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A written reflection on practice (1,500 words)
Rational of the Theological Reflection Approach
I have decided to use the Imagination and Spiritual Wisdom approach to this theological reflection because it allows for a deep understanding of the experience and the feelings involved. Then it progresses into creating an image from those feelings and by questioning the image we may develop an insight to what was really happening and use theology to help us to understand this insight. Thus, leading to action or an understanding of future actions in similar events.
- Thick Description
Someone in the church (A) was organising a surprise party for the vicar and his wife (VW) for their 25th wedding anniversary with permission from the rest of the family. They were organising it as a friend and not as a member of the congregation and therefore it was a non-church event. It was mentioned to people in the church as they would obviously be invited as friends of the couple. There was an element of tension between certain members of the congregation as they felt that it should have been done through church and this was expressed to the church wardens, who had also been asked to help with the party, and A. This led to a disagreement between A and another member of the congregation (B) one Sunday morning before the service. This was witnessed by a few people although they could not hear what was being said. It did however turn out that this issue was resolved quickly once tensions had calmed down.
The pastoral situation came from someone (J) who had witnessed this altercation. J has been a member of the congregation for many years and has developed a close pastoral relationship with the vicar and his wife and the member of the congregation. She was concerned about how B had be treated through this situation. Over the course of the week various messages had been sent via social media between A, J and various others in the congregation about this altercation, the party in general and views about it. The messages had become somewhat hurtful and not appropriate. J had become quite upset about it and went to speak to the VW to ask if A would stop sending messages to her. J did say that she could not go into detail about the messages and why they had started in the first place as she did not want to spoil the surprise.
It transpires that the messages continued to be sent with A convinced that the surprise had be spoiled and was placing the blame towards J. Due to wanting to keep the surprise J contacted myself. I met with J on a Friday evening in church with most of the meeting explaining what had transpired over the past week. J was very agitated and angry about what was happening in terms of the messages. I allowed her to speak and reassured her that I was listening to what was being said but clear that I was not agreeing with her opinion about A although was sympathetic towards her feelings about what had happened. I was also aware that J did not like A but the reason for this was unknown to me. Others had also noticed this dislike and I mentioned this to J. I also pointed out that A was a liked person and people were viewing J’s actions as not very nice. J took exception to this comment and defended what she had said and done by saying that something had happened with A in a previous church that none of us were aware of.
The meeting concluded with a decision that I would speak to A and ask for the messages to stop, that I would reassure A also that J had not spoiled the surprise, J agreed that she would not respond to any messages that were sent to her in regards to the party or anything else along similar lines. We finished by praying and J thanked me for listening.
2.1 Reflections on Personal Feelings of the Situation
Personally, the whole situation felt a little petty and had no feelings towards this situation and felt that this could be sorted out. Yet I was aware there would need to be further reconciliation of J and A as feelings ran deep of dislike towards each other.
2.2 Reflection on J’s Feelings of the Situation
The feelings that were clearly visible by J in this situation were:
- Anger – towards A because of the altercation with B
- Frustration – asked for the messages to stop and they had continued
- Shock – she had been challenged over her attitude towards A
- Power – knew information that no one else knew about A
When reflecting on these feelings being displayed I felt that the underlying elements to all of this was a sense of jealousy towards A and the VW’s newly formed friendship and therefore an element of displacement by J in her relationship, which was ultimately a pastoral one, with VW.
Based on the feelings mentioned above the image that comes to mind is:
This image shows the child-like nature of the situation (the messages sent via social media), the exclusion or perceived exclusion of one from a group, and finally the two who have paired off not being aware of the person or the feelings of the person who has been excluded.
4.1 Biblical Passages
The biblical passages that reflect jealousy which could speak into this situation are:
- Genesis 37 – Joseph and his brothers being jealous of his relationship with their father.
- Proverbs 27.4 – “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand against jealousy?”
- Luke 10.38-42 – Mary and Martha being with Jesus
- Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel and the jealousy of how God favoured them
- Mark 10:35-45 – James and John asking to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus and the reaction of the rest of the disciples
- Reflections on the Biblical Passage – Genesis 37
The passage that I felt reflected this situation the best was of Joseph and his brothers being jealous. Joseph receiving his coat from Jacob is a sign of love towards his son to the exclusion of the other sons/brothers. The brothers’ reaction to this situation was one that led to Joseph being separated from his family as they sold him to be a slave.
The brothers’ reaction could not be hidden within them but was publicly acknowledged between them and towards Joseph himself with a lack of greeting or salutation.
The selling of Joseph should not have happened, and was not actually planned but the opportunistic nature of the brothers, brought a situation to pass which ultimately was used by God for a greater purpose (Gen. 50.20). The hatching of a plan to tell Jacob about the death of Joseph had wider issues for the brother as their fathers’ grief was great. 
The brothers’ jealousy led to the pain of Joseph as a slave and then in prison. The pain of Jacob in the act of grief over Joseph, the story does not tell us of the life of the brothers and Jacob but the grief would have been a long running issue within the house hold. The brothers had to live with knowing that they had caused this grief.
- Parallels between the Thick Description and Biblical Passage
If the people in the thick description were the biblical characters it would be: A was Joseph, J was the brothers’, VW was Jacob and to an extent I was the caravan of Ishmaelites.
J’s jealousy of A was great and in effect trying to ‘sell’ A to me as someone who was of ‘no value’ and a ‘trouble maker’. Reflecting on this now I could see that if this was to carry on then there could be great pain for VW in the long term and then the ripple effect of this amongst the church community.
- New Insights and Action
Reflecting on the theology of Joseph and this pastoral care situation I would have addressed it in the following way:
Not challenged J’s behaviour towards A in the initial instance. I should have listened to the problem that was being raised and dealt with that in the way that I did. I would have then arranged another meeting with J to discuss her behaviour and attitude towards A.
In a follow up pastoral care situation I would have addressed the feelings of J towards the relationship between A and VW. I would have asked her to share how seeing the relationship form made her feel and why she felt that this might be an issue. Hopefully over time she would have seen her jealousy was not necessarily something that should have been an issue. This may have taken a few pastoral encounters to come to a conclusion. There may have also been a need for a time of reconciliation between J and A and also a session between J, A and VW to discuss the feelings between the three of them. I would have been a good person to facilitate this as I was neutral in the situation and had a relationship with the people involved where there could be honesty and openness.
Word Count: 1563
This situation was part of a larger situation that soon unravelled within the church community so the new actions and insights are speculative as to how I would have handled the situation if it had continued.
Killen, Patricia O’Connell, and John De Beer, The Art Of Theological Reflection, 1st edn (New York: Crossroad, 2014)
Longman, Tremper, How To Read Genesis, 1st edn (Downers Grove, Ill.: Authentic Media, 2005)
Mounce, William D, The Crossway Comprehensive Concordance Of The Holy Bible, 1st edn (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2002)
Thompson, Judith, Stephen Pattison, and Ross Thompson, SCM Studyguide To Theological Reflection, 1st edn (London: SCM Press, 2008)
UpChurch, John, and Association Counselors, “Genesis 37:4 Commentary – John Gill’s Exposition Of The Bible”, Bible Study Tools,2017 <http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-37-4.html> [accessed 17 March 2017]
 Killen and Beer, The Art of Theological Reflection, p. 21
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 UpChurch, Exposition of the Bible, <http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-37-4.html>
 Longman, How to Read Genesis, p.151
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