Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pray Without Ceasing

Just picked up Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger's new book Pray Without Ceasing: Revitalizing Pastoral Care , and am finding it compelling and attractive. For some time now, I've been realizing the need to pay attention to the mode of cure of souls (seelsorge) that is sometimes lacking in our training as clergy, replaced as it is by psychotherapeutic methods and mechanistic "leadership" models.

Not that these things are bad... just the opposite, I value my psychological and leadership training. Nevertheless, there is something unique in the pastoral office that cannot or is not normally done in therapy offices or by leaders- it could be called variously "cure of souls" or the "office of the keys", the ministry of law & gospel. Prayer ministry. I don't know for sure, but the fact that we don't have a good name for it, and have to convince ourselves of its value (how hard is it for most of us, including pastors, to be regular in our prayer life?), is an example of how distant we've come from it, especially our cultivation of it as an art.

I believer Hunsinger sees it as an art, and treats it as such.


  1. I think you are right to point to the "cure of souls" model of pastoral leadership. I am not familiar with this particular book, but I do find that model very helpful. Too often, pastors are expected (by themselves and others) to be the administrator, to be the program director, and the work of the cure of souls falls to the wayside.

    The problem is the measurable. We have gotten to where we expect a measurable ministry; i.e., we want a rise in numbers, and accounability for our pastor's time. Cure of Souls runs contrary to that tendency. It says it is acceptable for me to spend half a week with one family, if that family needs my support and prayer. It says that numbers are much less important than the care and love given to individuals.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that certain expectations of performance run contrary to actual care-giving, although I'm also enough of an "outcomes" person myself to be focused on that at times. Good reason to study and practice something less utilitarian, but more humane and authentic.