On the Brink: A Group for Religious Professionals Transitioning into Retirement

 PROGRAM

 

Retiring from active religious and spiritual leadership evokes many emotions–dread, joy, fear, anxiety, excitement…Questions arise: “How will I find meaning and purpose?” “What is my call now?”  “How do I adapt to all of the changes that aging brings?”  “How do I share my spiritual gifts while maintaining healthy boundaries?”

Utilizing Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything:  Grace, Gravity and Getting Old”, clergy approaching retirement, or recently retired, will gather four times to support one another by exploring the existential challenges retirement brings.

AUDIENCE  Religious professionals including rabbis, pastors, priests, imams and others who are considering their next stage of life
DATE / TIME  Tuesdays from 1-3:30PM

  • Sept. 7, 2021
  • Oct. 5, 2021
  • Nov. 2, 2021
  • Nov. 30, 2021
COST $200 for the full series of four sessions
LOCATION  All sessions will be held virtually by Zoom

For more information please contact Mark Minear at mminear@dmpcc.org

Click here for a printable flier!

FACILITATORS

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, recently retired as Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Her work at the Center included program development and facilitation of services for clergy and congregations including education, spiritual direction, clergy coaching, church consultation and conflict mediation.  She holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is enjoying retirement in Maine where she continues to offer spiritual direction to a limited number of people.

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

Mark MinearMark Minear is a licensed psychologist. He is also a recorded minister with the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). His education includes an M.A. in church history from the Earlham School of Religion and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Ball State University. Now in his 10th year at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, he has a therapeutic niche of working with a wide range of clergy from various faith traditions across these years. His theoretical approach includes an integration of logotherapy (meaning-making), cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and mindfulness orientations. Now in the midst of his own journey into retirement, he is currently working part-time at the Center.

The Scandal of Particularity    

I can still remember the first lecture of the first class I ever took at Duke Divinity School.  Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, In a very proper and professorial British accent lectured on “the scandal of particularity.”

You might ask, “What is ‘the scandal of particularity?’”. . . go on. . . ask. . . please. . .

 

(sigh). . . no one ever asks.

Well, Dr. Wainwright and I would like you to know anyway. “The scandal of particularity” is all of the messy challenges that come about when followers of Jesus say that the God of all creation, “The Ground and Source of all Being,” was also somehow mysteriously embodied in a vulnerable baby who pooped his diapers.

Ok, it is a bit more complicated than this, but this is one of the most “scandalous” parts and this is the time of the year when followers of Jesus begin to tell this first story in the first chapter of The Scandal of Particularity.

There are some other good parts too. There are lots of parts where Jesus pisses off good church people by saying the people they thought were doomed to Hell were going to be first in heaven.  There are parts where people who think they don’t matter and have very little power become center stage and examples of great love.  There is a very sad part where Jesus, after pissing off too many politically powerful people, because of all of that stuff I just talked about, is executed as a violent revolutionary.  Then, his inner circle of followers loses all hope and run for their lives.  Until, in the midst of their fear he returns to them in a new kind of body in some new and mysterious way giving them the courage to risk their lives as the “scandal of particularity” somehow, mysteriously lives and continues in them.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a part of this “scandal of particularity.” I am a follower of Jesus. I was baptized and raised in a United Methodist Church in South Mississippi. I have been loved and shaped by people from this tradition and those experiences have shaped me in profoundly positive and meaningful ways. None of these experiences or relationships are general.  They are all particular.  This is who I am, and I cannot talk about “faith” “meaning” “love” or “spirituality” without this particularity being a part of that conversation. Even if I do not explicitly say it, this particularity is there.

I believe that at the heart of all of the mysterious, yet very real, experience of spirituality is deep relationship.  I also believe everyone is spiritual, whether or not they choose to use that language or not.  To grow spiritually is to grow in relationship.

Growing in relationship is inherently a practice of vulnerability.  I only have one honest self to offer you and, if it is an honest self, it is also a “particular” self. If you reject it I do not have another authentic self to offer you.

I also know that my particular tradition of faith is not perfect.  Christians, including me, do not and have not always acted like Jesus.  Worse yet, sometimes we have not even recognized and repented of it. Sadly, I and others in my faith tradition, have sometimes turned “the scandal of particularity” into “the scandal of exclusion”.

However, “The scandal of particularity,” is really about God’s inclusion of all people. It begins with a story of angels proclaiming Good News to “all people” and a story of Persian astrologers welcomed into the home of the holy family as some of their first guests.  There is no indication that they ever changed their religion before or after returning home.

I deeply value my particular experience in the United Methodist Church. I believe God was and is at work in if for good in me and in the world.  However, Jesus did not invite people to become “United Methodists” or even “Christians” he invited people to become beautifully human.  The first followers of Jesus were simply called followers of “The Way.”

You and I each have our own “scandal of particularity”. We all come from and speak from a particular experience of faith. Maybe yours has a formal name, worldview, and rituals.  Maybe it does not. Maybe you are still trying to figure out your own relationship with your religious tradition. Maybe you have no desire to be a part of a formal religious tradition.  Maybe you do not believe in God.

Still you, like me, live by faith. You, like me, live as if some things are more true and more real than others. You, like me, are more than just the sum of your biological parts, and you, like me, cannot ultimately test or prove the kind of things that give life its ultimate meaning. We are all a part of the same mystery of being. However, we all live in this mystery in “particular” ways.  While we may be able to talk about spirituality “in general,” we all live into our spirituality “in particular.”

I get very bored with conversations about spirituality in general.  Of course, if I have to choose between religious strife and religious tolerance, I will choose tolerance every time. However, I believe most of us long for something much more meaningful.

In my own experience, the kinds of conversations that have most transformed me in life giving ways, are those in which someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” while also allowing me to share my own. These are always sacred conversations and I often leave such conversations with a deeper since of connection and care for that person.

As Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, I want to foster such conversations. I also want to model this in my own conversations with others. This blog is one such conversation. Often I will be speaking from my own particular religious tradition. As I mentioned earlier, even if I do not specifically allude to it, I am sure it will be there.  It is a fundamental part of what makes me who I am.          I find this tradition rational, inspiring, and compelling. It is the best way I know to become the person I was created to be.

At the same time, I expect that anyone who has thoughtfully chosen another worldview or religious tradition, has also done so for similar reasons. So, we all have our own “scandal of particularity.”  Because of this we often try to avoid the topic of religion. We may fear that the conversation will end in argument and division and, sometimes, it does.  However, I have found that when there is trust and respect and the goal is understanding and not to “convert,” some of the most sacred conversations that I have ever had have happened when someone has trusted me with their own “scandal of particularity” and also given me the gift of understanding mine.

Your partner in hope and healing,

Chris

To read more of Chris Waddle’s blogs, click HERE.

Save or Savor?

 

by Jim Hayes, Executive Director

February 2021 — This quote found me as I was working through a gratitude reflection over the Thanksgiving holiday. It continues to nourish my thoughts and I’m wondering why.

One of my strategies for surviving this pandemic has been to try to stay in the moment rather than letting anxious thoughts overwhelm the day. My rational mind reminds my lizard brain that if anxiety drives the bus, I might miss the beauty of a moment or a day. This is especially true in the midst of a pandemic, which has heightened anxiety for most of us. Each day, no matter the external context, is rooted in the everlasting now. I do my best to savor the moment.

Among the moments to savor are the stories of some incredible people who have contributed to the Center over the years. For a variety of reasons, a number of our “wisdom figures” chose to retire over the last few months. They all seem to be enjoying retirement immensely! We have all been nourished by their efforts and ought to take a moment to savor the wonder of how they made us better by offering their many gifts to help us advance our mission.

Susan Ackelson joined us in 1996. She helped so many people as a therapist, but also served as Clinical Director. She did so much to help us appreciate the significance of holistic healing by paying attention to not only the mind, but the spirit and body through her sensory motor work.

Susan Koehler, P.A., came in 2014. Her years of service may not have been as long as some of the others on this list, but the services she provided represented a significant shift in our work. She started as a consultant helping us to better understand how psychiatry might help our patients, but later joined us as a prescriber. Along with Dr. Geoffrey Hills, Susan provided a wonderful resource by having in house prescribers.

Diane McClanahan joined us as the first full time director of Leadership and Spiritual Life in 2013. She established a number of new programs that not only benefitted the Center, but numerous communities of faith around the state. She also served many people as a trusted spiritual director.

Kathy Reardon allowed us to write a significant piece of appreciation in an earlier newsletter. She joined us in 2001. Her contributions are well documented, but my savoring of the Center’s work would be incomplete if I didn’t reflect once again on her contributions in healing touch, spiritual direction, and the establishment of the Prairie Fire spiritual formation program.

Roberta Yoder just retired last month. She joined us in 1996 as a career counselor. She has been a faithful and inspiring leader in what was virtually a one person program. So many people have Roberta to thank for discovering fulfilling careers. I always enjoyed my conversations with her around the topic of vocation. She certainly found a way to use her many gifts in the service of others.

There’s a bit of grief as I write this and reflect on these esteemed and highly valued colleagues. I miss them. Again, they all had a variety of reasons for why retirement made sense at this point in their lives and they left on the best of terms and continue to support the Center in a variety of ways. My savoring relates to the inspiration they continue to provide to so many. On a personal level, they certainly nourished my spirit in unique ways.

I have to provide one final bit of savoring by recognizing that we lost Larry Sonner on November 27th  to COVID-19.  He was retired from a variety of roles as a United Methodist Elder. One of his many contributions of a life lived well was to facilitate the gatherings of the supervisors in our training program for 25 years. We are so grateful for the many quality therapists he helped to shape in that quarter century. He and Sue, his spouse, contributed to the Center in many ways over the years. We offer our sympathy to her and the family, even as we celebrate the wonder of all that Larry did with his many gifts.

My reflections don’t even include other stakeholders and donors we’ve lost in 2020. The list is long and I’m afraid I’d forget someone if I started listing individuals. I’ll save that reflection for another time.

Savor these stories!

But we should also heed White’s advice to improve (or save) the world.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, we need to hold ourselves accountable to stewarding the gifts bestowed on us by creation. When I think of the many contributions over 100 staff and innumerable donors have added over the 49 year history of the Center, I am energized by their memories as I consider our role in advancing our important work. Along with the board and staff, I hope that we find ways to make a difference as we strive to serve the many needs in our community, especially related to holistic and mental health.

The world stands in need of improvement—maybe even a little bit of saving. You’ll be hearing from me in 2021 about strategies we have for writing the next chapter of the history of the Center. It will take all of us, using the many gifts we hold as a community, to affect positive social change. We are grateful for others who have done it before us, but also take seriously our responsibility to respond generously as well.

Thank you for all you’ve done to help us continue to serve in a challenging year. Savor the wonder of it all so that we might all be inspired to do a bit of “saving” in 2021.

Blessings,

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE.

Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT)

Do you want to know essential information about your congregation to make the right decisions?

The Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT)® can help.

The Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center’s trained consultants, in collaboration with Holy Cow! Consulting, are ready to work with you and your leadership to administer the CAT, a process to collect, analyze and share information from your entire congregation.
The CAT is a method of organizational listening so that leaders can move forward with decisions in a way that includes everyone, not just the voices that are the loudest, and does not rely on opinions or guesses of the few.

 

When might your congregation benefit from a CAT process?

1. If your congregation is in transition, for example in a pastoral search or if you have just received a new pastor.
2. If your congregation is preparing for strategic planning.

3. If your congregation is launching a capital campaign.

The CAT is also an invaluable tool for reading the overall health and vitality of congregations, to:
  • measure the level of community satisfaction and energy
  • identify the critical success factors for improving organizational climate
  • envision the future
  • gauge readiness for change
  • uncover potential resources
Thousands of CATs have been administered throughout the country and the Center is ready to help you.  For a complimentary initial consult or for more information, please contact Chris Waddle, the Center’s Director for Leadership and Spiritual Life, by email: cwaddle@dmpcc.org

Chris’ Blog

Chris Waddle, M.Div.

“I believe that the essence of spirituality is rooted in ever growing loving relationships with God, others, creation, and our best selves.  As the Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life, he helps leaders, communities, and individuals from all walks of life and religious beliefs nurture these significant relationships. Chris believes nurturing these relationships involves faith, vulnerability, wonder, and playfulness.”

 

Pastoral Care for the Generalist – June 2021

Putting Down the Pushers – May 2021

What is faith? – April 2021

Anxiety amped up to eleven – March 2021

Whatever the Question, the Answer is Grace – February 2021

Self Care, Sanctuaries, and Playgrounds – January 2021

The Scandal of Particularity – December 2020

No money? No insurance? No problem.  We can help! – November 2020