Toward an Understanding of Threshold in the Care of the Soul of the Camrose (Alberta) Church of God
The Camrose Church of God is growing qualitatively and quantitatively as it embraces its three primary values — Outreach, Nurture, and Equipping. Spiritual care of individual souls in the congregation is an important and expected pursuit of this writer as pastor. However, there is also a rising challenge to meet the need for congregational soul care — especially during "threshold moments" (times of crisis within a church). Typically, pastoral responses at such junctures focus upon individuals, thus overlooking opportunities for enhancing the well being of the entire congregation. Instead, pastor and congregation together need to seek clarification of the issues and discern the Spirit's invitation to deepened spiritual relatedness. In a society of accelerating individualism, a sound congregational response is necessary to provide a balance between individuality and community.
Part 1 of this study examines the concept of congregational soul in its biblical, theological, and sociological dimensions. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is explored as a model for congregational soul care. God's concern for the soul and for community is revealed throughout Scripture and historic theology. Sociological theories, as well as trends in Canadian society today, commend the communal approach to soul care.
Part II describes the life and soul of eight Canadian congregations from an experiential perspective. Observations of congregational events and interviews with pastors and church members provide an overview of each church's history, threshold moments, and soul care efforts. Despite diversity of theological orientation and organizational structure, universal themes emerge regarding the value of acknowledging a congregation's soul and caring for it effectively and meaningfully.
Part III offers some initial strategies for effective congregational soul care. The churches observed all encountered thresholds of Identity, Authority, and Perpetuity in varying degrees, yet as shown, in each instance the Trinitarian God who is always present with His church offers the necessary resources and creative energy for life, leadership, and continuity.
Threshold moments are opportunities in the life of a congregation to deepen its experience of the fullness of God and community relatedness. This dissertation encourages pastors to be alert to these possibilities for congregational soul care and cultural transformation as they also care for the souls of individuals.