It was a bold vision: a counseling center that was concerned with wholistic care – mind, body and spirit. Such a place sounds routine 20 years later, but when Session approved a new Pastoral Care Center at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church on May 11, 1999, it was anything but common. Until that point, it was just a dream, a divinely inspired dream.
The dream was imparted to Ruthanne Schlarbaum and the Rev. Dr. Margaret Anne Fohl. Together they envisioned a counseling center with a spiritual base located right on the campus of their church.
The Pastoral Care Center officially opened its doors on September 7, 1999 on the second floor of Converse House. The article in that month’s Messenger captured the dream, “This expanded ministry of our church will offer professional care and counseling services for those seeking emotional and spiritual growth and renewal. Care will be given for the whole person – mind, body and spirit – in the context of faith and pastoral care.” The first director of the center was Karen Dunkman, who remembers, “The first week the center was open, no one came! It was a slow beginning, but then a slow but steady increase in the number of clients seen each week.” After its launch, the center began to grow and expand, offering symposiums and events in addition to spiritual direction, individual and group counseling.
One of the most important facets of the center was its focus on quality counseling at an affordable price. Thus, “scholarships were a key founding value,” remembers Dunkman. Shortly after its founding, the Middleton family chose to partner with the center, endowing these scholarship opportunities and adding their name, from which the Middleton Counseling Center was born.
The fruit of the Middleton Counseling Center cannot be numbered. Ruthanne remembers when a former neighbor of hers shared with her that the Middleton Center “saved her daughter’s life.” And that’s just the story of one person. In its 20 years of ministry, the Middleton Center has provided the space and resources for over 35,000 counseling sessions!
Today, its leadership under Kiki McKendrick ensures that the resources entrusted to it are used for the flourishing of people near and far. What began as a dream 20 years ago is now a reality that has truly saved lives. Thanks be to God!
As the Middleton Counseling Center continues into the future, we are grateful for the vision and service of its founders. As we begin the path toward the next 20 years, we embrace the call to serve people while walking alongside them on their journey toward wholeness – mind, body and spirit. In this way, we carry out Christ’s command to be his hands and feet in this world. To God be the glory!