"Humans are created for life in relationship. Where that happens authentically, as God intended, we are able to share every aspect of life so that we rejoice together, we weep together, we are able to be a faithful presence to a person or community in every dimension of life."
Her "parsonage" childhood planted seeds for the vocational questions that Carla Dahl has explored. Noticing as a child that church involvement and faith commitments didn't provide immunity from personal and relational pain, led Dahl to an interest in stories of people and their communities, and a desire to help them hear God and see God's activity in those stories. Now as a pastoral care provider and professor, her experience as a psychotherapist and spiritual director, in both congregational and community settings, has given Dahl an appreciation for the task of integrating theological and social science constructs.
"Being faithfully present to people in both joy and pain," says Dahl, "has always been part of the life of the church, and the helping professions have historically partnered with the church in serving people and in working to ameliorate human problems." Dahl believes that integrating the two enables congregational leaders to minister holistically to persons and communities.
Dahl also believes that living in authentic relationship with ourselves and with God allows us to live authentically with others, key for pastoral care providers. "Humans are created for life in relationship. Where that happens authentically, as God intended, we are able to share every aspect of life so that we rejoice together, we weep together, we are able to be a faithful presence to a person or community in every dimension of life."
She stresses the importance of that last point for ministry leaders, pointing out that being a faithful presence means more than just inhabiting a role. "God works through us, not just through our knowledge and techniques," says Dahl. "That's one thing I love about teaching: the opportunity to interact with one another, trying to open up a safe yet charged space to reflect on personhood, and allow God to heal what needs to be healed and empower what needs to be empowered, so that we can better partner with God."
Dahl has three desires for students in her courses: "I hope they will find a deeper certainty that they are dearly loved children of God, that they will develop more compassion for the complexity of the human experience in the world and that they will be more confident that God acts in the midst of that complexity."