“ If as Lutherans, we truly believe in the priesthood of all believers, then we must help everyone in the congregation to minister.”
Janet Ramsey's title, a new one at Luther, signals a philosophical and theological change in pastoral care. "The pastor is no longer seen as the sole giver of care to the congregation, but instead viewed as one model of care giving among others. He or she is a Christian leader who can organize and educate congregations to become caring communities," she says.
This collaborative model is healthier both for pastors and other parish leaders, as well as for congregations themselves. Leaders who try to do it all risk creating problems for themselves, their families and their congregations. When the emphasis is always on the ordained minister, the contributions of other members are neglected. "If, as Lutherans, we truly believe in the priesthood of all believers," Ramsey says, "then
we must enable everyone in the congregation to minister according to his or her gifts."
Ramsey wants her students to remember that they can also call on resources outside themselves. These include their prayer life and relationship with God, as well as friendships with colleagues and referrals to other professionals in the community. "There's no reason for a Christian public leader to feel like a "Lone Ranger" when a collaborative team model of ministry is more appropriate theologically and also makes sense functionally," she says.
A diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Ramsey's experiences includes ministry as a nursing home chaplain/administrator, parish pastor, pastoral counselor and gerontology researcher. She holds a master of arts degree in religion from Yale University Divinity School, a master of divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and a doctorate in Family and Child Development from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. A board certified counselor with a specialty in geriatrics, she is also a licensed marriage and family therapist.
A firm believer in adult education as a collegial process, Ramsey hopes that her students will integrate their spiritual and life experiences with what they learn in her courses. She notes that when the disciples met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, "their hearts burned within them." In the same way, she hopes students will bring to seminary not only their minds, but also their "burning hearts."