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Book reviews >

Resourcing those who help others

David Atkinson reads a practical guide to the ministry of supervision


Pastoral Supervision: A handbook
Jane Leach and Michael Paterson
SCM Press £18.99
(978-0-334-04325-6)
Church Times Bookshop £17.10

BOTH Jane Leach (Methodist minister and theological teacher) and Michael Paterson (Anglican priest, therapist, and trainer) were involved in the founding in June 2009 of the (British) Association of Pastoral Supervisors and Educators (APSE). It understands pastoral supervision to include the provision of space in which a practitioner skilled in supervision meets other practitioners to look at the super­visees’ practice.

It requires a relationship of trust and confidentiality which is theo­logically rich, psychologically in­formed, and contextually sensitive. It is not spiritual accompaniment, counselling, or line management.

This understanding of pastoral supervision applies, for example, to placement supervisors working with ordinands, to those involved in chaplaincy work, and to those involved with various forms of regular ministerial review at diocesan or local church level.

Leach and Paterson have collab­orated in writing this Handbook, which is intended as a practical guide to the ministry of pastoral supervision. It is aimed at anyone involved in supervising the ministry of others, or seeking supervision for their own ministry.

The authors’ approach begins in prayer and scripture — understood as offering a manner, a style, and a spirit for the work — while being open to insights from other dis­ciplines. It is understood as part of Christian discipleship. Each chapter begins in pertinent biblical theo­logical reflection, and concludes with reflective practical exercises.

Its primary theme is “attending to” a range of aspects of the task: attending to vision; in the present; to the there and then; to the here and now; to the story; to context; to group matters; to endings. It in­cludes diagrammatic mapping exer­cises to illustrate the text, and a wide range of detailed narratives of supervision from the authors’ ex­peri­ences.

I particularly noted the outline of developmental stages in a super-visee’s growing self-understanding, and a helpful reminder of the value of group dynamics in understand­ing a staff meeting: “Our experience of group supervision suggests that the opportunity to be part of a group for those who spend their working lives seeking to be a re­source for others, can be an im­portant reminder that it is not necessarily expert advice we need, but the restorative experience of genuine community in which the members receive from and give to one another.”

All in all, this is a most useful resource book, which should be in the hands of those teaching pastoral studies, placement supervisors, training incumbents in parishes — indeed, anyone engaged in the growingly recognised and important task of pastoral supervision.

Dr Atkinson is an Hon. Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Southwark.

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