As many of you are aware, I am pursuing ordination as an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor. As part of that process I am currently taking three seminary classes: Preaching II, Old Testament Prophets, and Pastoral Care. Yesterday I was doing some work for my Pastoral Care class and came upon a term I’ve never heard before. Interestingly, I am reading two text books and both make reference to the same term. As I pursue ordination and seminary studies it always amazes me how much I don’t know (yeah George, have fun with that confession) and how much of those “unknowns” are common knowledge in the world of theology. Both texts made early reference to Anton Boisen and his concept of “living, human documents”
Boisen describes “living, human documents” as concrete experiences of pastoral care of living persons, that are sources of theological insight of equal importance to those of the historic texts of the Judeo-Christian tradition. (from An Introduction to Pastoral Care by Charles Gerkin)
I never intended these spiritual fitness exercises to become academic theological discussions, however I do like to share the context of my current learning. I am a long way from understanding the depth of the above statement, but it did catch my attention. Maybe it is because our profession is so focused on the value of street smarts rather than book smarts and values real life experience over academic learning. Regardless, I was drawn to the idea of “living, human documents”.
So here is your exercise for this week. We all have favorite books, authors, written texts that we go to for comfort and spiritual guidance, how about non written documents? Think back to a time when you provided or received spiritual care. Who were you interacting with? Was it a positive or negative experience? Would you spend time with that person in a future time of need? Why or why not? And lastly, are these living, human documents worth retaining, worth actually taking the time to document them? Or are they better just being put out with the trash and recycling?