Alumni Notes


A Healing Ministry

Spiritual abuse is like a highly contagious and festering wound, says Rev. Cari Jackson '79. She is committed to stopping its spread and has introduced a healing process she calls “ministering to ministers.”

Ministers (and others in the helping profession) are most likely to become emotionally depleted, she says, as they are constantly giving of themselves and seldom take time out for renewal.

“I grew up in churches in which I saw ministers engaging in actions of spiritual abuse, such as taking out their frustrations on others and relating with congregants in inappropriate ways—emotionally, sexually, and financially—because of issues they weren’t dealing with in their own lives,” she says. “The God I serve is big enough to handle my anger, doubts, and fears, but many ministers believe that they shouldn’t have negative feelings or that they should be able to ‘handle it all’ because of whom they are. When these feelings are stuffed, religious or spiritual abuse can occur. I saw people become so wounded that many of them left the church and never returned.”

Through her interdenominational ministry at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, where she earned a master of divinity degree and serves as interim seminary pastor, Jackson has established Caregivers’ Renewal. There, professional caregivers can talk about their struggles.

“After one of the half-day retreats, a rabbi said he was thrilled that we were doing this and wanted to work with us in reaching other Jews. The spiritual power of lament—for ministers to be able to talk about issues of grieving and sorrow—is very important. Congregations need to see (that their ministers) are human,” she says.

And her mission continues to grow. As additional funding is acquired, Jackson hopes to expand the ministry into a broad range of self-care support services, including addiction/compulsion recovery programs and internet discussion groups that can be accessed by professional caregivers nationwide.

“It’s my prayer that by creating safe spaces in which ministers and other professional caregivers can talk about the challenges of our work, we can renew, replenish, restore, and rejuvenate in order to continue our ministries in healthy ways. The quality of our service must foster healing and wholeness in people’s lives.”

–Yvonne Gay

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