Reflections from Malaysian Symposium

Jan 22, 2009

by the Rev. Marjorie Lindstrom

In November 2008, I had the privilege of participating in the Asia-Pacific Symposium on “Clinical Pastoral Care, Counseling, and Education in the Asian Cultural Context” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The participants were asked to focus on how their ministries functioned in a cross-cultural context, while three keynote speakers challenged us to identify ways in which our assumptions about ourselves and our own cultures frequently hamper our good intentions—or worse, result in benign neglect.

Frequently, our unexamined biases and assumptions cause us to be ineffective in our pastoral practice. The more we understand our own backgrounds, the more we can be open and understand others.

Many of the presentations deeply resonated with me as a Port Chaplain at the Seamen’s Church Institute, as we minister daily among peoples of diverse cultures and religions from the far-flung corners of the world. The more we deeply engage those we meet, the more effective we can become.  

So many times in our society, we tend to erect walls to keep the “other” or the stranger out. It seems safer. In contrast, we are called to offer radical hospitality, to “listen deeply without fear,” and in so doing, transformation begins to take place, as we become fellow sojourners, honoring and respecting the other. Furthermore, this listening deeply without fear recognizes each person (as the Rev. Dr. Steven Voytovich puts it) as a “living document” of God’s presence in the world.

The Rev. Dr. John de Velder, one of the keynote speakers explained, “to listen is to care, to care is to love, and to love is the essence of God.”  Through this listening and caring, we can connect those we meet with God’s presence, with God’s unconditional love, while honoring those with various faiths and cultures.  This is the gift that has been bestowed upon us as we go about our daily rounds in the Port.

In light of these underlying themes, I was asked to present an afternoon workshop on the work of the Seamen’s Church Institute. The presentation focused on the impact of globalization in maritime and port ministry; seafarers’ rights in the global economy; the problems of human exploitation; making the invisible visible; tending to the lost, least, and last sheep; and the ministry of the brief encounter—a ministry of hospitality and presence.

About the Rev. Marjorie Lindstrom

The Rev. Marjorie (Marge) Lindstrom is a full-time Port Chaplain and Seminarian Field Placement Supervisor for the Seamen’s Church Institute at the Port Newark facility.  She is also a board member of NAMMA (North American Maritime Ministry Association). The daughter and granddaughter of Episcopalian priests, she is a “later vocation” following a thirty-year career working with the learning disabled.  She is a graduate of New York University, earning an M.A. in Educational Psychology, and a graduate of the General Theological Seminary, earning a Masters of Divinity in 2005.