Arie R. Brouwer, General Secretary National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC), New York, USA
In: Publication of the National Council of Churches, New York, USA, 1999
… I have found your book an insightful, even prophetic statement about pastoral ministry … I read your book not only in the light of my pastoral experience, but of my personal experience as well … Your book is an open door and invitation to such companionship - god bless you for writing it …
Review: A prophetic statement about pastoral ministry
Dear Dr. Schuchardt,
When I was invited to write an epilogue to the English version of this famous book, of course it was well known that I serve as general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the United States and therefore might have a word to say to part of your English reading audience. I think it was not known that I am also among those who suffer from physical disabilities. It was this latter fact - well known to me and my friends! - that sparked my interest in reading your book and responding to your request.
I have been richly rewarded. I have found your book an insightfül, even prophetic, statement about pastoral ministry. I well remember the moment, as a young pastor, sitting in my study with a tragically bereaved parishioner, when I began stumbling through a few texts as I had been trained. I knew then. suddenly, that I was missing the point. I threw my texts and my training aside in order to share my tears and myself and received the great gift of seeing healing (salvation) happening before my eyes.
I well remember the pain of my nephew, who was suffering from the tragic death of his wife in an automobile accident for which he felt responsible. To my horror I leamed that my nephew had been told by his pastor that God willed his wife's death because, "God needed her more than you did". I talked with him about the mystery of evil. Together, we found our way far enough through it so that he could again see the loving face of God.
How very much I therefore affirmed your repeated emphasis on the importance of being "the person who suffered along with another person .... as partners (pages 4 & 13). Your prophetic decision of the advocates of God's law" (page 18) and " God's all-knowing attorneys" (page 66) is also just right, as is your finding that such tactics only add to the suffering.
I read your book not only in the light of my pastoral experience, but of my personal experience as well. My own disability has its origins in a missionary story concerning the ancient Chinese custom of foot binding. Hearing that story, my unschooled mother decided that perhaps keeping her sixth over-sized son in smaller shoes than he actually required would somehow scale down his feet to something more nearly average size. Instead, it crippled me. Pain in walking, difficulty in running, have been my life-long companions. Surgery and the prescription of special orthopaedic supports a decade ago has helped, but I have been through the full Spiral you describe. And I could not help but remember, with deep gratitude, as I read your statistical analysis of the overwhelming presence of women in healing ministries how my own very special friend Harnet, who is also my wife, has struggled through so much of that with me. I especially needed her help in the difficult process of adjusting to orthopaedic assistance in waiking while under the "care" of a doctor who knew nothing about caring.
All this and more I deeply appreciate in your book. May I, however, express a wish for your second English edition!? As I came to the end of your second chapter (just before the appendices), I found myself wishing that you would have made two additional points concerning the context of Christian faith in which we wrestle with our sufferings. Both points are touched upon in your later notes on the writings of various theologians, especially of Hans Küng, but I long for these two points to be made very clearly in the text itself.
First, faith helps us to see beyond suffering. When, for example, I myself speak of my disability, I love to put God's promise of healing in terms of that grand old Negro Spiritual speaking of the:
Golden slippers I'm goin' to wear
To walk the golden streets -
which of course helps me to walk the ungolden streets of daily life.
The other point, and one of particular importance for the ecumenical movement, is that suffering as the result of a disability helps to cast out the fear of taking on the suffering of others - to fulfil the sufferings of Christ. I know a little of that, but not nearly so much as do many of my friends and acquaintances. How often have I looked at the measure of grace given to those who suffer far more than I. I do not envy them their gifts of grace. Rather, I give thanks that I have not needed to drink of their cup - even while I also give thanks that by grace God has filled their cup of suffering with the water of life and now and again changed it into Eucharistic wine. Of them I feel with Albert Görres "Stay with me, so that we can all become what we are supposed to be", (page 111).
Your book is an open door and an invitation to such companionship. God bless you for writing it.