Pastoral Care in Disaster: A theological reflection
Meade, Joan Anne Delsol
The research explores three interrelated theological problems – human suffering as encountered during the eruptions of the Soufrière Hills Volcano on Montserrat, the inadequacy of existing Protestant religious traditions on Montserrat to cope with the crisis situation, and the weaknesses of recommended models of pastoral care inherited from Western Christianity. The latter two concerns became obvious at a time of heightened demand for the churches to offer consolation in the face of natural disaster. At the intersection of the three stated concerns is the researcher who served as a pastor in the context of the disaster. Through critical utilisation of Thomas Groome’s practical theological method of Shared Christian Praxis, she acts as interlocutor between the theological reflections of focus groups and theological statements, including contributions from cultural art forms, originating in the wider community of people resident on Montserrat during the eruptions. Irreconcilable differences between the practice of pastoral care and the theological bases for the ministry of care are exposed. The exploration of the spaces between expounded theory and actual practice of pastoral care in this research yields resources to explain the discrepancies and to help move forward the process for a praxis oriented approach to pastoral care that is both theologically valid and contextually relevant. In identifying sources of traditional wisdom useful for providing care in disaster and for developing culturally appropriate models of care and counselling, the research also suggests Shared Christian Praxis as valuable to Caribbean pastoral theological method. It is also recommended as a way of caring and doing theology in disaster situations.