Since 1985, the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (“COMISS”) has observed the last week of October as Spiritual Care Week – a time when we celebrate the sacred work of chaplains and pastoral counselors. This year’s Spiritual Care Week theme is “Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture.” Sometimes a picture is more informative and revealing than words. Often the ministry of chaplains and pastoral counselors extends beyond words alone as they provide emotional support and spiritual care to persons in need, an essential part of the holistic interdisciplinary care that is offered within a variety of settings. Their ministry is an extension of our missional work as a Fellowship, to embody the love of God and hope through Christ, as we work together to complete the picture of putting our faith into action, to renew our world.
Take a moment this week to celebrate and thank our CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors for the good and sacred work that they do every day.
To Everything There is a Season
By Elizabeth Denham Thompson
In a recent Zoom session she sighed saying, “I have anxiety fatigue.” I knew immediately what she was expressing and I’m sure you do as well. These words could have been spoken by just about any of us these days.
Divisive politics, COVID-19, home-schooling while trying to maintain a job over the internet, friends and family struggling, social justice appropriately demanding our attention, social media keeping us connected yet enraged at the same time, wildfires to the west of us and hurricanes to the south of us … we are all experiencing anxiety fatigue. This is on top of our “mundane” issues like depression, marital conflict, sandwich generation stress, financial concerns, self-worth and identity struggles, loss, and “normal” life transitions.
Walking into all these experiences are skilled pastoral counselors and spiritually integrated psychotherapists, offering to clients their skills of deep listening and gentle insights, creating safe spaces for tears, grieving and chaos, while providing a healing balm with clients building resiliency toward health.
Although any of us could have complained of “anxiety fatigue” on top of our usual life woes—this quote is from a pastor. Because of my counseling and consulting work with clergy, I am painfully aware how much pastors are finding themselves living in the same chaotic world as everyone else, all while restructuring “church” and crafting IT production skills that no, they weren’t taught in seminary.
The norms aren’t really holding. Their spiritual reservoirs are dangerously low and they are exhausted and fatigued just like the rest of us, but often without safe places to say any of that out loud much less find spaces to replenish and be nourished.
Although CBF-endorsed pastoral counselors work with a variety of clients, I want to note that we often work with a variety of ministers, clergy, and others working in a religious setting. In 2020 there are increasing and stunningly difficult demands that clergy are experiencing. Pastoral counseling has always provided a safe space for many people. But especially these days, we are providing safe spaces for our pastors, so they too can grieve, be heard, and can build their resiliency as they continue to care for their families as well as congregations.
In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes is a very familiar passage (and possibly a theme song for 2020) …
To everything there is a season, and a time to very purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to reap,
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up,
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance,
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to keep, and a time to lose;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
These are words that describe the work done day in and day out by CBF-endorsed pastoral counselors. In the safety of our offices and now via tele-mental-health sessions, clients’ stories are told, confidences listened to, and shame is transformed into strength.
These moments happen not en-masse, but one-on-one, privately, cautiously, sometimes chaotically, lovingly, confidentially and courageously. The work we do matters whether in person or by Zoom. The work of delving into trauma and conflicts for healing and growth has a ripple effect that blesses multiple shores.
May God be present, blessing the seasons in the life and work of CBF endorsed pastoral counselors. May the blessing continue in the myriad of moments when our experiences of anxiety fatigue, of breaking down, weeping, silence and mourning, are transformed into times of clarity and connection, of building up, speaking up, laughing, dancing, and finally becoming seasons of healing, resiliency and peace.
As pastoral counselors, we have been changed by the courage, vulnerability and trust of those who have walked through our doors or logged on for a confidential session. As pastoral counselors, we fervently believe that the spirit of God is present in the midst of these moments.
Elizabeth Denham Thompson is an ordained CBF minister, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and ACPE Psychotherapist, Thompson serves on CBF’s Council on Endorsement. She is owner of Eremos Consulting Group in Colorado, and for 30 years has been providing consulting, coaching and pastoral therapy services with a wide variety of clergy and congregations primarily in the Rocky Mountain region, as well as Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.
We have more than 800 active professional CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, serving throughout our country and worldwide, in a variety of specialized settings – all branches of the United States Armed Forces; the Civil Air Patrol; the Department of Veterans Affairs, hospitals and hospices, correctional institutions, fire, police, and rescue departments, colleges and universities, businesses and industries, retirement communities, counseling centers, private counseling practices, church staffs, and many other interdisciplinary settings.
To learn more about the work of CBF Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, please visit our webpage at https://cbf.net/chaplaincy-pastoral-counseling.