An Occasion to Lament!

From time to time in mentoring and supervision, a past deep injury of the soul or spirit surfaces in a session with a client. It arises while reflecting on present ministry, often surprisingly.

Do I refer the client or do I open it up for us to deal with together? I have learnt about boundaries. Yes, I refer as needed, but address issues within my gifts and competencies, occasionally recommending a season of lament to encourage honesty and frankness with God in a respectful and interactive manner. It includes strong prayer, expressing to God about failures and disappointments that are carried and may not have been expressed or vocalised before.

It was refreshing recently to reference Michael Paterson’s three concentric circles of wellbeing to be addressed in pastoral supervision;
                ‘soul, role and context’ or ‘soul, role and system’. 1
                Matters of the soul are the stuff of lament; spirit to Spirit.

For some clients, the hurt, failure, pain, shame, from their personal journey resurfaces as they reflect and debrief. It shines a light on soul injury.

Secondly, deep pain can be triggered from their role as they interact with things like loss, grief, addiction, compulsive coping and anger of the people to whom they minister. – It triggers links from the past and may impact back into their own soul; from role into soul.

Also, the context or system in which they are employed may restrict possibilities for assisting clients, frustrate them through compliance issues, or poor HR processes. These can touch back into previous unfair treatment or injustice unaddressed from a former workplace. It can be like ‘déjà vu’; from system back into soul.

The presenting issue needs to be clearly heard. Ask questions about whether this issue has been resolved satisfactorily in the past, and if so the solutions can be recalled, polished and re-activated. If it is still a live issue, then explore options to move towards resolution.

Lament may be one appropriate and beneficial way for a client to address these issues.

Two Stories:


A client in chaplaincy ministry was on a steep learning curve, dealing with people suffering severe traumas from family breakdown, abuse, deep grief and compulsive coping behaviours. While enjoying the challenge and negotiating the boundaries of the workplace protocols, it raised issues about their personal family relationships. A sense of superficial interactions with siblings, family ‘secrets’ and physical distancing of the last 25 years triggered a desire to explore family. The value of lament was identified.

“Write the first half of your lament to God, like the first half of Psalm 22, and put in in a drawer for 6 months and revisit it.” It was written with benefit and revisited with benefit and it continues to be productive as the journal continues for years. This mentoring relationship has ended, but I receive occasional feedback about the continued productivity for the client, spirit to Spirit. It has been pleasant to hear of strengthening sibling relationship and care that continues to build.


In the opening sessions of a new mentoring relationship, we swap stories about our spiritual journeys. This mentoree included information about a traumatic conclusion as an ordained minister in a campus congregation of a larger church.

Our relationship was to supervise his work in a new placement in chaplaincy. It was developing well with clients, colleagues and managers.

One mentoring session he needed to return to focus on the injury from the failed congregational role. It kept resurfacing as he pondered whether he would ever return to pastoral ministry. The termination had been messy. It involved undermining, dynastic family interference, enforced leave and sick leave owing to cancer. Was the process unfair? Was it unjust?

He accepted a task to lament along the lines of Psalm 22 and to feed back at future sessions. He took all this to God. It was a spoken lament with God. Reflection on the process continued to unfold in our mentoring sessions.

Two outcomes from this story. First, the chaplaincy is blossoming for the client. And the lament has helped family relationship and opened a wider panorama to continue in chaplaincy and to actively explore future opportunities for ministry.

For both these stories lament is honest prayer with a faithful God on deep and difficult unaddressed issues to renew hope. It also gives the person new vocabulary to communicate with others about the struggle towards healing.

John Morse
ACMN Member – Professional Mentor

1 Owers, D in St Mark’s Review, No. 254, December 2020 (4), Reviving the spirit: the gift of pastoral supervision


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