Preparing New Wineskin
The founding of AAPC, in 1964, was not the birth of pastoral counseling. It was a response to an already alive pastoral counseling movement, a way to support and improve the quality of what was already happening.
For nearly two thousand years in the Christian church, longer than that in Jewish, Hindu, Taoist, and Buddhist communities, a bit less in Islam, and much, much longer in the various native faiths of Africa, there were sages and healers, formed and informed by spiritual wisdom, to whom people turned for help in times of disorientation and pain.
By the middle of the 20th century, in the United States, hundreds of these healers had begun making their fee-based services available in the pre-licensure psychotherapy marketplace. Training centers and graduate programs had already formed to teach them. But there was no organization to tell the public which pastoral counselors were actually qualified to offer this service, and no guild to help aspiring pastoral counselors know what they needed to learn and which training centers they could trust to teach them.
The founding of AAPC was a way to meet this need and AAPC came into being to meet this need, and it met it amazingly, incredibly well. Most of you reading these words became who you are, as a professional and as a person, because several wise, generous, devoted AAPC-certified mentors poured themselves into you and helped you learn to use yourself - your whole self: mind, body, spirit - as a healer.
As it turned out, the need that gave birth to AAPC lasted for about 30 years. In the 1990's, states established licensing boards for counselors, and these boards assumed responsibility and authority for declaring who can practice and who can not. AAPC's original reason for being had run its course.
In the meantime, though, something wonderful had happened. The professionals who initially gathered so there would be a guild to legitimize them in the eyes of the world had, along the way, stumbled upon a secret recipe for how to help people develop as healers. No one has ever written the recipe down exactly, but it's some part "go as deep as you can in a spiritual tradition," another part "learn all you can from science, psychotherapy theory, and the arts," another part "humble yourself so that everyone, at all times, is your teacher," and another part "gather regularly in a community of practice that is trying to learn the same things you are trying to learn." Along the way, we discovered how to help young-in-the-field professionals grow in wisdom and skill, and how to help experienced professionals keep learning and growing across their professional lifetime. What is more, we learned how to be a professional association that relates to one another as colleagues and friends rather than as competitors and rivals.
Today, AAPC's original reason-to-be having passed, but carrying a much greater gift that has grown among us, we again witness something happening that we did not create. Professionals of all sorts - licensed psychotherapists, pastors, spiritual directors, life coaches, nurses, physicians, public health professionals, and others - are looking for help to understand the spiritual dimension of providing care. And we wonder: Can we be creative enough to share our gift with them? Can we use the recipe we have learned since 1964 to help others deepen their gifts for recognizing the presence of Spirit in a human life and conspiring with Spirit in acts of healing?
In response to this question - can we extend and share the unique gifts of this community - the AAPCSE Coordinating Council has spoken an enthusiastic YES! We have proposed the formation of a new nonprofit organization to be an outreach of AAPC. We shared this idea at the national conference in March and in last month's newsletter. We are now in a season of public conversation and discernment with you, and we hope you will come learn more and offer your ideas at one of our Town Hall Meetings. We will vote on this proposal in October at Kanuga.
Meanwhile, we continue to develop and expand our opportunities to be together for learning. This newsletter is full of announcements and reminders of these opportunities:
The May 19th webinar with Thomas Moore
The June 16th webinar with Melissa Stancil
The "mark your calendar for October 20-22" reminder to join us at Kanuga
This is an important moment in the life of our community and the world around us. I hope you will join us regularly for learning and for conversation to discern what action the world needs from us now.