Pastoral Care and Counseling an Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

He has a name; he is the Capitalism of private property and the Capitalism of the state" (Sigmund 85). The social, economic, and political undertones of Liberation Theology are not hard to see. While representing themselves as activists, their goal places primacy on the economic rather than the spiritual.

Nonetheless, Liberation Theologians have established "ecclesial base communities," which have been growing since the 1970s: "These are 'small, grassroots, lay groups of the poor or the ordinary people, meeting to pray, conduct Bible studies, and wrestle concretely with social and political obligations in their settings'"(Rhodes). Gustavo Gutierrez's theology is, essentially, a reaction against capitalistic relationships, in which supply and demand govern interactions:

Gutierrez and other liberation theologians say the church's mission is no longer one of a 'quantitative' notion of saving numbers of souls. Rather, the church's mission 'is at all times to protest against injustice, to challenge what is inhuman, to side with the poor and the oppressed.' (Rhodes)

The Theology of Liberation, however, is considered to be a radical departure from pastoral care and counseling. It deemphasizes the ritualistic nature of prayer and worship and relies on the rhythm of propaganda instead.

Tim Lane and David Powlison similarly note the change of direction that pastoral care and counseling has taken:

From the turn of the 20th century, a shift took place in pastoral care instruction in seminaries. While many seminaries continued to make the Scriptures primary in the preaching of God's word, they no longer made the Scriptures primary in pastoral care and counseling. This vacuum was filled by a host of alternatives that tended to minimize, change or overshadow the redemptive message of the Scriptures.

Powlison objects to these alternatives, such as liberation theologians employ, insisting rather that "Scripture is about counseling." Such an objection is what led to the "Biblical Counseling" movement led by Jay Adams in the '60s. The stated goal is to "restore Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church."

Christine Iverson, likewise, places pastoral care and counseling back in its more orthodox (if modern) conceptualization: "One of the reasons that community faith-based response is so visible and so vital is that other organizations leave in progression beginning very soon after [a] disaster. It is the churches that stay and care for the long haul" (12). Corporal works are part of pastoral care -- and so are spiritual works.

Most importantly, therefore, is the rhythm of pastoral care and counseling that liturgy provides. Church liturgy itself has a dichotomous function, and that is to instruct even as it enables worship: it is a rhythmic, ritualistic exercise that expresses dogmatic teachings and concomitantly helps elevate one's mind and heart to God. This is the core of pastoral care and counseling. History bears the evidence. Liturgy is the most public expression of faith.

As Arthur Just illustrates, "A pattern of formal, repetitive behavior occurs in every ritual event" (5). Liturgy is the most formalized, repetitive ritual that also embodies the elements of pastoral care and counseling, as traditionally understood: Scriptural readings and dogmatic pronouncements coupled with public acts of repentance and veneration. The natural rhythm of the world is reflected in the rhythmic structure of the prayers of the liturgy -- reflected and elevated. Arthur Just explains how this rhythm helps stabilize, by saying that "without the patterns of the formal, repetitive behavior, there would be utter chaos" (5).

My Philosophy Regarding Pastoral Care

Liturgy, therefore, acts as a conduit of grace. "Within the structure of the ritual there is the opportunity for great joy that results from the surprise we experience when, within the ritual, things happen that we did not expect. This surprise is only possible if there is a pattern of formal, repetitive behavior" (Just 5). Such ritualism was highly orthodox in the medieval world, where ceremony and liturgy were united. Gregorian chant emphasized the transcendent as well as the melodic and harmonic elements of nature. But it also utilized the rhythmic element -- chant is one of the most fundamental aspects of worship -- and thus it is of great value in the world of pastoral care and counseling.

The importance of ritualistic worship as an aspect of pastoral care and counseling goes beyond the benefit derived from the individual. It extends to the community as a whole, and has done so for centuries and in several different cultures. Pastors should acquaint themselves with ritualistic worship for the good of the souls they lead:

Rituals cause communities to cohere as a group, and in many cases, that cohesion is the means by which the group is able to survive. Such survival is very true of religious rituals where not only identity is being formed, but where faith is handed down through the religious rites of the community. The history of both Jews and Christians is marked by times of persecution where their liturgical rituals helped them survive as a community. Our historic liturgy, which we call the Divine Service, is a pattern of formal, repetitive behavior. (Just 6)

Thus, liturgical worship is of prime importance in the strengthening of communities. Pastoral care and counseling should be directed toward the spiritual fulfillment of the needs of men and women.

Arthur Just is not incorrect in pointing out the problem of modern pastoral counseling ala the kind administered by Liberation Theologians: it is a lack of the spirituality that pervaded the medieval world: "Unfortunately, since the Enlightenment, our church buildings and their liturgies have become temples to the rational mind, and we have eschewed the sensuousness of the ancient liturgies of the church" (6). The Enlightenment essentially enshrined Reason as the new pastoral guide and dethroned Christ.

Yet, Just proceeds to recognize the highest goal of ritual -- survival. "If the final goal of ritual is survival, then this is why, at these moments of great change where emotions are charged and people are on edge, our natural tendency is to create ritual to help us negotiate these significant boundaries" (7). Uniting oneself with nature and its rhythm is the first step allowing God's grace to build upon that nature, which in turn allows the individual to grow -- and survive.


In conclusion, rhythm has always been a key element in religious ritual, which has, consequently, historically been an essential element in pastoral care and counseling. Only recently has that same care and counseling drifted towards a more social, economic, and political platform, with movements like Liberation Theology inspired by Gustavo Guttierez's readings of Marx and Scripture. However, for true care to be administered, primacy of the spiritual must be seen -- and such is where the cadence of the liturgy comes into play.

Reference List

Iverson, Christine. "Worship in the Midst of Disaster." Caring Connections: Journal

for Practitioners and Teachers of Pastoral Care and Counseling, vol. 3, no. 1, 2006, p. 12-14.

Just, Arthur. "Liturgy and Ritual." Caring Connections: Journal for Practitioners and Teachers of Pastoral Care and Counseling, vol. 3, no. 1, 2006, p. 5-8.

Lane, Tim; Powlison, David. "CCEF History, Theological Foundations and Counseling

Model." CCEF. 2011. Web. 15 May 2011.

Massey, Kevin. "Editorial." Caring Connections: Journal for Practitioners and Teachers of Pastoral Care and Counseling, vol. 3, no. 1, 2006, p. 4.

Mettnitzer, A. "Is Pastoral Care Psychotherapy?" Wien Mar Wochenschr, vol. 149, no.

11, 1999, p. 337-41.

O'Connor, Thomas. "Pastoral Counseling and Pastoral Care: Is There a Difference?"

The Journal of Pastoral Care Counseling, vol. 57, no. 1, 2003, p. 3-14.

Rhodes, R. 1991 "Christian Revolution in Latin America: The Changing Face of Liberation Theology." Christian Research Journal. 1991. Web. 15 May 2011.

Roy, Susan Carol. "Unleashing Theology: Ritual and Pastoral Care in the Human-

Animal Bond." Caring…

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