Pastoral Theology & Care

Home image: Spir care convo

Welcome to IST 2012 Pastoral Theology & Care!

This course is an introduction to the practice and theology of spiritual and pastoral care using spiritual, theological, psychological, and ethical perspectives. You will learn and practice competencies in interreligious, evidence-based, and socially just spiritual care. The course’s competency-based pedagogy will help you identify and spiritually integrate your own experiences of stress—especially academic stress—while learning and practicing the ways that spiritual care is different from mental health care.

We'll review the course structure and expectations in the

W1 intro photo- Carrie & man

Welcome to our first week together! This week we'll get to know each other, and you'll learn what you can expect in the course.

Dr. Carrie Doehring, Clifford Baldridge Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, is on sabbatical this quarter. I am excited to fill in for her as your instructor. You can learn more about me in my bio on the Home page, on my Canvas profile, and in the video below.



Required Profile Update

Help me and your peers get to know you by updating your Canvas profile with your photo and other information you feel comfortable sharing (this profile will be available on all of your Canvas courses). For example, you may want to include your degree program, how long you've been at Iliff, where you live, how you identify spiritually, and what you hope to do with your degree. You can see my Canvas profile as an example.

To edit your profile:

1. Select Account at the top of the left-column Canvas menu

2. Select Profile

3. Select Edit Profile at the top right corner of your screen

4. Save Profile at the bottom right of your screen


Required Videos

Carrie's introduction to the course (4:21)

Carrie's intro: audio only (4:21)

Kelly's video about course expectations (6:32) Slides


Required Readings 

Doehring (2015) Introduction, pp. xiii –xxviii (15 pages)

Learning Outcomes

Learning Covenant

Chart comparing Pastoral & Spiritual Care, Spiritual Direction, Behavioral Health Counseling


Required Spiritual Practice

As Carrie notes in her video, spiritual practices play a central role in spiritual care, for both caregivers and care seekers. Carrie wrote an article about the role of her spiritual practice of listening to sacred choral music in grieving the traumatic death of her son. 

Listening to sacred choral music evoked grief and an embodied sense of being held within a relational web of love, which became a safe space to experience lament and religious struggles arising from her religiously multiple identity….Intercultural, spiritually oriented care can help people find intrinsically meaningful body-aware spiritual practices that compassionately energize a collaborative search for meanings amidst traumatic grief. (Doehring, 2018, p. 1)

In this course, you will experiment with body-aware practices that help you pay attention to physiological and emotional experiences of stress that arise as you complete the weekly readings and assignments. Practices are spiritual when they foster self-compassion, self-transcendence, and therefore increase empathy for self and others. Consider, for example, a simple mindfulness practice, STOP, that has the potential to become a spiritual practice. When you experience stress:

In our Discussion forums, you will reflect on the spiritual practices you use in the course. 

Reference: Doehring, C. (2018). Searching for wholeness amidst traumatic grief: The role of spiritual practice that reveal compassion in embodied, relational, and transcendent ways. Pastoral Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s11089-018-0858-5

. Explore all modules by selecting the Modules option on the left column Canvas menu.

You have 1 required textbook for this course: Note: Do not buy the 2005 edition.

Doehring, C. (2015). The practice of pastoral care: A postmodern approach (Revised and Expanded Ed.). Westminster John Knox.

Spiritual Care Conversation Assignments

In this course you will complete a series of assignments based on fictional case studies that you explore in spiritual care conversations with a learning partner. In one spiritual care conversation, you will be the care seeker. In the other spiritual care conversation, you will be the caregiver. These conversations are opportunities to learn and practice our course learning outcomes (see document link below).

The following assignments/discussions make up 60% of your final course grade.

Week 2

  1. Find a learning partner for your spiritual care conversations
  2. Edit the Canvas page Spiritual Care Conversation Learning Partners
  3. Assignment (10 points): Submit the name of your learning partner


Week 3

  1. Care Seeker Assignment (10 points): Describe the crisis/scenario for which you will seek care. Identify the short story, novel, or film, if you are using one of these resources, or provide a brief description of a scenario you have created.

Note: Only faculty will see this submission. The caregiver (your learning partner) should not know about your crisis/scenario until you have your spiritual care conversation in week 5.


Week 4

  1. Care seeker: Share with your learning partner how you envision your spiritual care conversation will occur (e.g., you made an appointment to speak with a spiritual caregiver or you happen to meet each other and strike up a conversation). Do not give your learning partner any other details about why you are seeking care. We want these conversations to unfold without the caregiver knowing the care seeker’s crisis in advance.
  2. Care seeker: Negotiate the type of spiritual caregiver your partner will portray in this scenario (e.g., a religious leader, a chaplain, a spiritual director, a student intern in your faith community or nonprofit). Although you may imagine seeking spiritual care from a religious leader in your faith community, your partner may feel more comfortable as a chaplain. Come to an agreement that feels comfortable and authentic for both of you.
  3. Schedule ~90 minutes during Week 5 when you and your learning partner will record two 15-20-minute spiritual care conversations (one as caregiver, one as care seeker) using Zoom.
  4. Care Seeker Assignment (10 points): Submit a brief description of the spiritual care scenario, describe your learning partner's role, and provide the date/time for your spiritual care conversations.


Week 5

  1. Caregiver: Use Zoom to record the spiritual care conversation in which you portray the caregiver (see Canvas for Zoom instructions).
  2. Caregiver: Save a copy of the video conversation and label it: MyFirstName_MyLastName_Caregiver_mmddyy (e.g., Kelly_Arora_Caregiver_101220)
  3. Caregiver: Provide your learning partner with a copy of this video.
  4. Caregiver Assignment (10 points): Upload a copy of the video in which you portray the spiritual caregiver.


Week 6

Caregiver: Reflect on the care seeker's struggles in the Week 6 Discussion forum (30 points)


Week 7

Caregiver: Reflect on intersecting aspects of caregiver and care seeker social identity/advantages/disadvantages in the Week 7 Discussion forum (50 points)


Week 8

Caregiver: Reflect on plans of care in the Week 8 Discussion forum (50 points)


Week 9

  1. Review Davis (2019) Care conversation reflections (8 pages) for the basic structure of this week's assignment but follow the specific instructions for 2020 submissions.
  2. Caregiver: Review your posts and the responses you received from faculty and peers in the Weeks 6, 7, and 8 Discussion forums. Identify important insights you articulated and important insights from other people that you want to quote in your reflection assignment. Cite these quotes: (LastName, Forum #) e.g., (Arora, Forum 6).
  3. Caregiver: Create a WORD document in which you:  (a) Quote 5 examples of what you said/asked as the caregiver.  (b) Describe how you did/did not demonstrate course learning outcomes in each of the 5 examples in #3a.  (c) Provide at least 1 quote from Discussion forums to support each example/reflection in #3b. Cite as (LastName, Forum #) e.g., (Arora, Forum 6). (d) Provide at least 1 quote from the Course Learning Outcomes to support each example/reflection in #3b. (e) Provide at least 1 quote from Doehring & Kestenbaum (2021) to support each example/reflection in #3b.

Learning outcomes:

Spiritually integrative learning process

Spiritual self-reflexivity

Spiritual and social empathy

Socially just spiritual care

Interreligious spiritual care

Evidence-based spiritual care

  1. Post your caregiver reflections in the Week 9 Discussion (10 points)
  2. Respond as the care seeker to your learning partner’s reflections in the Week 9 Discussion (20 points)
  3. Caregiver Assignment (100 points): Upload a copy your caregiver reflections for faculty feedback.



Course Documents

The following content will help orient you to the course structure, process and requirements for success:



 Spiritual care that does no harm must be socially just, interreligious, and evidence-based in order to fulfill ethical mandates of spiritual care professionals described in the Common Code of Ethics for Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors, Pastoral Educators and Students (hereinafter referred to as spiritual care professionals):

When spiritual care professionals behave in a manner congruent with the [following] values of this code of ethics, they bring greater justice, compassion, and healing to our world:

Spiritual care professionals help people explore spiritual and/or religious[1] practices fostering trust and self-compassion, so that people can collaboratively search for beliefs and values that nurture compassion, healing, and justice for persons, families, and organizations. The term “spiritual,” with all of its limitations, is a short-hand way of describing the deep relational trust in and connection with transcendence and imminence that enliven compassion, healing, and justice in distinctive ways.

Learning spiritual care is a lifelong integrative process that weaves together knowledge, attitudes, relational abilities, and interpersonal skills. Spiritual care education and training uses standards of professional spiritual care to define learning outcomes. Students introduced to these core learning outcomes from the outset of their education and clinical training—in their first role plays in academic courses and their first spiritual care interactions in clinical training—will be engaged in a collaborative process of developing personalized learning goals.

 Learning outcome: Using a spiritually integrative learning process

 A spiritually integrative learning process helps students experience for themselves a process of integration that draws upon their own spiritual and/or religious practices, values, beliefs, and communities. Learning socially just and interreligious spiritual care involves understanding the socially constructed nature of religious beliefs and categories of social identity such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Spiritual care may inadvertently reinforce religious, racist, sexist, and other kinds of prejudice that support systemic oppression. Learning socially just and interreligious spiritual care may be deeply stressful, requiring spiritual practices for holding stress in self-compassionate and self-transcendent ways, in an ongoing relational process of aligning spiritual beliefs, values, practices, and experience. The process of integration is what grounds students in their own religious and/or spiritual heritage, identity, and communities, in ways that enhance spiritual reflexivity and differentiation—two core abilities for socially just and interreligious spiritual care.

Learning outcome: Spiritual self-reflexivity

 Breath and body-centered practices are especially helpful for developing spiritual self-reflexivity by increasing awareness of how one’s stress reactions evoke emotions and moral intuitions about differences named using categories of religious and social identity. Emotions like shame, guilt, and disgust may generate moral intuitions about such differences—values, beliefs, and ways of coping—reinforced by intersecting oppressions, such as religious sexism and religious heterosexism. Experiencing self-compassion and the compassion of a learning community help students understand and share these life-limiting orientations so that they will be able to use critical thinking skills in theological and religious studies to search for values and beliefs complex enough to bear the weight of suffering and offer realistic hope for healing and social justice.

Learning outcome: Developing spiritual and social empathy

 Momentary spiritual practices ground students in their spiritual or religious relationality and communities, enabling them to become more spiritually and socially empathic by:

  1. Respectfully stepping into another’s religious, spiritual, existential, or moral orienting system.
  2. Imagining how these orienting systems ‘work’ contextually, especially as a way of coping with stress arising from social and religious injustice.
  3. Using their social empathy and critical thinking skills to understand the personal and cultural contexts of the other’s beliefs and values, especially about suffering exacerbated by injustice.

Learning outcome: Practicing socially just spiritual care

 Intersectionality is a theory and strategic practice of identifying which systems of social oppression interact contextually to benefit or discriminate against persons in distress. In order to understand the interrelationships among systems of oppression such as racism, classism, and sexism, students need an orientation of post/decolonialism[2] to name the overarching, pervasive and ever-present ways that colonialism exercises power over all aspects of ecological, transnational, political, and economic life. Bringing post and decolonial orientations to understanding spiritual care interactions makes students realize the impossibility of ‘doing no harm’ in a world organized by colonialism. This enormously challenging and always unfinished work can only be done through a collaborative learning process grounded in spiritual integration. The profound shame, guilt, grief, fear, and moral distress of such learning can only be supported through personal and communal practices of lament.

Learning outcome: Interreligious spiritual care

Building on developmental assessments of intercultural practices (Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003), Morgan and Sandage have proposed a theoretical model of interreligious competency. Those called to vocations of spiritual care often are formed in families and faith traditions that use orientations to religious differences that avoid, polarize, or minimize religious differences.

Students may experience religious struggles if their faith community requires them to affirm the absolute truth of their religious truths and defines spiritual care in terms of ‘saving souls’ through adherence to beliefs. They may cope with the interreligious requirements of spiritual care by minimizing religious, spiritual, and moral differences, using an inclusivist orientation. The problem with inclusivism is that it ignores vast differences across religions of the world, especially their historical trajectories and cultural contexts. Students aware of the stress of encountering jarring religious, spiritual, or moral differences can ground themselves using momentary spiritual practices that connect them with a felt sense of trust in an integrative process of learning.

Interreligious spiritual care enters into the mystery or alterity of each person’s spiritual experience, as French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas describes in his appreciation for the “strangeness of the Other, his irreducibility to the I, to my thoughts and possessions” (Levinas, 1969, p. 43). The orientations that move toward and then fully demonstrate interreligious spiritual care are acceptance, adaptation, and  integration (Morgan & Sandage, 2016, p. 143). Acceptance draws upon “increased cognitive complexity and emotional flexibility” (Morgan & Sandage, 2016, p. 143). One’s capacity for religious and spiritual empathy makes one able to “recognize and appreciate religious differences while remaining self-aware of one’s own religious preferences and perspectives” (Morgan & Sandage, 2016, p. 143). Adaptation includes “the capacity to behaviorally code-switch, i.e., act in respectful and appropriate ways across religious difference” (Morgan & Sandage, 2016, p. 143). Adaptation draws upon social empathy that appreciates how interacting aspects of social identity makes each person’s spiritual orientation unique. 

The culmination of interreligious competency is integration, which “involves ‘living out’ adaptation and commitments to inter-religious relationships in healthy ways amidst the stress and marginality that often comes with those commitments” (Morgan & Sandage, 2016, p. 143). Integration uses interpersonal communication skills that put into practice all the knowledge, attitudes, capacities, and skills of spiritual care that nurture compassion, healing, and justice for persons, families, and organizations.

Learning outcome: Evidence-based spiritual care

 Students develop research literacy by learning how to:

Students in this course begin to develop research literacy by



(2004). Common Code of Ethics for Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors, Pastoral Educators and Students.

Hammer, M. R., Bennett, M. J., & Wiseman, R. (2003). Measuring intercultural sensitivity: The intercultural development inventory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(4), 421-443. doi:10.1016/S0147-1767(03)00032-4

Health and Human Services. (2009). Protection of Human Subjects. Title 45 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 46, Subpart D, Section 102.

Levinas, E. (1969). Totality and infinity: An essay on exteriority (A. Lingis, Trans.). Duquesne University Press.

Lizardy-Hajbi, K. (2020). Frameworks Toward Post/Decolonial Pastoral Leaderships. Journal of Religious Leadership.

Morgan, J., & Sandage, S. J. (2016). A developmental model of interreligious competence. Archiv für Religionspsychologie / Archive for the Psychology of Religion, 38(2), 129-158. doi:10.1163/15736121-12341325


[1] Humanist, pagan, and first nations communities are examples of traditions or cultures that do not use terms like spiritual or religious to describe themselves. We acknowledge that our use of these terms may be less relevant for them.

[2] Lizardy-Hajbi uses the term “‘post/decolonial’ in order to acknowledge both the separate contextual and theoretical streams from which challenges to coloniality have arisen in the literature, as well as to highlight their common foundational aims as critiques to colonial being-thinking-acting” (Lizardy-Hajbi, 2020).

 As students integrate theory and practice through experiential learning, they develop critical thinking skills used in developing competencies for spiritual care. The competencies that shape these learning goals are also part of covenants necessary for intentional learning communities.             


Personal disclosures are not to be discussed outside of class without agreement and permission. Students can talk about their stress/emotional reactions with trusted others, as long as the focus is on them and not the content of what other students share. In case study assignments that are not fictional, students need to disguise the identity of care seekers.

Students must be aware of and abide by the mandatory reporting laws of the state in which they provide professional care. If they are designated spiritual caregivers within their religious tradition, they need to also be aware of what their religious organization requires. If students have reason to suspect or have first-hand knowledge of recent, current, or ongoing child abuse or neglect perpetrated on a child currently under the age of 18 years, elder abuse, sexual and domestic violence, or threats of homicide or suicide in any of the pastoral situations they use for fulfilling the requirements of this course they need to seek immediate consultation with supervisors, denominational leaders, and the professor of this course so that proper reporting procedures can be ascertained. State laws on mandatory reporting are available at State Laws on Mandatory Clergy Reporting  Colorado mandatory reporting requirements may be found at Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, 1a, 2(aa, II, III); 13-90-107c.  Faculty will abide by the bounds of professional and Title IX reporting laws rather than absolute confidentiality.


In preparing forum posts and responses, assignments, and spiritual care conversations, students are responsible for (1) tracking how they experience stress in their bodies and stress-related emotions and (2) using practices that foster self-compassion and empathy, such that their emotional/stress reactions are resources for learning, not liabilities.


The purpose of self-disclosure is to develop competencies in spiritual care, and not for personal healing. In deciding how to use/disclose personal experiences in assignments, students need to track their levels of stress as they work on assignments and not use/disclose experiences that overwhelm their capacities for self-differentiation, spiritual integration, and critical thinking. Students need to use their support systems when they become overwhelmed and when making decisions about what personal experiences to share in weekly posts and journal/case study assignments.

Respect for Differences

Students are responsible for using social and theological empathy to imaginatively step into and respect the worlds of those who are different from them in terms of beliefs, values, practices, and social location.

Faculty Availability

Faculty will normally respond within 24 hours to emails sent through the Iliff system (Contact Kelly Arora at Messages sent within Canvas are sometimes hard to track amidst other Canvas notifications. Spiritual care faculty offer support but not spiritual care or counseling. Faculty are available to help students with referrals for spiritual care, spiritual direction, and counseling.

Academic Standards

All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statements on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook and the Joint PhD Student Handbook.
Students should demonstrate academic and professional communication skills that include coherent expression of ideas, use of good grammar, and appropriate citation of sources referenced in responses and assignments. In this course, we use APA format for citations and references.  All course participants should use inclusive language and language that respects the diversity of sexuality, gender and sexual orientation.

Discussion posts and responses are also expected to meet these academic standards (vs. more casual standards that apply to other online conversations/emails). Please proofread assignments and discussion posts before you submit. Seek support from the Iliff Writing Lab as needed.


Timely submissions are critical for effective community learning. Notify the instructor if you have an emergency. The instructor will only consider arrangements to submit late work without penalty in rare instances. If assignments are consistently late or if late assignment will jeopardize their learning partner’s deadlines, students may be required to withdraw from the course. Normally "Incompletes" are not granted in this course because all learning in the course is collaborative. These late penalties account for common circumstances that result in late submissions (e.g., sickness, work demands, travel):

<24 hours late                   10% penalty
24-48 hours late              20% penalty
48 hours - 1 week late  40% penalty
> 1 week late                      0 points


Final course grades will be assigned as follows:

A 94-100     A- 90-93

B+ 87-89     B 84-86     B- 80-83

C+ 77-79     C 74-76    C- 70-73     

D+ 67-69    D 64-66    D- 60-63

F 0-59


Policies & Services: S ee link on left side menu for information about Iliff-wide course policies

Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to our time together!


Kelly Arora_2x3.jpg

Kelly Arora, PhD is the John Wesley Iliff Senior Adjunct Lecturer in Spiritual Care. Kelly is also Clinical Assistant Professor in the Interprofessional Graduate Certificate and Master of Science in Palliative Care programs at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus ( Kelly has also taught Religious Studies courses at Regis University, spiritual care courses in the Regis University School of Pharmacy, and biomedical ethics courses at the CU-Anschutz Medical Campus. She is President of the Board for Centus Counseling, Consulting and Education. Kelly has a private practice in spiritual direction .

Sep 18, 2020FriWeek 1 Discussion due by 05:59AM
Sep 25, 2020FriWeek 2 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Sep 28, 2020MonWeek 2 Spiritual Care Conversation Assignmentdue by 05:59AM
Oct 02, 2020FriWeek 3 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 05, 2020MonWeek 3 Care Seeker Assignmentdue by 05:59AM
Oct 09, 2020FriWeek 4 Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 12, 2020MonWeek 4 Care Seeker Assignmentdue by 05:59AM
Oct 19, 2020MonWeek 5 Caregiver Assignmentdue by 05:59AM
Oct 26, 2020MonWeek 6 Spiritual Care Conversation Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Oct 30, 2020FriWeek 7 Spiritual Care Conversation Discussiondue by 05:59AM
Nov 06, 2020FriWeek 8 Spiritual Care Conversation Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 13, 2020FriWeek 9 Spiritual Care Conversation Discussiondue by 06:59AM
Nov 16, 2020MonWeek 9 Caregiver Assignment.due by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2020SatWeek 10 Discussiondue by 06:59AM