Training healers in the time of COVID-19
Almost overnight, COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down. Its global impact is still unknown. Lives have been disrupted and loved ones separated. Suddenly many people have found themselves experiencing loss, uncertainty, or hopelessness. Now more than ever, our world needs counselors and ministers equipped to provide spiritual and emotional support for those who are hurting, afraid, isolated, or otherwise seeking God.
Knox College’s Master of Pastoral Studies (MPS) program trains leaders in the helping professions, working in places such as hospitals or prisons, and enhancing congregational ministries. Some MPS students are pastors who have been in ministry and realize they want more counseling and spiritual care education; others are students choosing careers as psycho-spiritual therapists.
Since the program began in 2016, growth has been tremendous: interest has quickly outstripped the program’s existing capacity, now requiring additional staff. The demand for healers was great even before COVID-19 struck, and now the virus is amplifying the need.
MPS student Antonio Siracusa, who has experience as a geriatric and mental health Registered Nurse, said, “I’ve always wanted to make a tangible difference in someone’s life, to serve someone in the healing process. My nursing training and the MPS are quite complementary. I wanted to add this spiritual component to my training, to provide holistic care.”
Susie Choi, who has just completed her MPS training at Knox, had been a pastor for nine years when she decided to develop a different set of skills, focused on spiritual care. “As a pastor I focused more on supporting people as they pursue relationship with God within a congregation, and on the growth of new leaders within a denominational context. Within spiritual care, one of the greatest shifts for me has been to support human experience more broadly, in multi-religious, non-denominational contexts.”
Susie completed her Master of Divinity degree at Knox in 2013, and then in 2017 returned to Knox to enroll in the MPS program, with a Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy focus. Now as a counsellor at two Toronto hospitals, Susie encounters people in incredibly vulnerable places.
“Many people find themselves in situations where they can’t really understand why, despite their efforts, difficult things have happened to them. Their belief system is unable to support what is going on in their lives,” she said. “My MPS training allows me to step into their roller-coaster experience, offer compassion, and support them as they seek answers.”
Our society is crying out for well-trained leaders to walk with the hurting in their wilderness — to let them know they are not alone, and to help them meet God in their pain. Dr. Angela Schmidt noted, “The magnitude of the program’s growth demonstrates that there is a need for training in spiritual care and psychotherapy; specifically, a demand for training to integrate spirituality into spiritual care and counselling. Hopefully we can afford to add more staff this coming year, allowing the program to serve even more.”
Dr. Schmidt leads this program; teaching, mentoring students, and planning the experiential learning that is the hallmark of this program. Through hands-on experience, students learn practical skills, and they actively reflect upon how the work of spiritual care impacts them personally – so that they can minister safely and effectively.
Thanks to “smart” classroom technology, students have also been able to learn and to practice skills while physically separated, including role playing online counseling sessions. The need for online counseling had been increasing significantly even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Knox College welcome your prayers of healing and hope for all those affected by COVID-19, and your prayers for wisdom as we move forward. Thank you for supporting holistic ministry.
With your help, we can add more MPS staff, giving more students the skills they need to heal people in our hurting world. Your financial support will multiply the number of well-grounded healing professionals who are reaching out. Consider donating securely online today.