Ferment in the Ministry by Seward Hiltner
Ferment in the Ministry was published in 1969 by Abingdon Press. This book was prepared for Religion-Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.
Chapter 12: New Forms of Ministry
With new vigor in the early nineteenth century, the churches of Western Christendom, through the overseas missionary movement, began their long and ever more complex recognition that the ministry and church must go to people in special settings or with special problems. No matter that even in our own complex and secular day, when the old notion of "parish" as a particular area where people sleep and work has almost expired, the majority of people can still be ministered to by local churches for most of their lives if they are interested in the services of ministry. For some periods of his life however — college years, armed services, and the like — every person today needs a special ministry. And some people need special ministries most of their lives if they are to have any at all.
Following overseas missions, and then domestic missions to persons like the Indians, the next moves for special ministries were in the armed forces and in prisons. In those settings it was clear that men could be reached only through what became known as "chaplaincy" service, i.e., by special ministers able to be with them in their own settings. In the armed forces the decision was made early to make chaplains commissioned officers but to keep them "out of the line"; that is, to enable them to have a free relationship with the men they served. As time went on, the denominations had more to say about nominating their men (now an annual recertification is required); but the armed services rightly insisted on basic minimum qualifications of competence such as college and seminary experience and evidence of ability to do the job.
Even today an occasional church leader or group will declare that military chaplains are creatures of the military establishment. No such leaders, however, have tried to raise the millions that would be needed if the churches were to support their own chaplains financially. And to most observers it seems dubious whether the chaplains could have appropriate access to the men unless they are in uniform. The present system is one of careful checks and balances, with a great deal of sensitive attention to the proper protections of the chaplain as a church representative.
The history of ministry to men in prison is quite different. Until a quarter century ago such service was on two kinds of bases. First, there was a very small group of full-time chaplains, ordinarily getting their jobs because they were friends of the warden. When conscientious, as they often were, they found little time for actual ministry since so many obtrusive needs of a welfare nature caught their attention. Such men became, under the chaplaincy title, general welfare officers. Chaplains became free for ministry only when social workers, librarians, physicians, psychologists and other professional personnel became commonplace in our prisons just a few years ago.
The great majority of such institutions were served, however, only by part-time or visiting chaplains, with services often limited to the conduct of worship and funerals. Thus, even though prisons were among the first places of special need to catch the eye of the churches, it is only in the past quarter-century that the plan of full-time and specially trained chaplains, responsibly related to their churches as well as to their jobs, has become widespread. As in relation to the armed forces, it is now plain that the churches would be unready or unwilling to support financially an appropriate chaplaincy service; and that, even if they could or did, they might make it more difficult for their ministers to reach the men in their own settings.
It seems significant that, in these two settings where it became clear that the special situation demanded special ministry, the solutions finally worked out involved negotiated protection by the church of the actual ministry, but a budget from somewhere else. Although I do not wish to make a fetish of this principle, I believe that satisfactory negotiated solutions in the future on the part of many of the now emerging forms of ministry are very likely to follow a similar course. We shall do well to continue to cherish an appropriate respect for a sensibly interpreted separation of church and state in this country. And we may continue to criticize the partially state-supported churches of other parts of the world. But unless I misread the situation through too broad a generalization, I see our own churches simply reversing the place where nonchurch money goes; namely, ours goes into new ministries while our church money keeps store, while in some other parts of Christendom church money does the new projects and nonchurch money keeps store.
Ministry to the Sick
From here on, no attempt is made to distinguish the chronology of the churches’ interest in one or another setting requiring special ministry. Ministry to the sick comes at this point in the discussion simply because I know more about it.
Thanks to the genius of Anton T. Boisen, the first mental hospital chaplain with special training for his job and founder of the movement for clinical education of the clergy, the first real advance in ministry to the sick came in the then unlikely field of public mental hospitals. Boisen began his work about 1924. He believed that mental patients were people and could often profit from a discriminating ministry if the chaplain understood them and their condition and potentialities. It is now almost the rule for public mental hospitals to have full-time chaplains who are regular members of the staff, and who are free to perform ministry along the patterns carved out in the armed forces and penal institutions. Private mental hospitals, of which there are only a few, have been slower to follow this trend. Again, it may be noted that very little church money is involved in ministry within mental hospitals.
Ministry in the general hospital was first approached in a radically new way by Russell L. Dicks in Boston. His work too was a project of the Boisen movement for clinical education of the clergy. Because general hospitals, unlike most mental hospitals, were under many kinds of administrative auspices (churches, community funds, self-perpetuating boards, as well as public agencies), the advance in chaplaincy service within them has had to take a variety of financial patterns. What has given unity to ministry in general hospitals has been the increasing insistence that the men have special and supervised clinical education in preparation for their work.
The case of chaplaincy in church hospitals is worth a special note. When the chaplaincy movement got underway in its modern form in the 1930’s, there were about 450 hospitals affiliated with Protestant churches, whether loosely or tightly. Only a handful of these had full-time chaplains, virtually none with special training for his work. Many of them, however, had superintendents or administrators who were ministers and were also supposed to serve as chaplains. In the interim period most of these ordained minister-administrator-chaplains have been replaced, on the one side, by trained hospital administrators, and on the other side by trained chaplains. For the most part, Protestant hospitals today do provide economic support for their chaplains. But of course few such hospitals could keep operating if they did not continue to accept tax funds for various kinds of needs, including new buildings. Indeed, it is doubtful if any Protestant-related hospitals today could give adequate support of their chaplains if new sources of income (including things like Blue Cross but also, above all, tax money) had not become available to them.
It is curious, however, and a bit disconcerting, to find that the chaplaincy principle in relation to the sick has won its way most solidly and convincingly at just those points where the "institutional" elements are most solid and even rigid, and has been least successful in those settings where health and medical care is being taken to the people. Even in clinics for out-patient care in connection with general or mental hospitals, there have been few attempts to include religious ministry among the available services; whereas the chaplaincy service to the bed patients in the same institution may be excellent. For the most part, the same thing is true of the health and welfare services that operate mostly through "offices" such as family and child-care agencies, public or private. Catholic agencies have sometimes made a stab at including priests, but usually only for special "moral" services or as regular social case workers.
The new challenge that is upon us relates first to the emerging large number of community mental health centers, and eventually to the perhaps even more important general community health centers. To qualify for federal money each such center must agree to offer a range of services by no means confined to bed treatment, and must make them available to all persons in a district who need and want them. Thus treatment, early detection, prevention, and education are all combined in some proportion.
This movement is developing so rapidly that no one has yet been able to study comprehensively the relationship of clergymen to it. Several centers are known where there are chaplains, or church-liaison officers, or clergymen with similar titles. But no one can yet know what direction this movement should take so far as the ordained ministry is concerned. Clearly there must be some kind of liaison, including education of the clergy in the area. Also clearly there must be some kind of special ministry to those persons who cannot receive it from a local church clergyman. But how and in what proportions? And what shall the churches do about those centers that carry an antipathy to any expert service of ministry? This is one of the genuine pioneering areas of our time for vital ministry precisely to those in great need. It may be even more so when, as is true in many instances, these community health centers serve disadvantaged populations of various kinds.
I am strongly inclined to believe that the chaplaincy model, at least as developed up to the present time in hospitals, prisons, and the armed forces, is not adequate to guide the new development with the health centers. Its emphasis on genuinely understanding the person is all to the good, as is its insistence on high standards of education for ministry. But it is accustomed to having people in bed or "around." The looser setting of the health center requires a great many more forays into the highways and byways. If the chaplaincy model can so adapt itself, well and good. If not, a new model will have to be found.
Our society moves very slowly to improve or create agencies to deal with various special kinds of sickness or handicap. At long last, thanks especially to John F. Kennedy, some progress is being made in relation to the mentally retarded. The treatment of some of these persons will continue to require institutions, hopefully much improved institutions, where ministry can be brought through our present chaplaincy model. But we now know that, with proper appraisal from every relevant side and proper guidance, a very large proportion of mentally deficient persons can live either in their own homes or in foster homes. How can the special guidance also include, where appropriate, religious ministry? We are only on the threshold of exploring this question.
About two years ago, and for the first time, the federal government through the National Institutes of Health set up a special fund concerned with the care and treatment of alcoholic persons. The states have been moving into this area, but slowly and cautiously. Far too many alcoholics are left with no resources at all unless they happen to be candidates for Alcoholics Anonymous, whose program is suitable for only a certain proportion. For helping many alcoholics, I am convinced that we shall need far more multilevel institutions that serve only alcoholics (through bed care, day-hospital care, out-patient care, etc.) as well as an increase in facilities that are part of general and mental hospitals and other kinds of institutions.
Of the very few existing multilevel institutions that serve alcoholic patients, the most notable experimentation with chaplaincy service has been at the Georgian Clinic in Atlanta. Its program of service and ministry has demonstrated that the clergy can be trained for a special ministry to alcoholics, provided there are more institutions that can use their services as active members of the staff cooperating with others. The staffing pattern of a good alcohol center, however, must be in part different from that of either the mental or the general hospital.
There have been some experiments in ministry to those who are physically severely handicapped, but our knowledge in this area is still in its infancy. For a number of years a succession of my ministerial graduate students served as part-time chaplains at the Illinois Children’s hospital School, much to my own benefit in terms of learning. Both the pathos and the courage of many such children, suffering appalling handicaps and sometimes with the certain knowledge of imminent death, was for me a kind of trek with Job. Certainly the future should see a few ministers with full competence to minister in these tragic but often subtly rewarding situations.
But there are other kinds of opportunities for ministry to those handicapped in various ways. Today our general services to handicapped persons are very much fragmented. There seem to be special services for almost every kind of handicap — blindness, deafness, lost limbs, and so on. As the general "rehabilitation" concept catches on, as I believe it must, there may be opportunity for ministry side by side with experts in various kinds of handicap rehabilitation. What such ministry might just possibly accomplish in specific cases could be as significant as the technical help that is also needed. So far, most of this is crystal-gazing, but I believe it will come.
The baffling subject of the various kinds of drug addiction and use has, finally, been lifted out of the dark corners and become an object of public and church concern. Not much more than ten years ago a competent student of mine at the University of Chicago who had done good experimental work trying to help addicts wrote his B. D. essay on this subject. At that time, despite my best efforts and his, we could not find a publisher. One publisher told us that the subject was not of sufficient general interest.
How our society will proceed in relation to drugs and addictions is plainly moot at the present time. Some of the free-floating experimental centers run by ministers seem to be doing good work. In the long run, however, science and medicine will properly be in charge of much of this work, and ministry will have to be conducted through staff cooperation just as in relation to physical and mental illness, alcoholism, and other health problems. A few expert ministers preparing for such service will be of use.
In mentioning, in this section on the sick, some kinds of sex problems including some forms of homosexuality, I do not want to imply that all sex problems, or all homosexuality, are simply to be categorized as "sickness." Happily, the National Institute of Mental Health will soon be considering the establishment of a research institute on those sexual problems that properly fall under the health heading. But they rightly realize, for instance, that except for their aberration many homosexual persons are not mentally unhealthy. Now that Kinsey and his associates, and subsequently others like Johnson and Masters, have courageously brought research about sex problems into public view, it is very likely that a few expert ministers equipped to work along with clinicians will be needed in the future.
This brief discussion of various forms of sickness and of the settings in which they may be treated, cared for, alleviated, or prevented is very far from being exhaustive. The general conclusion is, however, that a small number of specially trained ministers will be needed much more in the near future than in the past, and that the chaplaincy model helps with most of these up to a point but must be supplemented and altered if some of the most genuine needs are to be met.
Ministry to the Disadvantaged
Up to this point the discussion has been about kinds of needs of persons and types of settings where they can be helped with which I have long familiarity. The present section finds me, however, no more expert than the next person. The brevity and caution of the material is the confession of my ignorance. But the presence of this section at all is simply a tribute to its nearly overwhelming social importance today.
From my reading over several years of the excellent East Harlem Protestant Parish reports, the initial experimental ministry of its kind, I have drawn two general conclusions. The first is that the relative success has been a judicious mixture, on the part of the staff, of genuine empathy with the people they serve in every aspect of their lives along with imaginative and resourceful evocation of the leadership potentials in the people. The second is that, when applied relevantly but often unconventionally, it is the traditional tools of ministry, and not mere gimmicks or "forgetting" Christian faith and worship, that have brought most lasting returns. Since chaplaincies in general have also been successful to the degree that they have discovered the same two principles I have often wished that East Harlem (and other projects like it in Chicago and elsewhere) and the chaplaincy leaders could get together. There is more that is worthy of mutual exchange than either seems to have realized to date. So far, there has been little such exchange.
The urban centers, however they are organized (by existing local churches, by roving ministers, etc.) and regardless of their auspices (church, community, or what), are immediately in the midst of problems of race, poverty, delinquency, mental illness in children and adults, and much else. Even if we temporarily think of this ministry as rehabilitative service to the persons and families caught in their individual situations, and for the moment set aside the social action aspects needed to provide them collectively with a new base of operations, our ignorance about how to proceed is formidable. Mental illness and alcoholism and similar problems may be just as bad, but they tend to provide specific targets. The appalling fact about ministry in today’s inner city is that there are so many targets one must try to hit all at once.
There seem to me to be three general kinds of temptation faced by ministers working in our inner cities today, apart from graft and the lure of the suburbs. The first is a "Holy Grail" conception of their function, not unlike that of the early overseas Christian missionaries of the past century. The trouble with this model is that, in the face of the complex situations and their long history, it invites disillusionment and retreat. When a minister is paid, or underpaid, by his church, he may flirt even more with this temptation. By eventually refusing to cooperate with local "social workers," who seem to him to be of the Establishment, he may actually be declaring, in defensive fashion, that nobody but a Christian minister can get on with the job — that there are no men of goodwill if they get decently paid and are frequently baffled about what to do next.
The second temptation is so to emphasize the social action route that the ministry of service to persons and families is either neglected or regarded only as a palliative. All this is very human. When the problems are added up, they do indeed appear so overwhelming that nothing but "basic social change" seems to be the answer. Ambulances seem to become parts of the Establishment rather than aspects of the answer. And yet I believe there can be no ministry that dispenses with ambulances, although a ministry confining itself to them would be halfhearted and foreshortened.
The third temptation is to become so immersed in the local situation that the aims of ministry itself may be forgotten. The plight of many people and families is so deep and complex and interwoven, and serious attempts to help make it ever more clear that outsiders do not really understand. The resulting temptation, in the case of ministers, is to believe that what the church and churchmen stand for cannot have much relevance to the situation.
In the early days of chaplaincy service and clinical pastoral education, something very like this turned out for a while to be the main temptation. Clinical students, spending hours writing up a pastoral call so that it could be analyzed — and seeing the immense complexities in the person and relationship — were startled by the breezy minister from outside the hospital who rolled in, issued a few exhortations and a prayer, and departed happy that he had done his stint. What the movement of course had to do, and did subsequently get round to doing, was to assume leadership responsibility for helping the breezy minister to learn better how to do his job. As in the present situation, however, the temptation at first was to treat this kind of ministry as so new and different that it was not to be thought of as ministry in the traditional sense at all.
The churches have happily been able to do some pioneering in urban centers, which of course needs to be continued. As such a center works its way into the lives and needs of disadvantaged peoples, however, more and more expert persons are brought into the picture in some capacity — health center personnel, social agency workers, persons who can find jobs, vocational training teachers, and many others. The social patterns for organizing such services are still confused almost to the point of chaos. But if needs are to be met except in some token or pilot project fashion, it seems clear that the churches are no more inherently equipped to be general administrators of such programs utilizing all relevant resources than they would be to run our mental hospitals and community mental health centers. An urban center under church auspices that succeeds in getting personnel to offer the needed variety of services will no doubt survive, in just the same way that our church-related hospitals have survived. But with church resources as limited as they are, and the need so great, it seems clear that the churches will have to develop patterns of working alongside other personnel, with the chief resources coming from elsewhere than the churches and with administrative patterns different from those in which the minister is also the general administrator. At this point I hope that the Holy Grail temptation will yield to visions of the new service that secular administration and financing can bring — without losing sight of the need to have a dimension of ministry involved on the team.
I know even less about rural than urban centers, but I am sure the details of such programs will be different. There has been some bold experimentation by the churches in certain depressed areas — for instance, in the Appalachians. There are increasing signs that here also church programs will not have to go it alone. Ministry may cooperate with new and welcome allies. But it ought to preserve the dimension of ministry even if the overall job is being done largely by others.
Regardless of location — urban, rural, suburbs, or the megalopolis no-man’s-land — there are disadvantaged persons who need the concern and ministry of the church both in social action to help get new bases and also in terms of immediate needs now. Some delinquents can be helped before they get to reform school. Some criminals, even if they have served time, can be helped by ministry not to go back to old ways. What the churches and YMCA’s and settlement houses have already been doing for disadvantaged teen-agers ought not to be overlooked; but there can be more of it, better planning, wider coverage, and new methods.
A very large proportion of the older people in this country are still disadvantaged despite the major steps of old-age and survivors’ federal insurance and, more recently, of Medicare. It must, of course, be remembered that there is no necessary psychological disadvantage in the process of growing older. Many older people are as active within the limits of their strength as younger people, as happy and contributive to society. But there is a kind of underground bias against them as a group on the part of the dominant middle-years population. This fact was brought home to me a year ago in one of the far-western states. A large retirement housing project had been built on the edge of a relatively small city. According to my informants, it was well planned — an apartment complex rather than a dormitory-type institution. The appalling fact the local ministers confronted was that their parishioners would not accept these new older people into the life and work of the congregations. I gave the ministers encouragement. But it may well be that special ministry will eventually have to come. The virulence of the segregation motif seemed great.
Many ministers today are sufficiently alert to the problems confronted after retirement to be available to their people to counsel on such matters at the proper time. But it now seems high time that society (and I do not know which professional group should assume the central responsibility) should have interprofessional counseling teams to help people at this juncture in their lives, especially for the disadvantaged but also for others. If this development comes as it should, then we shall need a few specially trained ministers to work with retirement counseling teams.
At the other end of the age scale there are the children in trouble. Such children are disadvantaged whatever the income of their parents and whether their trouble is defined as mental illness or something else. Currently a nation-wide study of the mental health of children is in progress, and it plans to include a good many of the problems and needs of troubled children beyond clear-cut mental illness. Since the treatment facilities for troubled children are, everywhere, woefully inadequate, the report will no doubt recommend the creation of many others. We shall need a few ministers with special knowledge capable of working along these lines. In my consultative work I have nowhere been more baffled than when asked what a center for disturbed children could do about ministry. Things can indeed be done. But only a very unusual kind of minister can do them.
With some hesitation lest a successful Amazon somewhere accuse me of calling her names, I nevertheless include in this roster of disadvantaged persons many single women — unmarried, widowed, or divorced. To say that most such women are doing well and are not Amazons is entirely true. Yet the attitudes of our society, family oriented as we are, are such that an attribution of disadvantage — thus making the lot harder than it should be — is the rule rather than the exception. One of my former students, an able woman minister, is currently engaged in an experimental ministry to such women living in apartment hotels. Some of her stories are almost as gruesome for their loneliness as anything coming from the mental hospital or the slums. Here also, some few expert ministers are likely to be needed in the future — along with aiding all ministers to be sensitive to the special needs here that are created by the cryptically rejecting attitudes of a family-oriented society.
This account is very far from exhausting the complexity of disadvantaged persons in our society. But it does attempt to lift up the most obvious, and also the most neglected, disadvantaged groups. Pioneering ministries are going on with many of these groups, and pioneering will always be needed as new problems come into public view. But a sensible society that can afford it — and we can — will in due course set up integrated and multiprofessional resources to help with many of these problems. Eventually, therefore, the ministry of the church will be cooperative in these areas with the patterns set up by society to deal with them. We need to think even now of making this transition. What the church should hang on to is not particular programs and institutions but the conviction that, in the meeting of any special need, there is a legitimate place for ministry as a cooperating dimension of service.
New-Form Ministries in Old Settings
More of our local churches are growing larger, and the phenomenon of multiple-staff ministry has come upon many of them unaware. We are only on the threshold of finding out how one learns to be a "senior minister," or what, in addition to his area of professional expertness, any other staff member needs to know and do to contribute to the total service of the ministerial staff. Studies that include secretaries, sextons, architects, business managers, lay counselors, and other nonordained local church staff personnel are almost nonexistent. Nobody says anything analytical about church music in terms of its administrative coherence within the church. So far as I have any key to this new kind of "collegiate" ministry, it is given in the previous chapter on administering. Just as any minister needs to realize in a new degree that the ministry he is to get done is to be done largely through other people and in consultation with them, so the ministers in multiple-staff situations need to go even a step further — and realize that the principle applies first among themselves and also to their lay co-workers. Nothing namby-pamby about either authority or responsibility — but a final forsaking of the lone-wolf image of ministry.
Ever since I heard of campus ministry and was involved in it at the start of my own work, such ministries nave been in crisis. Indeed, the heresy among campus ministers is when one says he knows how to do it. There are good reasons for this high degree of professional self-criticism in campus ministry. One is the obvious time limit one has to perform it, for a campus is a community that knows, at the time it comes, when it is getting out. Psychologically, most of its members are not putting down roots. It is harder to minister to people who still oil the wheels on their trailers.
But more important are the changing patterns and attitudes of campus life, the enormously increased and still increasing numbers of young people who are on campuses, and the various kinds of movements that combine to make young people think of religion and the church as false, traditional, or irrelevant. Against all these trends, however, is the still continuing increase in solid academic courses about religious matters, even in tax-supported institutions.
As to what the new forms in campus ministry are or should be, I confess myself as baffled as most of the competent campus ministers I know. As a result of running an experimental course at the University of Chicago for two years, for those preparing for campus ministries, in which we focused on personal service and pastoral care to students, I am convinced that more insight and skill in this area could be of great benefit to campus ministers, most of whom currently perform these functions without special training. I am convinced too that a Ph.D., or whatever else aids the campus minister to be respected by the faculty, provides new opportunities. And the evidence of social relevance, even in the style of William Sloane Coffin, Jr., has its points. But for an overall solution we shall have to await some genuinely inspired campus minister who can do our theoretical work for us. Nevertheless, new forms are clearly needed.
Another new form of ministry, mostly exercised in an old setting, is the pastoral counseling center. Here one or more minsters, with special education in pastoral counseling, give service to individual persons and families according to their need. To date, most such centers are under the auspices of either a local church, a group of such churches, or a local council of churches. This kind of organization of service may be of genuine value not only to members of local churches but also to others who, while sympathetic to religion or the church, have nevertheless not gone so far as to join a church. In a very indirect but often significant way, help by the church may mean later a new look at it. Hence, these centers may be, unobtrusively, effective agents of evangelism. A competent center makes sure that it has medical, psychiatric, and psychological consultants or staff members, even though its principal work is done by ministers.
Some such centers have gone independent, and a few are in or near the quackery line, simply exploiting the interest but neither meeting the standards of competence nor relating themselves appropriately to the church in an administrative sense. A new group called the American Association of Pastoral Counselors is attempting to certify the abilities of individual ministers and also to accredit the counseling centers. Although I have been critical of some aspects of its work to date, it is clear that functions of this kind are needed.
The temptation of the minister who has qualified himself in pastoral counseling relates to money. If he so chooses and his denomination does not reprimand him, he may elect to "freelance" either full-time (by creating a center that permits him to receive fees directly) or part-time (by working part of his time in a legitimate center that pays him a salary but does not forbid him to take fees from individuals for other hours).
As a minister, one represents the church in some significant way and cannot be merely a free-lance. The main point of principle is that no one should be deprived of his services through financial considerations alone. A sliding scale will of course help. But the final and necessary guarantee that he represents the church, administratively speaking, is that some proper corporate body (and not individuals who are served) gives him his money. To do otherwise is to risk in this area, as Wayne E. Oates has rightly noted, the same kind of situation the churches got into with free-lance evangelists.
I have asked the American Association of Pastoral Counselors to include a provision that receiving direct fees from persons for personal services be sufficient reason to withhold certification of the minister as a pastoral counselor. So far, the Association has shown no inclination to take such action. At the present time, therefore, the policing agent on this crucial point must be the specialist minister himself and his own conception of the representative nature of the ministry.
Still thinking of new forms of ministry in old settings, I find myself both encouraged and distressed by the overseas opportunities and situations. My special studies in this area have been on mission hospitals and clinics. Some very good new planning is going on about relating Christian medical institutions overseas to the rapidly advancing indigenous health services. Yet far too little attention has been given to updating religious ministry in relation to these institutions, regardless of who pays their bills. For instance, in India at one of the two major Christian medical centers, where the senior chaplain has several associates, no provision is made either in India or the United States for this chaplain to advance his training either in chaplaincy or in supervision. For our mission boards to take such needs seriously seems to me an elementary conclusion. But it still remains to be done.
Some recent contact with the overseas arm of my own church was generally reassuring about the program shifts required in our new age. But the Holy Grail, although a little tarnished, still seemed far too much in evidence. Most overseas programs are deeply involved in education, medical care, and even agriculture, and have competent specialists to work on these areas. But is the "ministry" that goes along with them still "evangelistic" in the old missionary sense, i.e., actually uneducated in a pastoral sense and not properly connected with the other dimensions of mission? Frankly, I am not much reassured by what I know of the answer. That Holy Grail is the bugaboo.
There are many other new forms of ministry going on these days within old settings. There are imaginative programs for teenagers and young people, significant programs of camping and retreat, many imaginative racial programs, programs that involve guidance about occupations, programs in. schools of various kinds, and many others. My list is surely not exhaustive.
There are also some new programs of ministry to ministers — counseling with the help sometimes of psychological testing instruments, but designed to focus on vocation and career and not merely upon problems that should better be dealt with by psychiatrists. It seems clear that this special kind of counseling ministry to ministers will increase, and that more specially trained ministers will be needed to man it.
New-Form Ministries in New Settings
Under the general principle that the church should go to the people, so far as possible, wherever they are, I have tried to think of new settings to which ministry has been recently taken. Perhaps I have become an old-timer, but the fact is that most of the "new settings" I can think of were long since thought of by imaginative churchmen who did something about it.
The ministry to migrant workers has been going on for forty or fifty years. Ministries to persons, urban and rural, who can manage only some language other than English are at least as old. Ministries on the Indian reservations are very old. Those to visitors to our national parks are now approaching antiquity. To be sure, even in these old-timers, new methods can make great improvements in old ministries. But whatever the quality of program, which has often been mixed, the churches have been alert to new settings of need.
Just after World War II, I was much involved in trying to get "industrial chaplaincy" going. Under the principle of availability to men in their work setting, we thought there might be a new chaplaincy opportunity finally as significant as what we had discovered in hospitals, prisons, and the armed forces. We had no objection to industry’s paying a good part of the bill so long as organized labor equally approved the notion and contributed at least something to prove it. Our hopes were subsequently shown to be false. I am sure that there are still a few industrial chaplains who perform competent service and are not wholly captive to their industries. But we never got labor organizations to contribute any more than the churches; and indeed, in this financial respect, they may in fact be quite similar. Failing this, it is a blessing that we have had no great crusade for industrial chaplains.
At last report, one of my former students was Protestant chaplain of the Chicago Police Department and taking his job as full-time and very active, not merely blessing picnics or special events. Perhaps there could be more of a future here, if only he would analyze his experience in writing for us. Because we still have hangovers from past days, all kinds of voluntary organizations, or even sometimes public groups, in the community have their pro-forma "chaplains." In our curious twilight zone between a Christian culture and a secularized society these positions are likely to be looked at askance by the intelligentsia and by church people alike. They may indeed be marks of Religion on the Potomac. But if any minister ever takes seriously the opportunities for ministry, as did my student with the Chicago police, then I think something entirely different happens. Taken seriously, such posts may help both persons and policy in a significant way.
No doubt there are many other new settings in which ministry is being assayed of which I am ignorant. Let me comment, however, on those ministers who conceive their calling to be working with "revolutionary" groups of all kinds. This may he the revolution of black power, protest against the selective service, revolution of the arts (which have otherwise been neglected in this account), of sexual conduct, and the like. For the most part, such experimental ministries have begun ideologically, with a concern for certain kinds of social change. The question is: What do they do when they deal with live people who are revolutionary in relation to the particular issue? Are they simply comrades in arms, or are they also ministers? What troubles me is that the former, which may be very important, so often seems to drive out the latter.
While not denying that there are genuine new forms of ministry, including those in old settings and new, this chapter has mainly attempted to get at the principles of relationship involved in new thrusts or forms or settings of ministry. Heaven forbid that these should stop us from getting into new settings where we are needed, or from developing new methods that are vital or new forms that are more relevant and equally true to the gospel and church we represent.
But the fact remains, as a result of this analysis, that our immediate ministerial forebears were at least as imaginative as we are, that they saw many opportunities and went after them, with fewer resources than we have to meet them; and that some of the touted new forms are not so novel after all. Let us by no means stop novelty where it can better meet needs. But let us not be ignorant of a history of ministry that has had, for a long time, great sensitivity and imagination about what needs to be done, whatever its small resources in trying to meet the need.
Let me encourage any young or budding minister to follow his nose about new forms of ministry that excite him and that promise to bring the gospel to the needs of some needy section of mankind. But let me caution him against any conception of novelty that is based on ignorance of what our immediate ancestors have been up to.