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Doctoral project proposal

Listening Effectively in Spiritual Direction: Teaching “Interpathic Caring”

Primary question: Can the listening skills of lay spiritual directors at All Saints Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi, Texas, be enhanced by a seminar built upon an epistemology drawn from John S. Dunne’s hermeneutics and David Augsburger’s concept of “interpathic caring”?

The problem

Courses and training programs for spiritual directors indicate that these tend to emphasize the historical and practical content of Christian theology and spirituality, but that they fall short of establishing a methodological basis for the basic conversation that occurs between a spiritual director and one seeking spiritual direction. An anecdotal sample of practicum teaching materials and course bibliographies indicate dependence upon a handful of resources devoted to various kinds of “spiritual listening,” but these resources tend to be heuristic and hortatory, and they do not offer substantial epistemology or method for the process of listening itself.

Which is not to say that current resources on “spiritual listening” are erroneous in what they do propose; indeed, they correctly point to the need for a heightened commitment to being attentive and listening carefully in conversation about spiritual concerns. They warn of distraction, for example, and advise that spiritual direction occur in environments conducive to enabling committed attention. They offer techniques for making conversation fruitful and methods for interpreting a range of conversational events, from silence to body language.

In placing such a prominent emphasis on listening, it needs to be said that I am not describing a passive act, but a process that engages us actively in response to what is heard. Listening is about more than a well-honed skill (although certainly skill is involved). [ . . . ] To listen for the spiritual dimension in every human experience and life circumstance, however, requires listening with a definite spirit and intentionality. We are listening for more than what is consciously expressed. We are listening for the very voice, presence, or absence of God in the soul, the core of our lives where meaning is created. (Stairs 17)

Listening is not always easy. It takes time, and the time might be inconvenient besides. It demands really being for the other during that period, fully present and attentive, one’s own needs and concerns set aside. This is exacting. Listening might mean being afflicted with the most profound sense of helplessness, having the springs of sorrow touched, seeing one’s dearest convictions called painfully into question by the experience and testimony of another. [ . . . ] Nevertheless, there comes to me someone God created and loves. [ . . . ] There enters a suffering fellow pilgrim. The first thing one consents to do is welcome and listen. It is an act of love. (Hart 17)

When we listen compassionately with “the mind in the heart,” as Theophan the Recluse puts it, we cannot help taking others’ sins upon ourselves. After a day of listening, I often feel heavy and tired, with queasy stomach and aching head. It helped me to understand my somatic reactions when I remembered the novelist-theologian Charles Williams and his theory of “exchange” and “substituted love.” He took very seriously the exhortation in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that we “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ …” (Guenther 29)

It is likely, too, that those seeking training in spiritual direction already possess listening skills that make them effective in spiritual conversation and friendship. “Being a good listener” is a charism of those called to this ministry of pastoral care. It’s not as though lack of epistemology in the practice of spiritual direction is doing great harm to individuals or to the church. The question is whether native skills, heightened though they may be by moral commitment, theological knowledge and personal devotion might be cultivated and enhanced by conscious appropriation and application of an epistemology and method consistent with the content and practice of Christian spiritual direction, as generally understood.

It is the burden of this doctoral project to discover whether that is the case by developing materials and conducting a seminar for lay spiritual directors on the epistemological method of John S. Dunne and David Augsburger’s concept of “interpathic caring.” It assumes with Nichols (11) that, “Listening is so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are.”

Augsburger (36) proposes that pastoral caregivers be willing to bridge the gap between their own culture and its assumptions to others less familiar. He cites John S. Dunne’s concept of passing over as providing a methodological basis toward “interpathy,” a term invented by Augsburger denoting a counseling standpoint beyond empathy.

Interpathy is an intentional cognitive envisioning and affective experiencing of another’s thoughts and feelings, even though the thoughts rise from another process of knowing, the values grow from another frame of moral reasoning, and the feelings spring from another basis of assumptions. (Augsburger 29)

Interpathic caring, according to Augsburger, is distinguished from empathy by the degree to which one brackets one’s socio-cultural assumptions. For example, where empathetic caring seeks to understand another’s worldview by imaginative awareness, interpathic caring seeks to adopt that worldview in order to partake of the other’s experience. (Augsburger 31) Interpathic caring is a temporary but necessary process in cross-cultural counseling: “Interpathic caring awaits the discovery of how caring is given and received within that culture before initiating caregiving on patterns from one’s own tradition.” (Augsburger 32) Augsburger correlates interpathic caring with Dunne’s concept of “passing over and coming back.” Augsburger writes: “All true relational growth rises from our experience of seeing through another’s eyes, entertaining another’s thoughts, and interpathically sensing another’s feelings. It is, Dunne argues, the means of our becoming completed as persons.” (Augsburger 36)

If spiritual direction is a form of pastoral care, then Augsburger’s insights are relevant to the conduct of spiritual direction, especially with regard to insightful listening. Interpathic caring implies “interpathic listening,” which I have found to be an effective mode of hearing another’s spiritual narrative “from within.” (George 69) “Interpathic listening” in spiritual direction sets aside the content of one’s own spiritual narrative in order to adopt another’s perspective and share the experience of another’s spiritual story. Interpathic listening enables a spiritual director to hear clearly the telling of another’s spiritual story by engaging the listener’s imagination.         

In Dunne’s terms, interpathic listening means “passing over” to the standpoint of another to hear the narrative and perceive its imbedded images, then “coming back” to one’s own standpoint with new insight.

Dunne has shown that gaining insight into images provoked by feeling is a fundamental operation in human spirituality. Passing over is an act of the mind and heart that enhances one’s listening to another’s story. Coming back is a means of reflection and appropriation that enhances insight into key images from the life story of another. Dunne cultivates this capacity in himself to a high degree that is not entirely unrelated to his considerable erudition. He insists, however, that the capacity for passing over is innate to human beings and that it may be cultivated in whatever degree to which an individual may be capable. (George 50-51)

It is not insignificant for this project that its thesis resonates with the conclusions of respected scholars in the field of pastoral counseling. Capps cites Michael P. Nichols’ work, The Lost Art of Listening, to underscore three practical elements of listening well: attention, appreciation and affirmation. (George 17) Of these, appreciative listening seems most to partake of Dunne’s concept. Quoting Nichols, Capps writes:

Real listening means imagining yourself into the other’s experience: concentrating, asking questions. Understanding is furthered not by knowing (‘I understand’) but by investigating – asking for elaboration, inquiring into the concrete particularity of the speaker’s experience. (Capps 23-24)

Griffith and Griffith consider respectful listening a way of “co-creating” religious story-telling that is therapeutically beneficial. (George 52)

We participate in the co-creation of stories by our way of listening, our questions, and our reflections. As stories are told, the response of silence, raised eyebrows, leaning forward, or distractedly doodling becomes an edit, a punctuation, influencing the teller to shift topics, say more, soften a point, or cease speaking. Appreciative intense attention may be the most powerful way of all to co-create stories. (Griffith and Griffith 89)

The significance of this problem and why I am concerned with it

I have been appointed director of spiritual formation at All Saints Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi, Texas. I am chairman of a commission of lay spiritual directors, many of whom have been trained by the Rev. Dr. David Stringer, former rector of All Saints, and Dr. Lynn Bauman, director of the Praxis center for spiritual formation and contemplative living in Telephone, Texas.

The commission has been inactive for some time, even though its members and others in the congregation have continued to work individually. The Rev. Dr. Stringer asked that I reactivate the commission with oversight and programming that will enhance spiritual-direction ministry at All Saints.

I have reviewed the educational and training curriculum developed by the Rev. Dr. Stringer and Dr. Bauman and found that it is typical of training syllabi from a wide variety of programs accessible by the Internet. Indeed, it is clear that the All Saints curriculum is a superior program, remarkable for its range and depth of treatment of Christian spirituality but also for its placement of that tradition within a wider religious context. Its method is typically Anglican in the employment of tradition, scripture and reason to impart the content of this complex subject matter. Practicum training is exacting, and its ethical content clear. Margaret Guenther’s book on “holy listening” is required reading; however, nothing in the curriculum materials of this well-developed program suggests a methodology and method for listening.

Again, I want to stress that this is not a disabling problem. It’s clear from the past decade of lay spiritual-direction ministry at All Saints that this educational program effectively prepared a cadre of women and men for meaningful ministry. Spiritual direction is a hallmark of All Saints’ parish ministry, a reflection of the Rev. Dr. Stringer’s considerable devotion to scholarly inquiry and personal spiritual formation. Spiritual direction is a key element in his pastoral ministry. The educational program for lay spiritual directors came about, in part, because demand for spiritual direction at All Saints had become more than the pastor could handle by himself. This project is not about “fixing” the program at All Saints; rather, it seeks to enhance a remarkable program by remedying an oversight that seems to be common among similar programs elsewhere.

I participated in such a program from 1999 to 2002, Formation in Direction (FIND), sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. FIND is a three-year program of monthly meetings with a diverse faculty of university scholars, experienced spiritual directors and clergy, which teaches a curriculum developed from 1993 to 1995 by an ad hoc diocesan committee appointed by the bishop. The program requires students to read and write a great deal, to be in spiritual direction and to be subject to group supervision. The program is not academic. Its content is based upon the spiritual traditions of Western Catholicism and Anglicanism. It is an effective, popular program, but it, too, offers no methodology and method for listening.

I have stumbled upon this issue in the course of completing the doctor of ministry program at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I developed a project based on Augsburger’s theory that Dunne’s epistemology provided a method for interpathic caring. I completed a case study for that project and found that the concept of “interpathy” operated effectively in spiritual direction with a subject who was a Lutheran pastor.

The problem I wish to address is whether my experience with interpathic listening is transferable to lay spiritual directors and others who provide spiritual direction as pastoral care at All Saints Episcopal Church. My hunch is that what I have learned is transferable and that a seminar on this method will enhance their listening skills.

Thesis statements

Main thesis: This project will demonstrate that the listening skills of lay spiritual directors at All Saints Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi, Texas, will be enhanced by a seminar built upon John S. Dunne’s epistemology and David Augsburger’s concept of “interpathic caring.”

Theological Thesis: John S. Dunne’s postmodern theology regarding the nature of religious truth as disclosed through memory, culture and personal encounter has practical application in spiritual direction.

Hypotheses: I expect to find a wide range of listening skills and strategies among those who agree to participate in a seminar on interpathic caring, including but not limited to the following:

  • That some already employ the process of interpathy in session, which would be consistent with Dunne’s assertion that “passing over and coming back” occurs naturally in human consciousness.
  • That some will appreciate the concept of interpathy but will find it difficult to employ in practice.
  • That those who employ interpathy in session will find it most effective in appreciating spiritual story.
  • That those who employ interpathy in session will find it an interpretive lens through which to share insights in session.
  • That those who employ interpathy in session will suggest it as a capacity to be cultivated for spiritual formation.
  • That some seminar participants will not find their spiritual-direction enhanced by the concept of interpathy.

Sociocultural context

This project is set in All Saints Episcopal Church, Corpus Christi, Texas. All Saints is in a suburban setting, but the neighborhood is relatively old, having first been established in the postwar period; and its demographics have changed significantly since the late 1940s. The congregation is predominantly white in a city and postal ZIP code, 78404, that is 50 percent Hispanic. Household income in 78404 ($29,600) is significantly lower than that of the city as a whole ($32,500), although the typical home is valued only slightly less ($60,000) than the city average ($60,400). The median age in both the city and the ZIP code is about 35 years.     

All Saints is one of seven Episcopalian congregations in Corpus Christi and of 92 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, headquartered in San Antonio. The diocese is demographically small – about 30,000 – but geographically large, covering 60 counties and 69,000 square miles of South Texas, from Corpus Christi and Victoria to the east, Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley to the south, Del Rio to the west and Brady to the north.

All Saints parish comprised 441 baptized members at the beginning of 2006, according to its annual parish report to the diocese. Average Sunday attendance was 213 in 2005, but 436 people attended Easter services. The parish began 2006 with 171 financial pledging units generating about $480,000. Operating revenues in 2005 totaled $532,500. Pledging units produced about $54 a week at All Saints, comparable to the diocesan average of $56. Per capita giving at All Saints, based on average Sunday attendance and total revenue in 2005, was about $2,500 annually, or $48 a week; compared with the diocesan average of $2,993 annually, or $58 per week.

For purposes of this project, the ministry setting will comprise a cadre of lay spiritual directors, some of whom have undergone training and continue to practice in the congregation. All are loosely associated with the Spiritual Direction Commission, which is one of an array of working groups chaired by lay members of All Saints, who have oversight of various forms of outreach, parish ministry and programming. Overall, these form the Centerpoint Ministries at All Saints, a concept developed by the Rev. Dr. Stringer and Dr. Bauman into a model for parish ministry based on spiritual formation.

History of the Ministry Setting

All Saints Episcopal Church was founded in 1949 as a mission congregation sponsored by Episcopal Church of Good Shepherd, a downtown Corpus Christi congregation. Good Shepherd’s original frame building, built in 1878, was moved from the bluff overlooking Corpus Christi Bay to a cotton field south of downtown in an area that was then on the city’s suburban growing edge. That building was converted into a school in 1969. A two-story complex had been completed in 1964, comprising a distinctive, high-ceiling, cruciform sanctuary and an undercroft for parish offices, meeting rooms, a library and a fellowship hall. The school building was demolished in 1995 to make way for an extension of the two-story complex. The old parish hall was converted to classroom space, and a high-ceiling multipurpose room and prayer chapel was added to the east. The plant also includes a prefabricated outbuilding that has been used for a variety of purposes over the years. It currently houses the youth ministry.

All Saints’ interior architecture speaks volumes about the typically complex nature of this Episcopalian community of faith. The altar in the 1964 building is free-standing at the crux of transepts and nave, set upon a large, rough-hewn stone with a large wooden cross suspended over it. Originally, a prominent pulpit rose behind the altar on a stage that was intended for a choir. This floor plan bespeaks a period of transition for the congregation, as indeed it was a time of change for the diocese and the national denomination. The Diocese of West Texas had been “low church” from its founding in 1874; meaning, among other things, that regular Sunday worship tended not to be Holy Communion but Morning Prayer. The post-World War II Episcopal Church, however, was in ferment. The denomination grew to five million members through the 1950s, but in the 1960s, the denomination lost membership over social issues and liturgical reform. By 1979, the national church had approved ordaining women to the priesthood (1976) and a revised Book of Common Prayer, the first revision in a half century and the most substantial revision of an Anglican prayer book since 1622. 

In the mid-1960s, with these changes on the horizon, the All Saints congregation built a sanctuary with a high-church feel – the prominent altar – but low-church theology as it pertained to the centrality of preaching for Sunday worship. The space is beautiful but liturgically inept. The arrangement of liturgical elements is akin more to Baptist tradition – prominent pulpit with the choir behind it – than to the Anglican, but it clearly reflects Episcopalian denomination’s “split personality” in a period of fundamental change.

All Saints’ Sunday worship services, too, reflected this split: An early-morning Eucharist was celebrated every week, but it was a “said service” – no hymns, no service music and virtually devoid of ceremonial. The principal Sunday service, late in the morning, was Morning Prayer and sermon, performed with hymns, canticles, a choir procession with processional cross – as “high,” ceremonially, as low-church tradition allowed. Consequently, there were two congregations at All Saints: Sunday’s relatively small, early-service congregation and the larger late-service congregation. These groups weren’t hostile, but their devotional attitudes were miles apart.

The late service has been Eucharistic since 1979, because the Book of Common Prayer requires that the principal service of worship on Sunday be Holy Eucharist. Now the difference between the early and late services is that the early service is Rite I, which retains the 17th-century English of 1929 Book of Common Prayer, while the late service is Rite II, rendered in contemporary English with more liturgical alternatives. The early service is still simply said, while the late service has music and substantial ceremonial elements.

At the turn of the century, there still were longtime members of All Saints who remembered how things were when the sanctuary was built in 1964. Many still attend the same early or late service they have always attended. They have become the parish “old guard” whose objections must be overcome before significant changes are made to All Saints’ physical plant – as in 1995, when the Rev. Dr. Stringer led the congregation to demolish the old, 19th-century school building to make way for a new parish hall-kitchen complex, prayer chapel and classrooms.

These architectural changes, too, reflected fundamental changes in the congregation’s direction, as the Rev. Dr. Stringer cultivated spiritual formation as basic to All Saints’ ministry and pastoral care. The additions of 1995 reflect his desire to unify the congregation around the center-point of an inlaid mesquite labyrinth built as the floor of the new parish hall: The center of the labyrinth aligns with the altar in main sanctuary and the center of the prayer chapel, which centers upon a round kiva-like well and is furnished with zabuton cushions and kneeling benches rather than chairs or pews. Stained-glass windows from the original 1874 building are hung in the clerestory windows of the chapel, and the round stained-glass image of Jesus from the old building is illuminated in the ceiling of the parish hall, directly over the center of the labyrinth.

The labyrinth is an in-scale replica of an internationally famous image engraved on the floor of a 13th-century (1205-1220) Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. While there is no orthodoxy regarding this image, it has been interpreted by some contemporary Christians to be emblematic, even symbolic, of spiritual pilgrimage, literally to be walked as a “journey within” to the center where one waits upon God. The new construction of 1995 is an architectural manifestation of All Saints’ Centerpoint Ministries, which conceives of the church as a community of worship and prayer seeking wisdom, humility and transformation by which to declare to the world that God’s kingdom has come. The centerline running from the 1964 altar to the prayer chapel indicates, in my opinion, a movement from modern to postmodern sensibility. (Dr. Bauman, for example, donated a large appliqué for the prayer chapel, which he made himself, of a tree of life linking the world’s major religious traditions.)

Since the early 1980s, the parish has struggled to grow in numbers and financial capability from a “family church” to a “program church.” It is no longer a neighborhood congregation but draws membership from throughout Corpus Christi and even from other nearby cities, such as Portland and Rockport. Many of these “commuters” are longtime members who moved out of the neighborhood but continue to attend and support All Saints; indeed, this group of longtime commuters represents a substantial percentage of the congregation’s financial support. Many commuting members, though, were attracted to All Saints by its emphasis on spiritual formation.

All Saints’ strong suit is adult Christian education and spiritual formation. The parish offers a wide variety of classes and courses, from typical inquirer’s classes and Sunday sessions to an extensive Education for Ministry (EFM) program, the largest in the diocese, special courses in spiritual theology taught by the Rev. Dr. Stringer and weekend workshops and seminars on specific aspects of Christian spirituality. A contemporary-style Eucharist has been added to Sunday worship, and a contemplative Eucharist is celebrated each Thursday night, preceded by use of the labyrinth and icons.

Centerpoint Ministries coordinates adult activities through eight interest areas that encourage corporate and personal growth, spiritual formation and practical ministry: balanced living, which generally focuses on environmental concerns; creative expression, on artistic development and education; compassionate living, on outreach to people in need; group reflection, on coordinating small-group activities; praxis of prayer, on providing special opportunities for prayer, such as walking the labyrinth; retreats, on organizing weekends devoted to spiritual development for small groups; and spiritual direction, on providing this form of pastoral care through a cadre of lay women and men.

The parish has developed a unique formation program for youth, “Journey to Adulthood” (J2A), which is also rooted in spiritual formation. Cadres of young people advance through the curriculum, beginning with the Rite 13 program and continuing through J2A toward a pivotal spiritual pilgrimage overseas, sponsored by the parish. A group traveled to France in 2007 and spent a week in the Taize community. These pilgrimages come as the young people prepare for the “Young Adults in Church” (YAC) phase of the program, in which 11th and 12th graders are assigned mentors to guide them through taking on adult responsibilities in congregational life.

The principal challenge for All Saints, apparently from the beginning, has been consolidating its growth in a changing neighborhood and a fluid population. Corpus Christi’s young, white middle class is extremely mobile, and it is generally true that mainline Protestant congregations suffer from significant “churn” in that most significant demographic for church growth, young couples (aged 18-35) with children. Consequently, congregations such as All Saints are anchored by surviving longtime members and an influx of the recently retired.   

In any case, it is unlikely that All Saints could grow much without moving. For all practical purposes, the church has no room for expansion at its current location. It is bounded by municipal park land and residential property. Relocation, too, is unlikely due to financial constraints and the sentimental value of the 1964 building to major financial stakeholders.

My association with All Saints began in 1982, when I began attending Sunday worship services after leaving ordained ministry in the Diocese of Dallas. I had been inhibited by the bishop of Dallas for sexual misconduct. I was in the process of obtaining a divorce, I was unemployed and in psychotherapy. The Rev. Ed Harvey, the Rev. Dr. Stringer’s predecessor, became my spiritual director and walked with me through the most painful year of my life. The Rev. Mr. Harvey performed the rites of my second marriage in April 1985.

In 1987, with the Rev. Mr. Harvey’s blessing, I stopped attending worship services at any church. My wife and I returned to All Saints in 1995 after the death of her father, who had been a devout Episcopalian in Port Arthur, Texas, and whose funeral, conducted by an old, dear friend of mine from Dallas, had moved both of us. A subsequent conversion experience while walking a labyrinth changed my life. I have since sought paths of lay ministry that would put to use my seminary training and pastoral experience. (I applied for remission of sentence of my deposition from ordained ministry in October 2004. The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Dallas declined to pursue the matter.)

I moved to College Station in 1999 to work at Texas A&M University, where my wife already had moved in 1996 to pursue a doctorate. We returned to Corpus Christi in 2006 to work at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and resume our membership at All Saints.

In family systems terms, the cadre of spiritual directors at All Saints represents a closed system, a relatively small group of laity in a specialized ministry, trained by the rector or in another program, to whom the Rev. Dr. Stringer refers others seeking spiritual direction. The group is not coherent in any institutional sense. They do not have regular meetings or fellowship. They do not meet regularly for worship or prayer. Each functions independently under the umbrella of the spiritual direction ministry of the Centerpoint structure. In no apparent way, however, is this group exclusionary.

Triangulation is institutionalized at the parish level in most Episcopal churches, including All Saints, and whether it becomes unhealthy depends on the pastor’s ability to be a non-anxious, differentiated party. By canon, pastors of Episcopal congregations have ultimate authority over every aspect of parish life, including the physical and financial property; and they can not be removed by parish vestries, which are representative groups of laity that manage the budget and hire the clergy. Disputes among the laity ultimately are resolved by the pastor; and if there’s a dispute between a pastor and vestry, the matter is brought to the bishop of the diocese.

All of which may lead to unhealthy alliances, sabotage and reactivity, depending on whether the rector and lay leadership are non-anxious and well-differentiated. From my perspective, it appears that All Saints is a healthy system in this regard. Its clergy and lay leadership are respectfully disengaged and communication is open and clear.  

In terms of Steinke’s congregational anxiety triggers, the All Saints congregation is made most anxious by concerns about money, growth and survival, tension between old and new and worship – all of which is typical of congregations at the cusp of becoming “program” congregations but has become acute at All Saints, because the Rev. Dr. Stringer’s reputation and charisma have been essential in appealing to new members since 1991. It is not uncommon for lay leadership to wonder among themselves, “What happens to All Saints when Fr. David leaves or retires?”

A contemporary worship service on Sunday morning has been instituted to attract new members, especially young families. The move in 2006 was not be without controversy, but the Rev. Dr. Stringer and the lay leadership successfully made the case that benefits would outweigh whatever disruptions and changes were caused by adding a third Sunday worship service. The service has been especially appealing to youth and dovetails well with the Journey to Adulthood program. The service is popular and well attended. It also has underscored All Saints’ need for an associate ordained minister, which is financially just beyond reach. The Rev. Dr. Stringer concedes that the contemporary-worship format is not within his liturgical comfort zone, and that preaching and celebrating three services every Sunday, in addition to teaching in most Sunday afternoons, is exhausting.  

Issues regarding homosexuality and biblical authority, which currently beset the national Episcopal Church as well as the Worldwide Anglican Communion, do not appear to drive family-systems anxiety at All Saints. There is a wide variety of views, but these matters are not used as wedges in parish politics. All Saints is an open system in this regard, affirming homosexuals as a matter of local practice while acknowledging differences of opinion on matters of national church policy.

It does not appear that this project will trigger reactive or homeostatic responses from the Rev. Dr. Stringer or among lay leaders and the congregation. Indeed, the Rev. Dr. Stringer had been eager to supervise this project prior to his being called to another congregation in Atlanta, Ga. (His last Sunday at All Saints was Sept. 30, 2007.) The vestry has endorsed this project and there will be no general impact on the congregation, except, as I hope, that it will result in enhanced listening skills for lay spiritual directors. The interim rector of All Saints, the Rev. Sherridan Harrison, has endorsed the project and given it her enthusiastic support.

A brief survey of previous research and relevant literature

This research project is based fundamentally on a corpus of seven works by John S. Dunne, a postmodern Roman Catholic theologian whose method has been described as “doing theology by heart.” (Nilson) The works include: The City of the Gods, A Search for God in Time and Memory, The Way of All the Earth, Time and Myth, The Reasons of the Heart, The Church of the Poor Devil, and The House of Wisdom.

Dunne’s is an existential hermeneutic rooted in subjectivity, proposing a fundamental question: “If I must someday die, what can I do to fulfill my desire to live?” (Nilson 68) Dunne proposes that “life can be construed as a journey and that this journey itself can be a method.” (Nilson 65) Dunne’s own journey is the substance of the seven works cited. Nilson shows that Dunne’s epistemology constitutes a proper method for yielding “logos about theos.” (Nilson 83) Dunne’s hermeneutics imply an epistemological methodology underlying a method for enhanced listening in spiritual direction, which will be the subject matter of the seminar that is part of this doctoral project.

Dunne says his method is one of “a process of eliciting images from feelings, attaining insight into those images, and converting insights into a guide for life.” (Nilson 69) He has developed a conceptual tool he calls “passing over,” by which he means: “It is a method of entering sympathetically into another person’s autobiographical standpoint, seeing the whole world anew as that person sees it, and then coming back enriched to one’s own standpoint and to a new understanding of one’s own life.” (Nilson 70) Dunne writes in The Way of All the Earth:

What one does in passing over is try to enter sympathetically into the feelings of another person, become receptive to the images which give expression to his feelings, attain insight into those images, and then come back enriched by this insight to an understanding of one’s own life which can guide one into the future. (Nilson 70)

“Passing over” is not confined to the living, but includes historical figures, even mythological figures, such as Gilgamesh, the image of whom Dunne says he owes key insights:

It is the story of a man whose best friend died and who went then in search of unending life, who traveled to the ends of the earth but found wisdom rather than life. I saw myself in a position very like that of Gilgamesh, and I began to see a quest like his running through all history. (Nilson 68)

Dunne maintains that the telling of stories – mythologizing in a broad sense – is the principal means by which humanity interprets its existence. “Passing over” exploits these essential dynamics of human activity, proposing that one’s subjective awareness may be conditioned by intentionally putting one’s self at the disposal of another perspective or standpoint. Dunne’s work demonstrates that this process produces a complex hermeneutical apparatus through which, according to Nilson, three postmodern principles are affirmed:

Truth and falsehood are relative to the standpoint of the individual … ‘[N]o standpoint, whether it be the standpoint of the man himself or that of other men in regard to him, is true or false in itself.’ For Dunne, the relativity of every human standpoint means that only God’s standpoint is absolute. Being human means changing standpoints as we pass from childhood to youth to adulthood to old age and as we pass over and come back. Every standpoint is one from which something true can be discovered. … ‘[I]t is possible to pass over from one standpoint to another.’ The movement through the stages of life shows this, as well as any instance of sympathetic understanding. What makes passing over desirable is the ‘personal knowledge of personal ignorance’ that comes from the self-appropriation and the awareness of the relativity and limits of the individual standpoint. (Nilson 73)

Nilson concludes:

Passing over leads into and realizes the standpoint of the Son, which alone can yield genuine knowledge of God. It is a knowledge that stems from learning how God works and leads in life. Passing over engenders Christian theology as it discovers and articulates in a contemporary idiom the experience and vision that is the root of Christianity. (Nilson 85)

I believe Dunne’s hermeneutics are applicable in spiritual direction as a method, articulated by Augsburger as “interpathy,” by which to hear clearly and appreciate another’s spiritual story. Dunne’s hermeneutics provide a theological rationale for spiritual direction to be client-centered, as directors are encouraged to pass over to their subjects’ standpoints, not only in session but also in prayer and pondering.


This project will not address the implications of Dunne’s theory for recipients of spiritual direction, except as it may affect their experience of spiritual directors’ listening skills. The concept of “passing over and coming back” operates not only as methodology for interpathy but also as a spiritual discipline in a variety of contexts, as the whole of Dunne’s corpus of works shows. For example, the concept may be used as a means of enhancing meditation on scripture or iconography, or it might be a means of deepening lectio divina or embracing a classic rule such as that of Benedict of Nursia.

This project will not address the implications of interpathy in lay pastoral care situations. Neither will it address the obvious implications of “passing over and coming back” in liturgical settings in which silence is a major component. Indeed, as Dunne’s corpus makes clear, cultivating the process of “passing over and coming back” is said to enhance one’s appreciation for art, music, architecture and dance in ways that reach far beyond the focus of this project, but which clearly are imaginable as applications of the theory. 

This project does not seek to compare interpathy with other theories that may be rooted in different methodologies, and nothing in this project suggests that there are no competing theories. This project is focused solely on the efficacy of interpathic listening in spiritual direction.  

Key Definitions

  • Epistemology: A theory regarding how knowledge is acquired. In this project, the work of John S. Dunne will be presented as the epistemological methodology for enhancing spiritual direction by appropriating David Augsburger’s concept of interpathy.
  • Hermeneutics: The various and sundry means by which language, broadly understood, is interpreted. In this research project, the hermeneutical method of John S. Dunne applies to self understanding derived from spiritual story-telling and the appropriation of insights from the spiritual story of others.
  • Interpathy: “An intentional cognitive envisioning and affective experiencing of another’s thoughts and feelings, even though the thoughts rise from another process of knowing, the values grow from another frame of moral reasoning, and the feelings spring from another basis of assumptions.” (Augsburger 29) This project adapts Augsburger’s insight for the practice of spiritual direction.
  • “Passing over” and “coming back”: Entering “sympathetically into the feelings of another person, [becoming] receptive to the images which give expression to his feelings, [attaining] insight into those images, and then [coming] back enriched by this insight to an understanding of one’s own life which can guide one into the future.” (Nilson 70)
  • Rector: The pastor of a financially-independent Episcopalian congregation, as distinguished from a “vicar,” a pastor under the oversight of a bishop who is in charge of a congregation that not financially independent.
  • Spiritual story, spiritual autobiography: An account of one’s life, self-told, from the perspective of one’s relationship with God; as “spiritual autobiography,” a genre of literature as well as a conversational process appropriate to spiritual direction.
  • Spiritual direction: A form of pastoral mentoring wherein two persons, one of whom is acknowledged by both as having more experience in spiritual formation, engage in conversation about spirituality, the life of prayer, the practice of the presence of God. It is the spiritual director’s ministry to listen carefully for insights that will benefit the spiritual formation of the other person. The other person’s ministry is to be willing to share personal spiritual experience with the spiritual director and to engage in conversation intended to discover formative spiritual practices that will enhance the experience of the presence of God.


This is a materials- and research-producing project that will be supervised by the Rev. Billy Storms, pastor since 1992 of Covenant Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, who holds a doctorate in philosophy and has a well-established local reputation as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director. Since 1986, the Rev. Dr. Storms has been a member of the Pastoral Consultation Committee for Clinical Pastoral Education at Christus-Spohn Memorial Hospital and has served as a consultant for theological integration for the program. Since 1988, he has been active as a spiritual director for area renewal programs, including Walk to Emmaus (Methodist), Journey to Damascus (Roman Catholic) and Chrysalis (Methodist youth). 

Throughout the project, I will be in regular consultation with the Rev. Dr. Storms, and I will keep a personal journal focused on this project.

I will prepare materials for a eight-part seminar on interpathic caring, including but not limited to:

  • A syllabus, course outline and bibliography;
  • Teaching notes on John S. Dunne’s hermeneutics;
  • Teaching notes on David Augsburger’s concept of interpathy;
  • Teaching notes on the Capps-Fowler pastoral-care case method;
  • A reference synopsis of Dunne’s corpus of work;
  • A sample pastoral care case;
  • Exercises in interpathic listening;
  • Lickert-scale feedback forms for each seminar session.

I will conduct eight 90-minute seminar sessions, two each month from March through June, 2008, which will be didactic and interactive, based on readings in Dunne’s Church of the Poor Devil, Augsburger’s Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures and Capps and Fowler’s The Pastoral Care Case.

I will prepare a modified pastoral care case for each participant in the seminar based on at least two interactive sessions.

I will evaluate the effectiveness of each session of the listening skills seminar based on Likert-scale questionnaires distributed at the end of each session.

I will evaluate pastoral care cases prepared by seminar participants regarding whether they experienced enhanced listening based on Augsburger’s theory of interpathic caring. Participants’ pastoral care cases also will form the basis of group supervision. I will prepare a written report and oral presentation to the Rector and Vestry of All Saints Episcopal Church based on the findings of this qualitative research.


This project arises out of my understanding of the hermeneutics and epistemology of John S. Dunne, a contemporary Roman Catholic theologian. Dunne does not apply his theology specifically to spiritual direction. In my opinion, however, Dunne’s method is applicable in the practice of spiritual direction, especially as it relates to telling and hearing spiritual autobiography. It has borne fruit in my own spiritual development, and it operates in my practice of spiritual direction.

In general terms, Dunne’s theory rests upon the Augustinian idea that we discover truth in memory by telling and hearing stories, our own and those of others, and that this appropriation of experience as narrative is key to understanding and appreciating our mortality and our spiritual selves. Dunne maintains that our experience and perspective are enriched by a process he calls “passing over.”  “It is a method of entering sympathetically into another person’s autobiographical standpoint, seeing the whole world anew as that person sees it, and then coming back enriched to one’s own standpoint and to a new understanding of one’s own life.” (Dunne, Way 54)

Dunne’s method is distinct from a subject-object method of understanding. As such, it is distinctively postmodern and, I would argue, consonant with such spiritual practices as recollection and meditation. I found in research for an elective course, CN.821, “Pastoral Counseling as Ministry,” that Dunne’s method of “passing over” enhances the spiritual director’s perception and interpretation of a subject’s spiritual autobiography.

This project also draws on Augsburger’s insight that Dunne’s hermeneutics lay an epistemological groundwork for a method of pastoral care Augsburger has named “interpathy.” Augsburger’s concept of interpathic caring is broad. This study focuses on one aspect of such care, viz., interpathic listening, which is implied in the larger category and for which the groundwork also is laid by methodology drawn from Dunne’s hermeneutics.

I have adapted a method developed by Donald Capps and Eugene Fowler for producing pastoral care cases, which are key to evaluating this project.

Conclusions and implications of the project

I believe this project will show that Augsburger’s concept of interpathic caring operates in spiritual direction as a means of cultivating listening skills consonant with an epistemology drawn from Dunne’s hermeneutical concept of “passing over and coming back.” I believe that materials developed in this research will be transferable as a unit into curricula designed to train pastors and laity in spiritual direction. Such a curricular unit will fill a gap that I perceive in most spiritual-direction training programs today by providing method for listening that moves beyond interviewing technique to a cultivated process that is itself formative and beneficial to the practitioner.

Annotated Bibliography

Ammerman, Nancy T., Jackson W. Carroll, Carl S. Dudley, William McKinney, eds. Studying Congregations: A New Handbook. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

Various authors, including the editors, distill technical research methods for non-professionals to provide tools in handbook format for studying congregations through quantitative and qualitative research.

Augsburger, David. Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.

The author proposes that those who provide pastoral counseling must be willing and able to bridge the gap between their own culture and its assumptions to others less familiar. This is an in-depth look at the psychological, cultural, therapeutic and theological implications of such a move. In his introduction, Augsburger cites John S. Dunne’s concept of passing over as providing a methodological basis toward “interpathy,” a term invented by Augsburger denoting a counseling standpoint beyond empathy.

Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany. “Spiritual Direction and Psychotherapy.” Journal of Pastoral Care, 33 S 1979: 149-163.

The author succinctly compares the Freudian and Jungian schools of psychoanalytic theory with spiritual direction as embodied in the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Barnhouse also compares some practical aspects of spiritual direction with psychotherapy of both types. She concludes that Jung’s teleological method toward wholeness is more akin than Freudian analysis to spiritual direction. She cautions against codification of any method that would short-circuit continuing psychological or spiritual individuation in community.

Battaglia, Anthony. “Autobiography and Religion.” Horizons 2 Spring 1975: 61-73.

The author reviews the popularity of educational courses using autobiographical materials in the study of religion, arguing that it signals a changing cultural perception of what religion is. Whereas religion once was considered in terms of faith in a supernatural being from within a given tradition, now it has become “any attempt to integrate our lives,” including the appropriation of culturally unfamiliar faith traditions. Battalagia argues that Dunne has cultivated an effective method for encountering faiths other than our own.

Capps, Donald. “Parabolic Events in Augustine’s Autobiography.” Theology Today, Vol. 40, No. 3, Oct. 1983.

The author compares and analyzes similar stories in the autobiographies of Martin Luther and Augustine of Hippo to conclude that much of what is personal in the particular human story is of interest to humanity in general.

__________. Giving Counsel: A Minister’s Guidebook. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001.

The author has written a primer on providing pastoral counseling, with emphasis on the hearing and interpretation of subjects’ stories. It is written as a text for students or reference for pastors. Capps advocates, among other things, a model for pastoral care that is less lengthy and thus more compatible with congregational pastoral ministry.

Capps, Donald, and Gene Fowler. The Pastoral Care Case. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001.

The authors propose a method for supervision of pastoral care based on narrative counseling and storytelling. The format differs from the classic verbatim of Clinical Pastoral Education by putting the facts of the case in a broader interpersonal and social context. The authors propose that such case work might be the subject of small-group supervision among pastors.

Collinge, William J. “Passing Over and Coming Back in the Classroom.” Horizons, 11.2 Spring 1984:393-404.

The author describes his method for teaching two of John S. Dunne’s early works, The Search for God in Time and Memory and The Way of All the Earth, which includes college theology students’ writing autobiographies, keeping journals and learning to pass over to others’ standpoints and come back to their own. Collinge also reports on the effectiveness and hazards of these methods, but concludes that the benefits are worth the risk.

Collinge, William J. John Dunne’s Journey of the Mind, Heart, and Soul.” Horizons, 16 Spring 1989:28-44.

The author argues from eight early works, 1965-1987, that the corpus represents a unified theological project consistent with its origins in Bernard Lonergan’s principle that theology is “the mediation between a religion and a culture.” Collinge maintains that Dunne’s corpus falls into two phases, (1) cultures and their historical development, and (2) Dunne’s autobiographical reflections through which he employs the method of passing over and coming back to explore the implications of insights from earlier work.

Craft, Carolyn. “Presence and Spirituality.” Cross Currents, Spring 1986:92-96.

The author reviews the concept the presence in the recent work of four authors, including John S. Dunne, Maggie Ross, James C. Fenhagen and Richard H. Bell. Regarding Dunne, Craft concludes that the concept of presence and of being present to the moment of experience is of central importance to Dunne’s method of passing over and coming back, and within that method, the significance of the union of knowledge and feeling.

Crites, Stephen. “The Narrative Quality of Experience.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 39 S 1971, p 291-311.

The author argues from the nature of time that experience itself has a narrative quality. Crites discusses the nature of myth and story, the former residing in the unconscious, the latter constructed by human awareness and interpretation of experience. Augustine figures prominently in this discussion of time and storytelling. “The self is not a composite of mind and body,” Crites writes, but “in its concreteness is indivisible, temporal, and whole, as it is revealed to be in the narrative quality of its experience.”

Dittes, James. Pastoral Counseling: The Basics. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

The author gives practical guidelines and an overarching ethos for providing pastoral counseling. He is especially concerned with the counselor’s interior disposition and with defining pastoral counseling over against what it is not.

Dunne, John S. “Two Contemporary Approaches to Theology.” Theological Studies 21, 1960:45-61.

The author critiques the work of John Wisdom and Rudolph Bultmann as representing the psychoanalytical and existentialist approaches to theology. Dunne concludes that Wisdom’s approach is inappropriate to theology because it excludes theology as a legitimate method of verifying statements of fact. Dunne concludes that Bultmann’s existentialist approach to Christian theology is inappropriate without purging the idea of “autonomy” from that of “existence.”


__________. The City of the Gods: A Study in Myth and Mortality. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

The author surveys ancient cultures regarding their answers to the question of human mortality. He concludes that Christian understanding of human being and its place in time and eternity satisfies human longing for life in the face of death.

__________. A Search for God in Time and Memory. London: Collier-Macmillan, 1969; University of Notre Dame Press edition, 1977 (2002).

The author proposes by way of classic literature that humanity’s quest for immortality leads to a consciousness of being in time consistent with Christian theology, which accepts death but not annihilation. He elaborates for the first time the hermeneutical method of “passing over and coming back.”

__________. The Way of All the Earth: Experiments in Truth and Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

The author surveys world religions for convergences and divergences of horizon in a manner suggesting a postmodern appreciation of many paths moving toward a central meaning of human life.

__________. Time and Myth: A Meditation on Storytelling as an Exploration of Life and Death. Garden City: Doubleday, 1973.

In a summary of earlier work, the author employs his distinctive hermeneutic and how it operates to comprehend, understand and appropriate the human story.

__________. The Reasons of the Heart: A Journey into Solitude and Back Again into the Human Heart. New York: Macmillan, 1978 (SCM Press edition).

The author explores the human condition, especially loneliness and loss, and how life may pass from these to renunciation and solitude in a journey of discovery of one’s heart’s desire leading back to the human circle.

__________. The Church of the Poor Devil. New York: Macmillan, 1982.

The author passes over from his personal religious standpoint to “the religion of the poor” on a journey up the Amazon River, then comes back enriched to his own standpoint, his faith strengthened by those whose experience he shared.

__________. The House of Wisdom: A Pilgrimage. New York: Harper & Row, 1985; University of Notre Dame Press edition, 1993.

The author considers sacred space through the lenses of theology, philosophy, literature and the visual arts, probing the human heart and mind to discover the presence of God. The work is cast as a pilgrimage guided by the author’s hermeneutical method of “passing over and coming back.”

__________. The Homing Spirit: A Pilgrimage of the Mind, of the Heart, of the Soul. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987.

The author writes an intensely personal account of three trips to Jerusalem for scholarly meetings during which he copes with personal and spiritual crises. Crucial to Dunne’s personal reflections are his method of passing over and coming back.

__________. “The Ways of Desire.” Cross Currents 40.4 (Winter 1990/91): 437-456.

This essay is excerpted from Dunne’s book, The Peace of the Present, University of Notre Dame Press, 1990. The author essays the topic of human desire in spiritual terms, concluding that it advances in stages from loneliness and its fulfillment in human terms to “union and communion with God.” Dunne’s method is consistent with the rest of his corpus, as he passes over to a variety of literary and spiritual resources, from the ruins of Macchu Picchu in Peru to the works of C.G. Jung, Martin Heidegger, Pablo Neruda and C.S. Lewis, among many others, for insight into images that enrich the author’s standpoint. The end of desire, Dunne writes, is “a unity of thought and poetry, a unity of thinking and thanking, a unity of all life in prayer.”

__________. A Journey with God in Time: A Spiritual Quest. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.

The author’s autobiography is cast as the development of his thought and spirituality. Human mortality has been a theme of Dunne’s writing for four decades. Here, in particular, he ponders and reflects upon the meaning of his own life and death.

Edmunds, John S. “Affective Conversion in the Writings of John S. Dunne.” Diss. Catholic U, 1990.

The author reviews the development of Dunne’s thought from its origins in the work of Bernard Lonergan through 1987 and argues that Dunne has developed a method of “affective theology” that “in turn serves as the foundation of a spiritual theology, significant to the contemporary scene.” 

Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: The Guilford Press, 1985.

Galindo, Israel. “Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling: Addressing the Needs of the Spirit.” The Journal of Pastoral Care 51:4 Winter 1997: 395-402.

The author compares the roles of pastoral counselor and spiritual director, concluding that there are four dynamics of spiritual direction that are not compatible with pastoral counseling. Galindo writes: “Spiritual direction flows out of an epistemology that often is at odds with models of psychotherapy used in pastoral counseling.”

George, Ronald E. “Applying John S. Dunne’s Hermeneutics in Spiritual Direction.” Unpublished paper. Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, December 2005.

Griffiss, James E., ed. Anglican Theology and Pastoral Care. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 1985.

Essayists in this collection, including the editor, consider pastoral care from a variety of perspectives. Contributor Kenneth Leech considers pastoral care as spiritual direction, and warns that privatization of spirituality can lead to insensitivity to social issues.

Griffith, James L., and Melissa Elliott Griffith. Encountering the Sacred in Psychotherapy: How to Talk with People about Their Spiritual Lives. New York: Guilford, 2002.

The authors draw on considerable experience and illustrative anecdotes to propose to therapists that religious values and beliefs can operate in psychotherapy. The topic is considered conceptually but also in practical terms; for example, by proposing a method for listening creatively, rather than skeptically, to clients’ religious stories.

Guenther, Margaret. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Cambridge, Mass: Cowley Publications, 1992.

Hart, Thomas N. The Art of Christian Listening. New York: Paulist Press, 1980.

Holmes, Urban T. III. Spirituality for Ministry. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 2002.

This was the author’s final work before he died prematurely in 1981. It is the result of a rigorous study of clergy spirituality based on the experience of 22 clergy from five mainline Protestant denominations. The resulting essays address the spiritual needs and cultivated gifts of ordained ministry, and it concludes “that there is a common, generally tacit, emerging pattern of prayer for the clergy in the Christian denominations that are heirs of the more classical Reformation of the sixteenth century …”

Kendrick, Stephen. “On spiritual autobiography: An interview with Frederick Buechner.” The Christian Century, Oct. 14, 1992: 900-901.

Interview excerpts include Beuchner’s observation that spiritual autobiography adduces but one aspect of a person’s life story. Autobiography, he says, in a sense “falsifies” events by shaping them into a meaningful whole. Beuchner observes: “Events don’t have a shape.”

Nichols, Michael P. The Lost Art of Listening. New York: Guilford Press, 1995.

Leech, Kenneth. Experiencing God: Theology as Spirituality. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1985.

The author writes non-academically and as a pastor about his concern for “the inner needs of the soul, and with the pursuit of Christian discipleship in an unjust world.” His underlying theme is to link theology with spirituality in the popular mind.

__________. Soul Friend: Spiritual Direction in the Modern World. Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse Publishing, 2001.

Originally written for pastors, this work’s central argument is that Christian formation ought not to be a private affair, but should be cultivated within the corporate life of the church. The author argues against a model for spiritual direction based on psychotherapy.

Macquarrie, John. Principles of Christian Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1966.

The author covers the range of traditional Christian theological categories from the perspective of Christian existentialism. His perspective was influential in the later work of Martin Thornton.

Mascall, E.L. Christ, the Christian and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and Its Consequences. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1955.

A personal friend of Martin Thornton, the author influenced Thornton’s thinking about the church and its fundamental ministry of worship and prayer.

Nilson, Jon. “Doing Theology by Heart: John S. Dunne’s Theological Method.” Theological Studies 48:1987.

The author argues that Dunne’s work constitutes a genuine theological method, despite critics who say otherwise. This article provides a concise description and analysis of Dunne’s method and corpus through 1985 and a concise review of the scholarly debate.

Ross, Ellen M. “Spiritual Experience and Women’s Autobiography.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 59:3:527-543.

The author reviews the work of the medieval mystic Margery Kemp, and, while not arguing in John S. Dunne’s terms, suggests indirectly that contemporary women’s spirituality may glean much from passing over to Kemp’s “narrative of the self” and coming back with images offering “a unique and compelling vision of women’s religious self-understanding.”

Schipani, Daniel S. The Way of Wisdom in Pastoral Counseling. Elkhart: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 2003.

The author advocates an understanding of pastoral counseling “as a special setting and process for the practice of wisdom” set upon a foundation of biblical and theological tradition. With insights drawn from research and practice, Schipani develops the concept of “wisdom in the light of God” as the overarching metaphor for envisioning the pastoral counseling relationship.

­­Stairs, Jean. Listening for the Soul: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.

Steinke, Peter. How Your Church Family Works. Washington: The Alban Institute, 1993.

__________. Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach. Washington: The Alban Institute, 1996.

Thornton, Martin. Christian Proficiency. London: SPCK, 1959.

The author argues that as Christian spirituality develops toward maturity, it becomes ordinary. Christian “proficients” are said to be practical, disciplined, loyal members of the church who have mastered the language of common prayer, which forms their interior selves and conforms their behavior. He focuses on traditional concepts such as rule, spiritual direction and self-examination.

­­__________. English Spirituality. London: SPCK, 1963.

The author writes for spiritual directors. This survey is intended as a primer on the roots and development of what the author argues is a school of spirituality that can be called “English.”

__________. Pastoral Theology: A Reorientation. London: SPCK, 1964.

The author argues for a concept of the church that begins with daily corporate prayer and relies upon the energies and loyalty of each congregation’s “faithful remnant.” Pastoral care, including spiritual direction, should be directed first and foremost to this core element of the congregation. The author rejects what he calls “multitudinist” strategies for increasing participation in church programs, arguing that effective evangelism begins with proficient prayer at the heart of the church.

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