When someone makes an appointment to see me, a 'generalist' pastoral counselor, what do we talk about? Short answer: anything at all that's important for them.
Within the first five minutes I invite my parishioner/client to 'give me a headline or two'. And, then, mostly, we jump into the deep end. Some memorable ones:
# 'Rowland, I used to belong to a biker gang. Recently I've started going to church and I heard about the need to 'confess your sins to one another'. Well, I killed seven people during those wild years... And nobody else knows... '
# 'Pastor, I'm in my fifties now, and I've never had a close relationship with a man. I'd love to have been a mother, but it's too late. I have a strong sexual drive and my way of dealing with that is to pleasure myself. My pastor, however, is a fundamentalist who reckons I'll go to hell for doing what I do. I'm scared and often sleepless about it all. What do you think?'
# To a 15/16-year-old: 'Jane, what do you want to do with your life?' 'Oh, that's easy: kill a couple of people.' 'Uh-huh... Anything else?' 'Yeah... burn down the [social welfare organisation's] building: they should have been protecting me...'
# Undergrad student: 'We're doing philosophy, and recently studied the so-called "proofs" for God's existence. My evangelical friend says he's impressed by the "first cause" idea. I reckon there could have been an infinite regression of causes...'
Where do these conversations go from there? Read on. Here are my 40 -and-counting - 'big ones': one for each day if you want to give yourself some quality-time thinking about these issues and chasing up the footnotes... (This is the first book I've written post-Google: love it!).
At this point you may need to know just a little about me. General ideological approach? 'Progressive Evangelical Christian'. Not theologically 'fundamentalist' or 'liberal' - I have strong issues with some of their respective presuppositions. My Anglican friends say I'm 'broad church'. Father Richard Rohr and popular Christian writer Brian McLaren are generally OK! Is there truth in other religions? Of course, God's truth can be discovered in the most unlikely places. Is it OK to doubt what authority-figures put into our heads when we were impressionable? Again: of course. How much serious pastoral counseling have I actually done? About 25,000 hours, starting when I was a Teachers' College Christian student leader in 1957, then within eleven full- and part-time pastoral vocations, from 1964 until this week!
Come and enjoy the ride my fellow-strugglers/learners...
Rowland Croucher (firstname.lastname@example.org)