Learn: Pastoral Care
An important and helpful book on a much neglected subject which will benefit both 'carer’ and ‘cared for'
Learn: Pastoral Care
Hongsuk Um (ed)
St Andrew Press
Reviewer: Alec Gilmore
An important and helpful book on a much neglected subject, too often granted only 'Cinderella status' in more traditional theological environments. The intention is to provide a service for anyone engaged in pastoral care at any level, professional or amateur, ministerial or lay, fully or partially trained, with years of experience or none. That is good and will benefit both 'carer’ and ‘cared for'.
A fourfold framework covers theory and principles, partnership and self-awareness, varieties of care, and half-a-dozen specific topics: children and young people, relationships, loneliness, mental health, dementia, terminally ill. Twenty professionals with unquestionable academic and hands-on experience provide the content in a thoroughly practical and down-to-earth manner, mostly grounded in, focused on, or reflective of real life situations, with no shortage of helpful comments and nothing I would want to query.
Each of the four sections begins with ‘My Story‘ (a personal experience of care from a provider or receiver) which rings true, though links with the rest of the section are somewhat tenuous and a little judicial editorial signposting would not have gone amiss.
The presentation overall is imaginative, colourful and lavish. Eye-catching quotes lifted out of the text and splashed sky high are the journalist’s lifeline, but sub-headings which enable the reader to map the route are in short supply for a training manual and the pictures (which are all of a high quality) raise unanswered questions: who are are they and why are they there? Some could profitably be discussion starters for an imaginative group (eg pp 13, 42, 63, 66-67, 70, 78) but there is no such suggestion nor any hints on the sort of questions to stimulate thought, leaving some as apparently little more than decoration or page-breakers.
Inevitably, writing skills from professionals, including some for whom writing was not their natural métier, vary from excellent (notably Ewan Kelly, Gabrielle Dench and Gayle Taylor) to pedestrian, which might have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand. Translating some of the familiar ‘churchy’ language into everyday language might have given the book an added attraction outside church walls.
However, despite these minor disappointments, with social care as it is today much of what this book offers is desperately needed. It deserves a good future.
Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister