What Are You Reading and Why?

The Ministry of Listening

Donald Peel, Anglican Book Centre, 1980

reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

It is an old book, but still relevant in the attempt to equip lay people minister to others.  Peel not only helps lay people to minister to others, but stimulates us to identify the areas where the congregation can be strengthened and helped.

While hospital visitation is probably the readers’ first identification of an area of visitation, Peel identifies a basic technique of creative listening to help the congregation strengthen its membership: Hospital visitation, visiting the elderly, housebound young mothers, stressed workplace individuals, neighbours across the back fence, parents of Sunday School students, newcomers to the congregation.  Peel sketches the shape of creative listening to include not only hospital patients but also their relatives and friends.  And the hospital staff!  What he attempts is to see the shape of caring from a pastoral orientation that sees the need for better training of congregational membership to the sustained exercise of pastoral care by an articulate membership.

Peel calls for the development at the congregational level of training and identification of frequently encountered needs.  Active listening is the use of feeling, helping the participant to articulate for herself/himself authentic responses to G-d’s healing grace.  Peel sketches the use of prayer and scripture, and visiting the dying, those who mourn, the elderly, and pastoral care on the psychiatric ward.

A useful small book to strengthen pastoral care at the congregational level.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.