The Service of Healing as Pastoral Care: A Discourse-Informed, Communal-Contextual Interpretation
Rippetoe, Heather Leigh
Some scholars have noted an increase in the availability of Episcopal services of healing since the twentieth century. This thesis proposes the service of healing is an act of pastoral care when understood through a communal contextual paradigm of pastoral care informed by feminist discourse theory. A case study of chronic illness is introduced and referenced throughout the thesis to illuminate pastoral care perspectives informed by clinical-pastoral and communal-contextual approaches, and feminist theologian Susan Dunlap’s three challenges of feminist discourse theory are applied to the communal-contextual approach to care of persons suffering from illness. After articulating the impact of a discourse-informed, communal-contextual paradigm for the understanding of chronic illness, the thesis then examines how the Episcopal service of healing acts as an oppositional discourse, challenging dominant cultural messages about illness, embodiment, and recovery. The thesis concludes that, when understood through a discourse informed, communal contextual paradigm, both caregivers and care receivers understand the service of healing as a combination of texts, words, sounds, smells, and touches that combine to send a holy, distinctively Christian message about personhood, suffering, community, and healing.