A study of the Church as a therapeutic community
"The local congregation should continually strive to be a therapeutic community". "The Church is called to be itself a therapeutic community, whose members are coming to terms with both the brokeness and the goodness of life, and in which people may find acceptance, support and Christ's word of healing". The idea that the Church should be, in some way, a therapeutic community has gained increasing prominence in recent years. Usually, the general sense seems to be that of health-engendering community. However, exactly what is to be understood by such terminology very rarely has been spelled out. It would appear that while people consider that the idea is worthy of assertion, the content and implications of such an assertion have never been worked through fully. Yet, if we are serious in accepting the notion that the Church is, or should be, a therapeutic community, there has to be more precision and content given to the term. In Section One of this thesis, there will be an investigation of the literature on the theory and practice of three different approaches to caring undertaken by communities which would term themselves therapeutic communities - the psychotherapeutic community; the hospice; and L'Arche. From this survey an attempt will be made to highlight those important key characteristics which make a community therapeutic. These will form essential background material for an investigation of the Church as a therapeutic community. Section Two will consist of an attempt to construct an overall theological framework for a Christian understanding of the therapeutic and of the Church as a therapeutic community. In the Third Section there will be an analysis, in theory and practice, of three basic aspects of traditional congregational life - Ministerial Structure and Pastoral Organisation; Worship and Spirituality; and Christian Education. This analysis will be undertaken in the light of the previous investigation into the nature of therapeutic community and the theological understanding of the therapeutic. The aim of all this is to put some flesh onto the bare bones of the claim that the Church is called to be a therapeutic community. Notes 1 Special Committee on Healing, Church of Scotland Handbook, 1981 2 D. Hamilton, The Church's Ministry of Healing in Life and Work (March 1981).