"Outside the Gates" by Robert Crick
The title sets the course for a book which brings together experience and practical theology, springing from the author’s conviction that ministering to people “outside the gates of our Christian community” is essential. It was published in 2011, and speaks to a problem which the church still needs to grapple with, that of becoming a “’gated community’ with access limited only to those who will rise to our created standards in ideology and practice.” To see how effectively we have closed the gates, one only needs to look at the on-line comments section whenever national newspapers report on a religious issue.
The author, Robert Crick, is a distinguished American military chaplain and Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor. British readers will need to work a little to translate some parts into their own context, but this does not detract from the value of the book as a whole. Whilst the author writes from extensive military experience, his chapters Clinical Chaplaincy, Correctional (prison) Chaplaincy, Marketplace (workplace) Chaplaincy and Campus (education) Chaplaincy show a clear understanding of the particular issues faced by chaplains in these disciplines. There is also a chapter on volunteer chaplaincy, “one way that the church has responded to the immense needs of individuals and communities around the world.”
The book is built on the firm conviction that everything, “even the secular”, belongs to our God, who has a “global vision for the redemption of individuals, families, subgroups/cultures, nations and systems.”
There is a valuable section which surveys the history of pastoral care and chaplaincy.It brings them into a contemporary context, where pastoral care is not narrowly understood as simply the listening ear at times of crises, but includes care for the culture and care for the Christian community as well as care for the individual.
Each chapter concludes with some searching questions and case studies which would be useful for anyone using this book, individually or in a group, as a training resource.
There’s solid theology here, making a case for chaplaincy as an essential ministry of the church, encouraging those who offer it, and providing a scriptural base for what they do. “The point is that chaplaincy has broken out of the gates, refusing to isolate or remove itself from society in order to go where Christ went and to do what Christ did. It is a balancing act; they must not let go of the tenets that define their faith heritage, and they must not let go of their love for people and the cultural systems they serve. Both belong to God. Both are worthy of the ministry of the church.”