Enriching Ministry: Pastoral supervision in
Michael Paterson and Jessica Rose,
SCM Press £25
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ENRICHING MINISTRY is a collection of essays by a group
of men and women experienced in providing supervision for those
engaged in pastoral ministry, whether as parish ministers,
chaplains, or spiritual directors. Its principal goal is to offer
wisdom to those who act in a supervisory capacity in pastoral
contexts, guiding their approach and encouraging their
Supervision is defined in an appendix, although a theme
throughout is that, while there are techniques that can and
shouldbe learnt, supervision is in the end an art, not a science;
an acquired skill, and a matter of practical wisdom. What the
supervisor seeks to do is help inculcate in those supervised habits
of reflection on their practice - drawing on experience as well as
theology, psychology, and other relevant disciplines.
In order to do this, those who are in supervisory positions must
be reflective practitioners themselves. This raises awkward
questions about how many of those who are currently team rectors,
training incumbents, superintendents, spiritual directors, or
bishops, have had such training. It all seems rather
The authors are drawn from various denominations - Church of
Scotland, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, and Roman Catholic. They
are practitioners themselves - as local ministers, parish priests,
chaplains, counsellors, and therapists - as well as supervisors.
The experience that they bring is collectively and sometimes
individually rich and diverse.
The book is arranged in four parts - from an exploration of
relevant theological, philosophical, and psychological perspectives
to reflections on practice and context, concluding with Michael
Paterson's suggested model for pastoral supervision going forward.
It is, above all, an invitation to reflect on practice. It will,
therefore, be of interest to those who have responsibility for the
formation or supervision of any who work in a pastoral context.
The quality and utility of the writing is mixed, but, where
contributors eschew jargon, there are some interesting accounts of
practice which will provoke serious thought and nudge in the
direction of better practice. I found particularly helpful Ewan
Kelly's idea of "shared vulnerability", and Jessica Rose's chapter
on the need for a robust theological framework - a Trinitarian
understanding of God, and a Christian anthropology.
This is one of the key issues for those who are seeking to
integrate theological and psychological insights, especially if
they are working in a setting where other professionals are using
wholly secular assumptions. This might be a good entry-point for
the book as a whole.
Many contributors speak of a non-directive approach as if this
were self-evidently what they practise and also desirable. But
Diane Clutterbuck hints - rightly, in my view - at the
"limitations" of this, and at occasions when it might be
appropriate to be directive - for ethical reasons, or when a
colleague lacks the skill or resources to achieve his or her goals.
On the face of it, this undermines the idea of the non-directive
approach altogether. Can you be a little bit pregnant? At any rate,
it points to an area where more needed to be said.
I would also have welcomed more discussion around the two very
different contexts in which the readers of this book may operate -
those accountable at least in part to a secular employer (such as
the NHS), and those accountable principally or exclusively to a
faith community. These different contexts create different
tensions. For example, how does pressure from a hospital trust to
show that chaplaincy adds value affect how the chaplaincy operates?
Or how does a voluntary chaplaincy to a hospice deal with issues
such as assisted dying, on which Churches tend to have a particular
Overall, however, this is a useful book for supervisors and
others to dip in and out of.
Canon Alan Billings's latest book is The Dove, the Fig
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