‘Restorative conversations’: conversation (John 21:4-19)

Pastoral supervision requires patient, kind, generous, and enduring relationships where conversations can negotiate disappointment, exhaustion, and failure. A key biblical text that sums up many of these qualities is James 3:17: ‘the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy’. Performing this single text faithfully in the digital age is challenging and must be transposed to pastoral supervision when it is an online conversation. Perhaps Augustine of Hippo’s vision of friendship describes the kind of relationships where godly flourishing is produced through face-to-face conversation:

All kinds of things rejoiced my soul in their company—to talk and laugh and to do each other kindness; to rend pleasant books together; to pass from lightest jesting to talk of deepest things and back again; to differ without rancour as a man might differ with himself; and when, most rarely, dissension arose, to find our normal agreement all the sweeter for it; to teach each other and to learn from each other; to be impatient for the return of the absent and to welcome them with joy on their home-coming; these and suchlike things, proceeding from our hearts as we gave affection and received it back, and shown by face, by voice, by the eyes, and by a thousand and other pleasing ways kindled a flame which fused our very souls together, and, of many, made us one.36

Augustine’s insight is that conversation between good friends sharpens intellectual development (e.g., reading and discussing books together); resolves moral dilemmas (e.g., teaching and learning from each other); and fosters spiritual maturity (e.g., to talk of deepest things). As Emil Brunner argued, the essence of truth is encounter. Without embodied encounters, people cannot know the deeper truth about themselves, another person, or God. Paul Tournier also explored a theology of the whole person—with a particular focus on face-to-face conversation—anticipating by several decades

Pastoral supervision in a digital age 41 the renewed focus on theological anthropology. Only in the spontaneity of an embodied encounter, according to Tournier, ‘is the flash of honesty, the moment of transparency, that overwhelms and transfigures the climate of our relationship with other people’. Embodied encounters are more honest, more transparent, and therefore more formative. Pastoral supervision provides the brave space for restorative conversations such as the apostle Peter’s beach conversation with the risen Jesus explored in Chapters 8 and 9. Restorative conversation in pastoral supervision enables critical reflection, personal challenge and growth, deep learning, and practical transformation.

‘Zones of re-membering’: re-membering (Luke 22:39-53)

The second theological framework for pastoral supervision is the unusual-yet-profound concept of re-membering. The Remember 2019 project, dealing with historic trauma in Phillips County (Arkansas, U.S.A.), delineates the fourfold movement of re-membering as recalling, reuniting, reminding, and re-envisioning.37 While remembering, conceived as recalling or reminding, is a more private and personal activity, re-membering deliberately includes the public and political acts of reuniting and re-envisioning. It is not only activists providing these insights. Academic Don Gifford contrasts the phenomenology of memory of the ancient Greeks and the First Peoples of Australia to develop his rich conceptual framework—zones of re-membering. Gifford identifies interconnecting threads of re-membering by noting the various strands of Australian Aboriginal songlines—the Dreaming stories, practical information (migratory, food-gathering, waterholes), secret and sacred sites—‘all those strands, which we analytically tease out and separate into discrete categories, are woven into one cable, the lifeline of articulate memory that sustains all things’.38 In Chapters 6 and 7,1 propose this kind of remembering for pastoral supervision that provides a zone of re-membering. Jesus’ prayer and agony in the garden in Luke Chapter 22 the night before his death becomes the lifeline to the God who remembers: the divine thread who sustains all things.

‘We make the road by walking’: walking (Luke 24:13-34) ’9

Walking is the third theological framework drawn for pastoral supervision from the Christology of the Emmaus Road narrative. In their book of the same title, a spoken book (recorded conversation) between pioneers of education and social change, Paulo Freire and Myles Horton, Freire describes their collaboration in terms of making the road by walking because:

Here we are trying to decide how to get moments of each other’s lives and to bring them into a book, a book which does not lose the essence of life. A dialogue is as the life that comes from the earth’s springs. It isas if the book’s life were doing that and being transformed into words, written words through our speaking, afterward the speech comes into written speech, but it loses some of the power of life.40

The hope expressed in the evocative phrase ‘moments of each other’s lives ... which does not lose the essence of life’ captures the collaboration at the heart of the pastoral supervision, where the road is also made by walking. Unlike Freire and Horton, who interpret ‘the process of making the road, to be clear and to clarify our own making of the road’, pastoral supervision seeks clarity from the revealing Jesus. The story of the Emmaus Road in Luke Chapter 24 is the road made by walking for pastoral supervision that is the focus of Chapters 4 and 5.

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