Offering a Spiritual Foundation

P1040390Interview with Štěpán Brodský, who is newly in charge of the systematic development of pastoral services at the Diaconia of the ECCB.

The ECCB Diaconia should provide pastoral care. What does this mean though? The people outside the Church have no clue whatsoever and also the ones from the church are often hesitant. The doubts are even bigger in the ECCB Diaconia as most of its clients and employees live outside the churches and even apart from any Christian tradition. So is there any reason for providing pastoral care in the ECCB Diaconia?

There are two reasons. One is, we could say, the legal one. The Diaconia is run by the Church and the task of the Church is the spiritual dimension of taking care of someone. Neither the Church, nor the Diaconia, can just get rid of this obligation. The spiritual company can also spice up our social work, a value that we can add to our work. That is the second reason.

 

Each Diaconia Center has its partner congregation. There should be cooperation via the local minister. The minister should take care of the spiritual needs of the given center. Should not that be enough to cover the pastoral care?

It is often not so. The cooperation between the congregations and Diaconia is voluntary and often this is a “Cinderella” among what the congregation does. The minister has many obligations in his/her congregation and working for the Diaconia is often the last thing to think about. The cooperation is without problems only in those cases when the Diaconia Center was established by the will of the people from the local congregation. But there are also such centers that were established apart from any congregation. In such cases the cooperation is usually weak from the beginning. Therefore, we aim to take pastoral care more seriously and to professionalize it. Such work cannot be done from a distance or by sitting at a table. Pastoral care makes sense only when the worker spends time with the clients and employees. And if the pastor of the partner congregation is not capable of this, then someone else should be invited to take this position.

How are we to deal with the fact that many employees and clients of the Diaconia have no idea what pastoral care means, have no interest in it and perhaps are even afraid of it?

It ought to be emphasized that pastoral services, as we understand them in the Diaconia, are not missionary. In this way they differ from the standard work within the congregations. The aim is not to bring someone to faith. Offering support and a spiritual foundation are the primary accents – that the health and social care of the Diaconia be accompanied by humanity which is carried out through basic Christian values. The pastoral worker must explain that their task is not to make one a Christian.

Then, doesn’t a psychologist fit better for such a job?

Pastoral care differs from psychology and psychotherapy. It aims for something different. It makes no diagnosis. It does not heal but accompanies. And also it deals with a sphere with which psychology does not work and which is expressed by words as God, religion, faith – even though those terms do not need to appear at all during the spiritual company.

Where can such pastoral workers be found? Will there be any interested in such a position?

There is always a shortage of good people. However, many selfless people with social feeling and talent for pastoral work can be found among the pastors and laity in the congregations. These qualities should belong to an equipment of a Christian. Life experiences, those that rather older people have, are an advantage. But I also know many young people who are “tuned up” in the right way – they have those “radars” that can recognize what the other person needs. The basic condition is that the pastoral worker likes other people, which is expressed by patience, understanding, respect to one another and ability to give the other some space.

Questions asked by Adam Šůra, ECCB Diaconia

Štěpán Brodský studied theology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Prague and also in Kampen in the Netherlands. He was minister in the north Bohemian town of Třebenice and senior in the Ústí nad Labem Presbytery, and then minister in the city of Hradec Králové. As a minister-volunteer he used to work in prisons. He is married to his wife Rut, also a minister and theologian, and they have two children together; a daughter Judita (*1997) and a son Jáchym (*2002).

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