Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor

Morgan Park

 Baptist Church

11024 S. Bell Avenue 

Chicago, IL 60643


Reflection May 6, 2018

"Minding the Soul" by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth

     Last year, May, 2017, at the Annual Disciples Dinner (ABC - Metro) Beth and I were awarded the James B. Ashbrook Award in Pastoral Care and Pastoral Theology. I was very grateful to receive this award and accept it posthumously for Beth. I’m also glad I didn’t have to speak because I’m not sure I could have.

     Professor James B. Ashbrook was an ordained American Baptist - who served as a pastor in his early days. As the award citation notes: James Ashbrook healed minds and souls, taught others to be such healers, and advanced understanding of the dynamics of the human spirit in his scholarship.” I had the good fortune to hear him speak on more than one occasion. He went home to God on January 2, 1999.

     Professor Ashbrook’s book, Minding the Soul: Pastoral Counseling as Remembering (1996) was very influential on my doctoral work regarding soul. In this week’s Advance, I will place some quotations worth our reflection from that wonderful work:              
When people remember and care about who they are, they once again move toward God.  xiii

The pastoral counselor becomes ‘a rock in a weary land,” stabilizing the uncertain world of clients, stopping the erosion of their lives caused by the blowing wind, and shading their psyches from the scorching sun.  51

With a story we can reconstruct the meaning of our lives.  54

Distinctive as each (life) is, each rests on the conviction that we are made for each other, and without the other we are not ourselves.  81

Without a story a person has no soul.  153

In some ways we are unique; in certain ways we are like some others; in basic ways we are like all others.  153

The locus of the really real – the holy of holies, the inner sanctuary of the soul – is found in the midst of our stories. To be a bearer of God requires that we be ourselves with one another.  155

To tell and listen is to find soul. Further, stories reflect the implicit yet guiding metaphors by which we organize and live our lives. While we develop our stories by ourselves, we need others to whom we can tell them.  158

Even the grace of God is mediated through our experience and does not operate apart from that. In storytelling we affirm –hopefully celebrate – that resource. In storytelling we connect with others, and the sharing deepens trust and creates bonding.  The openness makes meaning sacred. 159

The supposedly separate stories turn out to be a single story – the story. The soul is allowing its meaning to be known. The stories are a mosaic of the meanings of the person’s psychological and spiritual resources, “an unfolding tapestry.”  161

Memory is not the impersonal recording of isolated facts. Memory is ever and always an organizing and a reorganizing of experience in terms of its significance for us. Even when we are mistaken about what happened, we are conveying what it means to us.  162

We give structure to our world through the stories we tell.  163

The stories are less important for their historical accuracy and more significant for their making known the meaning of our life in the present.  163

Retriival from the past allows us to understand ourselves in relation to our future.  164

As psychologist Carl Rogers once put it, the deeper we go into the personal, the more we find ourselves in the midst of the universal.  165

We are not simply talking about ourselves.  We are really telling about God and how God is at work in us.  165

Soul refers to our making the experiences of our lives meaningful, a task that is not simple.  169

Soul expresses “meaning,” and the making of meaning depends on memory.  169

Quite simply, soul expresses meaning, and the making of meaning depends on memory.  To mind the soul is to attend to meaning- making.  170

Without working memory, nothing is personally meaningful. A person has no unique identity and no sense of continuity, since the person cannot connect his or her present with a past. Such a person lacks a sense of self. In truth, the person loses his or her soul ... and becomes soul-less.  173

To be retained, memories must be dreamed, and dreaming involves intense emotional appraisal over time.  174

Imagining a future requires remembering a past.  175

Without a past there is no future, no sense of purpose, no awareness of anything as personally significant. It is only in retrospect, only in remembrance, that we discover and create a universe full of meaning.  175