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Relational Ministry

Integrating Ministry and Psychotherapy

Catherine Gibson

Historically, the relationship between religion and psychotherapy has been more negative than positive. Are there inherent contradictions between the two, or can advances in the area of mental health care offer insights that are useful for the work of those in ordained ministry? This book presents an analysis of the relationship between ordained ministry on the one hand and counselling and psychotherapeutic practice on the other. It draws on extensive interviews carried out with current and former clergy in three churches (the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) in order to clarify why some have stayed in ministry and combined it with psychotherapy, while others have left and continue their practice as psychotherapists. The book explores possible links between the sense of ministry in these two important areas of human experience – religion and psychotherapy – and goes on to investigate how combining these might lead to a different form of ministry.
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CHAPTER 2 - The Societal Context of Ministry in Ireland


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The Societal Context of Ministry in Ireland

In Ireland from the 1950s to the 1980s, the period during which the research participants were ordained, there were many factors in the surrounding society that influenced the concepts of ministry current during those years. It is by now probably a cliché to say that they were decades of great change, but it is none the less true that during those years Irish society moved quickly from the harsh conditions of the post-war years to an era of comparative wealth, with significant developments in lifestyle and social attitudes. As the context of ministry changed, so did the beliefs and expectations about ministry commonly held in the churches, among both the church members and the ordained themselves. What follows below is a brief outline of some of the main developments of those years that are pertinent to the present context. These have particular relevance to the kinds of difficulties that confronted clergy in Ireland due to the effects they had on relationships on three fronts: interpersonal, interchurch and interstate. This is because each challenged in its own way particular established ways of understanding what it means to be human and the institutional structures that flowed from that understanding in both church and state. As I will discuss later, depending on one’s perspective they either opened up possibilities for change and progress, or threatened cherished – to some, non-negotiable – values (Congar 1990, p. 172; Gallagher 2003, p....

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