President’s Newsletter

by Vhumani Magezi

March 4, 2024

Reflection on Global Care

A South African journalist, reflecting on the devastating bombardment of Gaza resulting in the loss of 30,000 civilian lives and counting[1], remarked on a radio show, “it seems like the world is burning.” Indeed, it seems like the entire world is burning. At the time of holding the 12th ICPCC conference in South Africa (Potchefstroom) from July 3-6, 2023, we were during the Russia and Ukraine war that is continuing. The theme was “Pastoral caregiving within processes of radical socio-political transformation, change and conflict.” Reflections at the conference highlighted the need for pastoral care to be reimagined as a public caring endeavour. This will enable our pastoral care to be positioned towards responding to the care needs such as the pain, traumas, anxieties, frustrations, hopelessness, anger, despair, and disillusionment that arise from the current global turmoil. Journeying and accompanying people to achieve healing in such situations is an urgent challenge.

The images of the situation in Gaza and Ukraine are indeed depressing and a cause for despair. Our challenge is to be torch bearers and channels of hope and healing through ‘being-with’ the people and accompanying them in their pain and suffering. These war-tone situations and our ongoing existential challenges from a barrage of life’s forces easily render one numb. The situations provide opportunities for practising pastoral care but also raise fear of inadequacy as caregivers experience the reality of being “out of their depths.” The ‘religious care classroom training’ and ‘supervised clinical care in hospital’ training backgrounds are stretched to deal with the care needs of numbing refugee situations and to care for physically and emotionally injured people. Pastoral care is tricky and fragile, and yet that is the ministry we are called to perform.

From ICPCC in South Africa (2023) to a joint conference between ICPCC and the European Council on Pastoral Care (October of 2025)

One resolution made at the 12th ICPCC in South Africa was for the ICPCC Executive Committee to explore possibilities of participating or holding a conference in between the 5-year congresses. This decision was made to ensure ICPCC members meet frequently to interact and reflect on pastoral care. To that end, the executive committee would like to inform its ICPCC members of the ICPCC and the European Council on Pastoral Care & Counselling Joint Congress in October of 2025 (https://icpcc.net/icpcc-congress-2025/).

The theme of the conference is “Out of the Depths: Contours of Spiritual Care in a Wounded World.” Out of the depths is a broad metaphor that suggests a challenge ‘to act or do something’ but the individual is inadequate or limited to perform the task. The complex world and the challenges presented to pastoral caregivers place them in situations where they can admit that they are ‘out of their depths.’ Importantly, as indicated on the ICPCC website (https://icpcc.net/icpcc-congress-2025/), states that:

“Out of the Depths’ famously refers to the autobiography of Anton Boisen, instigator of the Pastoral Education Movement some one hundred years ago, that has now spread to centres of clinical pastoral education all over the world. At these locations, professionals in pastoral and spiritual care are being trained and coached to explore their inner worlds at the service of their spiritual work with patients and clients at various care and church settings.

Looking Back, Looking Out, and Looking In: Assessing Pastoral Care & Counselling in Light of Its Historic Foundations

At this centennial, it is good to take stock of the nature of their work. This regards the themes and issues of the patients they address; their counselling methods and techniques; and their training, formation, and supervision practices in pastoral care and education. Like their patients, pastors and health care chaplains live in a ‘wounded world.’ Even though the application and practice of Pastoral Education varies across different global contexts, it remains located in broad pastoral care practices and principles.

Pastoral care wrestles with the task of addressing existential and religious concerns that come with the wounds that this world inflicts upon them, be it on their communal structures, personal lives, biographies, the groups that they belong to, or on the world that we share. At the conference, spirituality as arguably the centre of pastoral care is taken as a searchlight to define the identity of the pastoral education movement. Spirituality is deeply embedded in the interpretation of religious texts and practices that define both individual faith and shared worldviews. Hermeneutics is the discipline in humanities that addresses spiritual sources and interprets these for their significance regarding personal and shared concerns. Among other things, a focus on hermeneutics in pastoral care is a recognition that multiple factors and forces converge on an individual to trigger existential crisis. Hence, these factors need to be interpreted. This ‘hermeneutical’ perspective of existential interpretation – simultaneously addressing both concerns of individual persons and of humankind as such – has been one of the anchors of the pastoral education movement and broader pastoral care. For now, it serves as a scheme to invite you to offer lectures or workshops.[2]

The details of the conference shall be posted on the ICPCC website and circulated to the membership list.

Reflection (looking back) to improve ICPCC Conference South Africa, ICPCC Post Conference Evaluation

An ICPCC Post Conference Evaluation for the 12th International Council on Pastoral Care and counselling (ICPCC) Congress from July 3-6, 2023, in Potchefstroom, South Africa was conducted. The evaluation results showed that the ICPCC members who attended the conference rated it highly. For instance, over 95% felt the conference was very valuable (see evaluation report). The evaluation methodology and process are indicated below.

 

Introduction:

A post-conference evaluation survey was designed to gather feedback from participants of the 12th International Council on Pastoral Care and Counselling (ICPCC) Congress held from July 3-6, 2023, in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The survey was administered using Google Forms, a widely recognized and user-friendly online survey tool.

Survey Structure:

The survey consisted of ten questions, designed to capture both quantitative and qualitative feedback from the participants. The questions were structured around the following themes:

  1. Value of the Conference: Assessing the impact of the conference in enhancing participants’ knowledge and understanding of pastoral care and global issues related to pastoral care and counselling.
  2. Personal Growth: Understanding how participants’ presentations or participation contributed to their personal and professional growth in the field of pastoral care and counselling.
  3. Conference Experience: Gathering insights on how the conference presentations influenced attendees’ perspectives and understanding.
  4. Future Recommendations: Collecting suggestions and advice for enhancing the productivity and effectiveness of future ICPCC conferences.
  5. Quality Assessment: Evaluating the quality of speakers and presenters, the venue, and the overall organisation and management of the conference.
  6. Interaction and Discussion: Assessing the adequacy of time allocated for discussions and interactions during the conference.
  7. Areas of Improvement: Identifying key areas that need attention and improvement for subsequent conferences.
  8. Overall Rating: Capturing an overall impression and rating of the conference from the participants.

Questions:

The survey consisted of ten questions, which covered the following themes:

  1. How valuable was the conference in advancing your knowledge of pastoral care and understanding issues related to pastoral care and counselling around the world?
  2. To what extent has your presentation/participation at this conference increased your knowledge in your area of pastoral care and counselling?
  3. Describe how attending the conference presentation changed you.
  4. What advice do you have for future ICPCC conferences to make it more productive?
  5. Give you impressions on the quality of speakers/presenters.
  6. Give your impressions on the avenue.
  7. Give your impressions on conference organisation, coordination, and management.
  8. Give your impressions on allocated discussion & interaction time.
  9. Reflect on the conference and list two areas that need to be improved in the next conference.
  10. Give an overall rating of the conference.

Participants:

The survey was distributed to all attendees of the ICPCC Congress, ensuring a comprehensive collection of feedback from a diverse group of participants, including speakers, presenters, and attendees.

Data Analysis:

Once the survey was closed, responses were exported from Google Forms and analysed to identify patterns, trends, and areas of improvement. Both quantitative data (e.g., ratings) and qualitative data (e.g. open-ended responses) were analysed. Quantitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics, while qualitative data was reviewed to identify common themes and sentiments.

[1] This number is taken from estimates published by the Associated Press, BBC, and AlJazeera, news sources as of March 4, 2024.

[2] https://icpcc.net/icpcc-congress-2025/