From 4 to 6 February 2019, chaplains, deacons, ministers, and theologians converged for a unique conference dealing with sustaining and equipping ministries that deal with people at the coalface.
Taking place at UTS, the 2019 Pastoral Strength Conference explored pastoral care from a variety of angles.
Irish theologian and poet Pádraig Ó Tuama anchored the conference. Mr Ó Tuama told Insights that the event had been “a wonderful conference, wonderfully organised”. Describing it as a “cross between a conference and a retreat,” he noted it had brought together people from “the Church beyond the Church.”
During his final address, Mr Ó Tuama spoke on the importance of the imagination to theology. This drew, in part, on his experience working for one year as a chaplain at a school in West Belfast.
Mr Ó Tuama’s next Australian booking saw him travel to Tasmania, where he spoke at another conference organised by Spiritual Care Australia and the Uniting Church. An in-demand speaker and presenter, he will next return to Australia in May.
The keynote lecture was delivered by Rev. Dr Storm Swain, Associate Professor in Pastoral Care and Theology at the United Lutheran Seminar in Pennsylvania. Dr Swain discussed trauma and working with people who had encountered recent tragedy. She said that, for those working in coalface ministry, it was worth remembering “touchstone” prayers, rituals, and practices that are helpful. She recalled working in a hospital setting where one of her own touchstone rituals was washing her hands between patients, “Not for hygiene, but [as a centering] ritual.”
The address on the final day of the conference dealt with living in the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Over the three days of the conference, delegates also attended workshops on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the trauma Speakers at these included Pastor Ray Minniecon and the Australian Catholic University’s Professor Rocque Reynolds.
The Pastoral Strengths conference was a joint effort between Uniting, Wesley Mission, United Theological College and The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW and the ACT.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor