Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

Department

Theology

Faculty/School

Seminary

First Advisor

Peter VanKatwyk

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Abstract

Faith and Light is a Christian community that exists for people with an intellectual disability, their families and their friends, and that meets monthly to reflect on Scripture, to pray and to celebrate together. It promotes presence to one another and friendship amongst its members. This ethnographic study explored how parents from a local community experienced the "launching" phase of the family life cycle. Analysis of data from focus groups, from participant observation as a chaplain, and from informal interviews revealed particular aspects of parents experiences, including: challenges parents face, particularly with regard abuse and the need to advocate; concerns over the adequacy of care their offspring receive; the impact of the various life cycle transitions; and their investment in their offspring and peculiar knowledge of them. I suggest that a phenomenon of "perpetual parenthood" undergirds these themes: parents understand their responsibilities for their offspring with an intellectual disability as being life-long, such that launching may never occur. A central existential ambivalence for these parents is that of holding on versus letting go, where parents discover and create their own provisional balance in the dilemma. Parents identified several attributes of Faith and Light's community life that were helpful to them (mutual support and understanding, interaction, welcome and friendship), and to their offspring (revealing their beauty and giftedness, growth and friendship, Christian formation, listening and acceptance). Faith and Light's provision of care to parent members models aspects of "a theological pastoral care and counselling." This approach locates pastoral care and counselling ecclesially, and proposes an asymmetrical relationship between the disciplines of theology and related social sciences, where the pastoral carer, working within an explicitly Christian metanarrative, has recourse to insights from related secular disciplines on an ad hoc basis. The study concludes with an exploration of how, on the basis of this relationship, the three foci of enquiry, namely Faith and Light, the phenomenon of perpetual parenthood, and a theological pastoral care and counselling, might inform each other.

Convocation Year

2005

Convocation Season

Spring

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