African American Pastoral Care by Edward P. Wimberly is a supplement to the book written in 1979 on Pastoral Care in the Black Church. Pastoral Care by African Americans shows pastoral counselors how to care for African Americans through a narrative methodology. By linking personal stories and the pastor’s stories to the heart language of the Bible stories, counselors can use God’s unfolding drama to bring healing and reconciliation to human lives. Further, demonstrating that caring can be shown through story telling and is widely used by the black church.
The stories relayed are basic methods used in the past by black clergy, seminary students and lay people. Using the methodology of storytelling can build and improve the care given by our black pastors. Black Pastors share stories how caring for their members rely on seven needed narratives gained from stories and metaphors. They motivate their members to action by: helping them to see themselves in a new light, help them recognize new resources, enable them to channel behavior in constructive ways, sustain them in crisis, bring healing and reconciliation in relationships, heal scars of memories, and provide guidance when direction is needed. The African American Pastor tell stories that help people gain a glimpse of hope in the midst of suffering. Metaphors have been used for centuries to link Christians to positive directions in life. God from the very beginning uses identifying through biblical stories to heal, provide wholeness, and liberation for the sake of others. God provides four major functions to act in our lives: to unfold, link, thicken, and twist to arrive at the final outcome of our purpose in life.
In examining the Pastoral Care shared through God’s four major functions we begin to understand what is meant by unfold, God plans our lives one scene and one chapter at a time, and the purpose is not revealed until the complete story is complete. We then rely on Gods guidance to link the unfolding story to their lives. The scriptures help to relate the plot of the story to themselves. Black Pastors sharing their stories with members who see from the unfolding events and how they relate every day. Thickening refers to those events that intrude into God’s unfolding story and seek to change the direction of that story from all involved. Suffering sometimes stakes its claim on our lives and hinders our growth and development. However from examples and stories from others we learn that God really cares and has never forsaken us. The things involved in us finding the true meaning of unfolding, linking and thickening our lives brings us through negative interruptions and things that assist in our growth then we begin to twist the story back around to where we fit in. The interruptions are only temporary and the story again begins to unfold in ways that help us to envision God at work in our lives.
Black Pastors by listening and telling stories have helped their congregation acknowledge God’s work in the midst of storms and suffering that come upon our lives.
Pastoral Care for the African American takes on a different meaning than Preaching and Worship. In preaching, the purpose is to assist in disclosing the gospel and worship uses storytelling to celebrate God’s plans for salvation and often invites worshipers to participate in the worship. Pastoral Care uses storytelling in relation to helping remove the personal and interpersonal obstacles that can hinder people’s ability to grow. It is used to strengthen people’s personal and interpersonal growth, so that they can respond to God’s salvation as it relates and impacts their lives. Pastoral Care brings all resources of the story of faith into the context of caring relationships. The gospel must respond to the congregations personal and family needs as they face life struggles that interrupt their lives. This is best done in a private setting rather than a public worship or preaching session.
In order to provide positive Pastoral Care, Story listening is also an important dimension of African American Pastoral Care. Story listening involves empathetically hearing the story of the person involved in life struggles, being able to communicate that the person in need is cared for and understands as a result of the story that has unfolded in his or her life through Christ. African American Pastors must place lots of emphasis on story listening to make sure the focus is not diverted from the needs of the person facing life struggles. There are two ways to prevent misuse of story telling. First, a growing body of literature on story telling within the context of counseling and psychotherapy can assist pastors in knowing how to use their own life stories in facilitative ways. Second, pastors need to grow in their own personal life so that their life stories and participation in the faith story will be a positive storage of stories.
When African American Pastors relate storytelling practices they still have to remain focused on other limitations that have to be addressed. There are times when direct and confrontational approaches are more appropriate for the people of their congregation. Pastors sometimes have to help people to face the real facts about the walk in life they are acting out. There are some people that cannot differieate between real and unreal. The faith story has to be unfolded to the counselee by the pastor. The pastor never assumes people in need have thorough knowledge of the Bible. Pastors have to help the people they counsel to find Bible stories that are objectionable to their needs because of the faith story and not just because of the similarity of the story. Stories gained from one counselee should always have approval from them to be retold. Though stories are a rich resource, pastors should not confine their counseling to religious stories but to the word of God.
Of the many lessons to be gained from African American Pastoral Care, relates caring for people through storytelling and utilizing it in the context of caring relationships, to foster personal, interpersonal, and emotional growth. Black pastors should use stories as a means of enriching people’s awareness of God’s purpose in their lives, despite suffering. I enjoyed Edward P. Wimbererly’s narrative on pastoral care because it links people with the unfolding of God’s plan in ways that will bring healing, sustaining, guidance, and reconciliation. The ability to enable parishioners to develop a language that helps them discern God’s work in their people’s lives is a needed role. African American Pastors use the resources of the church and the storytelling that assist them to attend to the needs of individuals, families, and small groups, which includes worship and ritual. In understanding storytelling, I found it best to use stories in the art of counseling to make points, suggest solutions, facilitate cooperation, increase self- awareness, and discover resources for counseling. One of the largest points learned from positive storytelling is to use conflict-free and anxiety-free narratives to help people grow emotionally and interpersonally.