SOS: pastoral care is as varied as the people who need it

The body needs care and so does the soul. The image of the duality of man is shared by all churches. A priest is both a preacher and a shepherd. And both are legitimate. Pastoral care at a glance.

What does the following remind us of: the seal of confession, obligation of secrecy, spiritual accompaniment in critical situations? That’s right, a pastoral care conversation. It should encourage, create trust, guarantee security, and impart strength—and all of this in the best possible combination. What is important is that spiritual accompaniment begins much earlier, namely before each pastoral care conversation, and every member in the congregation is entitled to it—whether happy or sad, hurting or cheerful. This care is modelled on the example given by Jesus Christ Himself. Without regard for the person He listened, helped, comforted, counselled, admonished, strengthened, prayed, and taught. And this is exactly what the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church teaches: Jesus is the perfect model for pastoral care. Every minister is to take Him as the example (CNAC 12.4).

Pastoral care tips

The Bible offers a great deal of smaller and more comprehensive tips for pastoral care. The image of the Good Shepherd is an obvious example: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep … My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10: 11, 27–28). This passage imparts encouragement, consolation, comfort, exhortation, and guidance—everything that should be found in pastoral practice.

Of course, pastoral care is also a mission for the entire congregation and therefore also for the individual, meaning all should be there for one and not one for all. This also means practical help in life, which is an important congregational offer: “… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me,” the Lord said according Matthew 25: 35–36.

Spiritually and earthly

Pastoral care therefore works in two ways: on the one hand, it is spiritual guidance on our way to God, on the other hand, it is support and guidance in everyday life situations. In this respect pastoral care in New Apostolic congregations and families is of great importance. “Every New Apostolic Christian is offered personal pastoral care,” the Catechism says. And further: “The principal focus in this effort of caring for our brothers and sisters is the endeavour to deepen their love for God and His work, cultivate their life of faith, and enhance their understanding of God's activity. This is primarily done by way of discussions about matters of faith.”

The degree to which brothers and sisters accept the counsel they are given by their Priest remains at their discretion. Personal responsibility, which is incumbent upon every New Apostolic Christian, is respected and encouraged. A good and trusting relationship between the Priest and the believer is surely necessary. It goes without saying that pastoral care visits are not made to members against their will.

A new series with useful tips

Naturally, soul care must be adapted to the individual situation. Someone who is sick is approached differently than someone who is healthy. Young healthy people need a different kind of care than the elderly, and families with children face different issues than those living alone. Pastoral care is therefore both complex and individual. Many New Apostolic District Churches have specific offers at all levels—for disabled people, for those in prison, or for addicts. We will discuss these and many other aspects in detail in a new series, our “Pastoral Care Series”.

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Peter Johanning
Congregational life