2. everyday practice; living body,,  2.a. Leading & Serving

Confidentiality; a Cornerstone of Pastoral Care

Pastors are grappling with questions about the unmet needs of pastoral care in congregations in the ever-changing landscape of mainline Christianity, particularly in the extremely divided time since the pandemic. 

However, I firmly believe in pastoral care’s unique and essential role, which is distinct from therapy sessions, preaching, and worship. My own faith journey has been deeply enriched by the pastoral care provided by PCUSA ministers, who supported me in various forms, alongside therapists, friends, and congregations. As pastors, it seems crucial that we embrace and carefully fulfill this distinct role of pastoral care, especially in communities where the congregation may be smaller but tightly knit.

One pressing concern is ensuring confidentiality, a cornerstone of pastoral care, is maintained even as communities become more intimate.

Furthermore, in the broader context of awaiting the upcoming General Assembly with its attendant duties for committees, advocates, and commissioners, the power and impact of shared words—both encouraging and discouraging—become increasingly apparent, often in unintended ways. 

In such a climate, how do we discern the right words and confidently and trustingly provide pastoral care to one another?

To navigate these challenges, I often refer to resources that help clarify distinctions crucial to pastoral care. For example, although I am firmly Trinitarian, this Unitarian Universalist Leader page enlightens me on the differences between confidentiality, secrecy, and privacy. 

Additionally, I recently came across a blog A Church for Starving Artists by seasoned minister Rev. Jan Edminston, who offers valuable insights on discerning transparency and confidentiality.

I hope these humble reflections can serve as a reminder of the importance of thoughtful consideration and mutual support as we journey together.