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Listening For The Soul Paperback – Oct 10 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: FORTRESS PRESS; 1 edition (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800632397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800632397
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #308,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

From the Publisher

From the Introduction (pre-publication version):

Listening for the Soul Again

Look on my right hand and see— there is no one who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for me.

I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Psalms 142:4-5; 143:6

Those of us who are privileged to carry out the ministry of pastoral care are becoming increasingly aware that we have neglected to listen for the soul. What North American mainline Protestant churches once understood to be central in pastoral care is now marginal in pastoral practice. Because we have neglected to foster soulfulness (soul fullness),1 the church and the world alike cry out like the psalmist of old: “No one cares for me. . . . My soul thirsts for you like a parched land.” A jarring dichotomy exists between society’s pervasive longing for meaningful spirituality and the faltering pastoral responses of Protestant churches.

The Public Quest for Soulfulness The world is crying out for the church to be more like the church, to represent the space and place where holiness, meaning, and God can be found, experienced, understood, and reimagined. Yet even at the beginning of a new century, for many, the traditional patterns of religious life remain too patriarchal, inadequate, and even obsolete. For others, the church seems too much in appearance like the world—too busy, too tired, too involved, too demanding, too unstable, too spiritually impoverished, too leadership deprived.

At the same time that such strong and ambivalent feelings are being expressed about the church, people remain interested in spiritual matters. Spirituality is newsworthy and remains marketable. Pollsters report on religious trends and affiliations. Popular television programs from Touched by an Angel to NYPD Blue regularly address spiritual matters. Also, the increased plurality of North American society and the visible presence of Eastern religions have heightened our consciousness of spiritual traditions and the spiritual life. People are consistently providing evidence that there is a deep-seated craving for religious sensibilities and rituals. Even taking into account the sentimentality triggered by the Christmas holiday season, the notable increase in attendance at Christmas Eve services can be partly attributed to the fact that people want to connect in some way with the holy mystery of the Christmas event. Some men and women openly confess the need to feel more spiritually connected and alive. These needs are frequently demonstrated through pursuits that seek to merge the psychological, medical, and spiritual paradigms. Zealous interest in Yoga, Tai Chi, massage, meditation, and relaxation therapies, and chiropractic, homeopathic, and naturopathic care indicates that ours is a time of intense personal and social yearning for spiritual wholeness.

In such a climate, it is not surprising that enrollment levels for university and college religious studies courses have soared. People are devising personal spiritual belief systems and seeking with renewed vigor places and practices that put them in touch with spiritual values. Most bookstores contain entire sections on New Age spirituality, women’s and men’s spiritualities, and alternative health. The number of books (including this one!) published in the last few years with the word soul in their titles is staggering. We gorge on books, hoping to digest clues for fixing our bodies, our businesses, our relationships, our addictions, and now even our souls. No longer are retreat centers the sole/soul enterprise of the church. All sorts of healing, inner renewal, and spirituality centers are springing up in a secular context, advertised as getaway places from the stresses of work and our technological addictions. Alternative and holistic approaches to caring for body, mind, and soul are rapidly finding their way into an eager consumer-driven market. Attending to the soul, in all its emptiness and fullness, has now become a trendy and profitable enterprise. When our hunger is so intense, it seems that we will eat anything put before us that promises nourishment.

Many pastoral caregivers are acutely aware that people are desperately seeking to make connections with holiness, the mystery of life, and the divine force of creation. The reordering of priorities brought about by a decrease in financial resources, changes in employment and work patterns, and external stresses placed upon personal time commitments has led to a lack of balance in life. Many people simply are overextended and unable to discern what leads to a balanced life and what leads to burnout and long-term disability, the new dis-eases of our time. The fact of change has produced increased anxiety and turned up the volume of noise in our souls. So, too, the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and a growing discomfort with the idolatrous nature of consumerism have evoked in many a quest for simplicity and a renewed spiritual life.

Protestant churches are now scrambling to respond to this renewed interest in matters of the soul, but it is clear that they are ill equipped to do so. Indeed, they are almost frantic in their quest to catch up with the public’s emphasis upon matters of the soul, and they fear that inaction may indeed hasten the demise of the church’s capacity to address spiritual matters and care for the soul. The church fears that its failure to attend to the soul has contributed to destructive patterns of disconnection with God, others, ourselves, and the earth.

While the public’s interest in soul matters is surging, Protestant churches continue to flounder in their response to this phenomenon. Why is this so?

About the Author

Jean Stairs is a United Church of Canada minister and Associate Professor of the Practice of Ministry and Field Education, and Chair of Theological Studies at Queens Theological College, Kingston, Ontario.

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