A History of the Genesis of the Movement

During the past twenty years a remarkable renewal in pastoral care and enormous growth of pastoral counselling has taken place in several countries in Europe and North America. The vibrations from this development have crossed not only borders of denominations and professions, but also of states and nations. Dutch hospital chaplains have adapted American clinical pastoral education, British counsellors have learned from American pastoral counselling, Scandinavian parish ministers have accepted insights from German pastoral psychology, German pastors have become interested in the contribution of British psychology. Those few selected examples demonstrate already the international character of the present pastoral care and counselling movement (1). 
So Werner Becher the first president of the European pastoral care and counselling committee described the movement’s beginnings.

The genesis of these activities dated back to the post World War II years. Psychotherapists and clergy in the UK were co-operating and the Methodist, Leslie Weatherhead, and the Anglican psychiatrist Frank Lake who founded Clinical Theology were the leading figures (2). In 1944 Göte Bergsten founded the St. Luke’s Institute of Spiritual Counsel and Psychological Treatment in Sweden.

By the 1960’s there were growing links between pastors in Holland, Germany and Norway and the CPE movement in America. This led to the first PC&C conference in Europe at Arnoldshain (3) in Germany and it was entitled clinical pastoral education in Europe.

Werner Becher brought together representatives of PC&C groups from Holland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Representatives of American CPE presented their model, which met with lively reaction for and against. Europe was definitely going to have its own models of PC&C which would include CPE along with other systems. Heije Faber one of the leaders in Holland writes of the Europe-America relationship thus. Europe after the war was going through a period of idealism and hope on one hand and deep disappointment and pessimism on the other

…One of things we had to do in those years was to make up our minds whether we really believed in the future of Christian ministry or not. And the first “pioneers” of CPE in Europe were people who – often consciously and openly – had said “yes”. And mostly in the face of “Kirchenaustrite” (leaving the church), of diminishing church attendance and growing unbelief among young adults…they wanted to learn from America as well and as much as they could in order to be able to function better in Europe. They were not dependent on America or Americans. They felt they were colleagues in the same field who in those years learned from them and – later perhaps would be in a position to teach them (4)

These activities led to the founding of the International PC&C movement in Rhuschlikon in Switzerland in 1975 and the first International Congress, which brought over 400 delegates from all the continents of the world to Edinburgh in 1979 (2).

Louis Marteau, a native of Belgium, but a priest in the UK, writes movingly of the planning meeting for Rhushlikon (formation for ministry) at the home of Heije Faber in Holland, where he put everyone up in at his own expense. The weather was warm and dry. We were able to conduct all our meetings in the garden and take a long walk through nearby woods. I remember those woods, as another example of pastoral care. There was a handrail running through the woods to enable the blind to take walks and sense the beauty of forest without fear. In a way it seemed to symbolise the whole process we were about – the blind entering a new forest (5).

Meanwhile the first major European conference was held in East Germany in 1977 at Eisenach. The theme was learning together for pastoral care. Delegates from many European countries attended a memorable conference which spanned East and West and brought great comfort and support to pastors in the East. A committee was formed to plan four yearly conferences in Europe and to maintain contact with the help of a newsletter in between those gatherings. The conferences usually had about 120 delegates in order to maintain close personal contact and small group work has always been a central feature of the conferences. Another aim was to help support and sustain the local PC&C movements and associations in the countries of the conferences.

The next conference in Lublin in Polland in 1981 took as its theme The spiritual dimension in pastoral care and counselling (3,6). Once again we crossed the Iron Curtain and this time both the Catholic and Jewish communities were involved in a new way. The conference was held in a Catholic University and Danny Smith, a Jewish Rabbi from the UK, led the conference and the small Jewish community in Lublin in the Seder. All the delegates went on a memorable and very sad visit to the Concentration camp at Majdanek The early days of the European movement were very exciting and supportive of the fledgling associations in most countries. The meetings were both moving and challenging as individuals and groups learnt about one another’s beliefs and priorities in PC&C. Irene Bloomfield , a Jewish psychotherapist from the UK, summed up those times in this way. The encounters are brief ones – only a few days every two or perhaps four years – but they are very close and intense; it is possible to meet at a level not easily achieved in other situations. The bonds that are formed with people from such different cultures and religious backgrounds are unique and precious. The sharing of our own selves in dialogue and in work as well as sharing our own faith in worship with others has come to take a much deeper and unifying meaning than ten years ago. Much has been learned but perhaps one of the greatest dimensions is the appreciation and respect of our differences and an awareness at the same time of the values and insights that are shared which transcend those differences (3).


  1. Becher, W. ‘International Conferences on Pastoral Care and Counselling’, In Contact: European Issue*. No 75: 3-6 (1882)
  2. Hollifield, E.B. ‘Pastoral Care Movement’ in Hunter, R. Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counselling, Nashville: Abingdon. (1990:849)
  3. Bloomfield, I. & Parker, K. ‘the European Movement for Pastoral Care and Counselling: An Interpretive History’. UKAPCC Newsletter, No 13: (1986). BACP 1 Regent Place Rugby CV21 2PJ UK.
  4. Faber, H. ‘Reflections on the Development of a Movement’ UKAPCC Newsletter, No. 13 (1986).
  5. Marteau, L. ‘The European Committee’, UKAPCC Newsletter No.13 (1986)
  6. Foskett, J. ‘A Pilgrimage to Poland’. Contact: European Issue* No 75::7-10 (1982) *


J.Norman, JOHNorman@junctionroad.freeserve.co.uk John Foskett, jfoskett@btinternet.com