My theology of pastoral care is to serve people in need, to bring myself to people openly and honestly, and to love unconditionally. I offer pastoral care knowing that I am only human, but that as humans we consist of the same matter as all existence. As such, we have the right to call upon all powers and forces of the universe in our times of need.
One of the principles of Unitarian Universalism is the commitment to a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Of all the principles of my faith, this one holds primary importance, not only in my preaching and teaching ministry, but also in my pastoral care. For me, the challenges of life can leave us feeling isolated, helpless, and hopeless. Pastoral care in my ministry aims to lessen these feelings by meeting people in distress with unconditional love, an attitude of truth seeking, and a commitment to searching for meaning in life and specifically within our lives. Pastoral care is grounded in the belief that we can care for the anguished by being with them as they live through pain, learn from pain, and in time apply what they have learned to their lives and the lives of those around them.
Another core principle of Unitarian Universalism is the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Essential to this philosophy is our ability to tap into our deep inner resources, both within ourselves and within the power of love of all humankind. Some Unitarian Universalists ascribe this faith in grace and goodness partly to a god. Whatever our personal theologies, we can find common ground in the key belief that humankind is inherently good and that life is worthwhile, in spite of pain, loss, and ultimately death.
I believe that there exist forces in the universe and perhaps beyond that we do not understand. But, I do not believe that these forces or supernatural powers exist respond to our petitions or intercede with purpose in our lives. The result of this theology is that we must find the strength to deal with crises and the challenges of life within ourselves and from each other. What, then, do I believe is the purpose of prayer?
Prayer for me begins with listening and caring about the person to whom I am ministering. My prayers reflect their needs, the matters afflicting their minds and hearts. I want the person to know that they have been heard, that they have had the opportunity to articulate their fears, and that they are not alone in their pain. If I can bring a positive attitude to the process, all the better. If I can offer suggestions, or even solutions, then I will do so. Regardless, my aim in pastoral care is to help the person find within themselves and their available circle of family and friends the resources to deal with whatever struggle they are facing.
I embrace an open mind toward others’ view. My approach to pastoral care rests heavily on your freedom to choose how you deal with crises and challenges in life. I am unbound by dogmatic beliefs in evil, sin, salvation, or redemption in facing pain and suffering, so am free to use all of the tools available to the human mind to craft an effective response.
I have dealt with every type of pastoral issue, including divorce, gender identity transition, child custody, aging, tragic sudden death, suicide, arrest, addiction, and mental illness. I have faith in human beings, even against the weight of historical evidence. I have faith that we can develop the collective intelligence needed to plan for and ensure that we survive and thrive as a species. At the core of this intelligence is a deep-rooted commitment to caring for each other without needing to rely on supernatural explanations or guidance as a source of our morality. My religious theology of mystical omnitheism emphasizes the primacy of non-dogmatic reason, intelligence, and critical thinking, while at the same time recognizing the importance of intuitive, affective, and non rational factors in human experience.