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There are a range of reasons why supervisees find it hard to be formed and transformed, including the sheer busyness and the general pace of life. Few in pastoral ministry have time to recover at the end of the day and week. The hard work of changing is either forced upon us or left until a quieter moment. People engaged in pastoral work often resign themselves to the idea that their lives will be forever fragmented, what Parker J. Palmer calls the division between soul and role, so that even less find connections between the sacred and secular, private and public, church and world. These polarities create deeper artificial divisions unknown to ancient people of faith: between the eternal and the now, the contemplative and the active, and the extraordinary and the routine. The busy, distracted, and divided pastoral life means the kind of space for transformation is relegated to the borders of the supervision session (if space is made for it all). Too rare are the learning moments within a supervision session that enable this kind of real change and deep transformation. Pastoral supervisors must integrate these more consistently into supervision practice if we hope for conversion. Conversion is more than occasional bouts of transformation in the supervision session. Conversion, deeper than transformation, is required to trust God’s hidden work and to test everything in light of the cross of the revealing Jesus.

For Luther, conversion involved a deep transformation of the human heart; converting from pride, vanity, and autonomy from God; converting to humility, sober judgement, and trust in God’s hidden work. The languageof conversion, unsettling for some, is the only appropriate way to speak of the gospel-centred transformation necessary for supervision to be pastoral. Luther is quite explicit about this:

Now the blind world, because it does not know God and his work, concludes that it is owing to its own cleverness, reason, and strength that a community or dominion endures and thrives. . . . Even though they flourish for a short time, that is in the sight of God little more than a beginning. Never does one of them arrive at the point it strives to reach. ’6

Here is evidence of Luther’s close engagement in pastoral ministry that shaped his Christology and his understanding of what true converting requires: ‘I learned that this word is in Greek metanoia and is derived from meta and noun i.e., post and mentem so that poenitentia or metanoia is a “coming to one’s senses’”.37 Unlike theories of transformation, where human agency and assertion are central, Luther is convinced transformation is the gift of the revealing Jesus who changes minds and hearts:

Then I went on and saw that metanoia can be derived, though not without violence, not only from post and mentem, but also from trans and mentem so that metanoia signifies a changing of the mind and heart, because it seemed to indicate not only a change of the heart, but also a manner of changing it, i.e., the grace of God.38

Luther’s Christology prioritises metanoia (converting) over mere transformation because the revealing Jesus offers it as a gift to be received, not a goal to be attained. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus later asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ (Lk. 24:32). Luther was equally alert to the traps of arrogance and anxiety when Christians are not converting away from individual merit and trusting in divine mercy:

But he must watch out that his heart does not come to rely on these deeds of his, and get arrogant when things go well or worried when things go wrong. He should regard all such preparation and equipment as being the work of our Lord God under a mask, as it were, beneath which he himself alone effects and accomplishes what we desire.39

The process of contemplating, critiquing, and converting is an iterative one to be walked again and again in pastoral supervision. The continuing conversion of the supervisee results in contemplating rightly and critiquing via the cross of the revealing Jesus. With hearts warmed like the two from Emmaus, the pastoral supervisee can testify that God works in a paradoxical way, trusting in God’s future glory under their present sufferings. The suffering of Jesus in the garden, recorded in Luke 22:39-53, is examined in the next chapter.


David M. Whitford, Luther: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T&T Clark, 2011), 80.

Alister E. McGrath, Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985), 163, 166.

McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, 161.

For example, the influential book by Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: WB. Eerdmans Pub., 2001) or more recently, Michael J. Gorman, Participating in Christ: Explorations in Paul's Theology and Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2019).

Robert C. Fuller, Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). Table 2005016885.html, publisher description 2005016885-d.html, viii.

Julia Baird, Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2019).

Fuller, Wonder, 158.

Jane Leach and Michael Paterson, Pastoral Supervision: A Handbook, second ed. (London: SCM, 2015), 38.

Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).

Brendan Byrne, The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (Strathfield: St. Paul’s Publications, 2000), 186-90. See also Parker J. Palmer, The Company of Strangers: Christians and the Renewal of America’s Public Life (New York: Crossroad, 1981).

Cited in Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old (Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018), 148-9.

Palmer, On the Brink of Everything, 152.

Leach and Paterson, Pastoral Supervision.

Peter Hawkins et al., Supervision in the Helping Professions, fourth ed. with contributions from eds. Judy Ryde and Joan Wilmot (Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2012), 57-9.

Leach and Paterson, Pastoral Supervision, 34-61.

An early example is Patricia O’Connell Killen and John De Beer, The Art of Theological Reflection (New York: Crossroad, 1994), publisher description www.loc. gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0834/94019334-d.html. More recent works include Sally Nash and Paul Nash, Tools for Reflective Ministry, ed. Paul Nash (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2012).

Daphne Hewson, Reflective Practice in Supervision: Companion Volume to the Reflective Supervision Ttoolkit, ed. Michael Carroll (Hazelbrook, NSW: Moshpit Publishing, 2016), 1.

Hewson, Reflective Practice in Supervision. This practical book details three stances of reflective supervision: noticing what’s happening (the Mindful Stance), analysing it and unpacking the assumptions that underpin it (the Consideration Stance), and putting this learning into practice so that it becomes routine (the Consolidation Stance).

Hewson, Reflective Practice in Supervision.

Parker J. Palmer, To Know as We Are Known: Education as a a Spiritual Journey (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993). More recently, Palmer has described this in terms of‘a friendship, a love, a rescue’ in Palmer, On the Brink of Everything, 60-71.

Joyce Scaife, Supervising the Reflective Practitioner: An Essential Guide to Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 2010), 144-68, where the focus is on supervision techniques such as the empty chair, role play/reversal, and simulations.

Veronica Munro, ed., The Journey Inside: Coaching to the Core (Great Britian: Practical Inspiration Publishing, 2019), Part I: The Conscious Mind; Edna Murdoch and Jackie Arnold, eds., Full Spectrum Supervision: “Who You Are, Is How You Supervise” (St Albans: Panoma Press, 2013).

Ian Mackenzie, “Mindfulness and presence in coaching supervision,” in Full Spectrum Supervision: “Who You Are, Is How You Supervise”, 140-1. Martin Luther, “A simple exercise for contemplating the creed,” LW 4.

Whitford, Luther, 88. Whitford neatly styles Luther’s debate with Erasmus in the following terms: ‘If Erasmus approached the topic of the will as a teacher, Luther approached the subject as a pastor. Where Erasmus was concerned about the moral instruction of men and women, Luther was concerned with the care of their souls’.

Philip S. Rupp and Gordon E. Watson, eds., Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. 17 (London: SCM Press, 1969), 306.

Luther, A Meditation on Christ’s Passion (1519), vol. 1,175.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions Books, 1972).

Parker J. Palmer, The Active Life: Wisdom for Work, Creativity, and Caring (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1991), who talks about the ups and downs of his personal journey, which led him first into the quest for a monastic spirituality of the kind embodied by Thomas Merton and then to the search for an engaged spirituality in the company of ordinary people. Palmer distinguishes between a contemplative spirituality associated with the desert and an active spirituality that is lived out in the world. Contemplative reflection assists us to unveil the illusions in life that masquerade as reality and to reveal the reality that underlies them.

Palmer, The Active Life; Galatians 5:6.

Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation (1518) (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 1:84,101 and 31:41,55.

Vikki Reynolds, “Centering ethics in group supervision: Fostering cultures of critique and structuring safety,” International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work no. 4 (2013): 1.

McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, 166.

McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, 149.

The Annotated Luther, Text, Context, and the Theological Theses, Dennis Bield-feldt, vol. 1, 73.

Martin Luther, “Exposition of Psalm 127: For the Christians at Riga in Livonia,” in Luther’s Works: The Christian in Society II, ed. W. I. Brandt (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1962), 328-9.

Martin Luther, “Disputation on indulgences vol. 1,” in Luther’s Works, 40.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 48, Letters (May 30, 1518, Letter to John von Staupitz), 65-70.

Luther, “Exposition of Psalm 127,” 331.

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