to whom they will offer care come from a great range of backgrounds, faiths, cultures, races, and traditions. The article by the Rev. David Plummer on developing one’s own theology would be valuable to any clergy reaching out with integrity in the context of the pluralism of their congregations and communities.

Part 2 focuses on the core skill needed to provide professional-level chaplaincy. Again, the articles in this section are of value not only to chaplains, but to pastors seeking to further develop the effectiveness of the care they provide to parishioners and others.

Part 3 examines the particular needs of various groups receiving care. This very helpful section looks at a wide range of issues involving international and immigrant patients, pediatric care, the GLBT community, chronic illness, survival grief, and so forth. It will prove to be a valuable resource to pastors and others called into a situation in which one has limited experience or preparation.

Part 4, most pertinent for professional chaplains, covers professional standards, certification, and related issues.

While intended for a multi-faith audience of both practitioners and patients, the book is limited somewhat in relying solely on Jewish, Protestant and Catholic writers. It is limited in scope, even as it purports to address the needs of all populations. As the field develops, perhaps a broader scope of sources will be available from, for example, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, and other perspectives, reflecting the full range of care receivers.

Even so, this critical new sourcebook does cover a broad scope of issues and challenges, from prayer, to collaboration with medical and hospital staff, to creating sacred space, to planning interfaith memorial services. It will be a very helpful reference book for students, chaplains, and clergy to keep at hand and refer to frequently. As the range of pastoral care concerns and contexts continues to expand and become more complex, and as care options become more extensive for patients and families to consider, the resources gathered here will inform, instruct and guide in wonderfully constructive and helpful ways.

comments powered by Disqus