August 2016



Spiritual Care in Practice : Case studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy

Edited by George Fitchett and Steve Nolan

Paperback 2015, 320pp, ISBN: 978-1-84905-976-3

It seems as if English bank holiday weekends bring out the some of the more gloomy of stories in our newspapers. I imagine journalists finishing their holidays in France have left some of these pieces for their editors to fill in copy as and when needed. Whatever the case August 2016 has brought with it some profoundly disturbing reflections on the significant financial crises that face our National Health Service. Faced with the economic realities of overspend (where the causes seem less than clear) clinicians and managers are faced with some difficult choices to make in relation to priorities in health care spending.

It is against this background that George Fitchett (working out of Chicago) and my colleague Steve Nolan offer this collection of case studies and critical reflections that speak very lucidly about what healthcare chaplains do from day to day in and through their presence and engagement in this ministry.

Take a look at the cover above and it will give you some insight into two or three of the key characteristics of chaplaincy as embodied by Steve Nolan who is pictured there. There is a quality of listening and engagement. It is done together and across professional boundaries. Look at Nolan’s hand – it appears to indicate some assertion, perhaps responding to a disagreement within that small group but with a gentle but determined sense of direction. I am guessing that the conversation focuses upon the patient and their care.

Whatever the picture conveys to you – inside the book is a treasure chest of experience. None of the authors are unafraid to open themselves up to critical self reflection. There is careful attention to experience. All of this is evaluated with responses from professionals within chaplaincy, psychology, psychiatry and nursing as together the team explores the central focus of the importance of spiritual care for healthcare. This element within the work of human flourishing is an absolute necessity and certainly not a luxury!

The book is carefully edited and I should be wanting to use some of it in facilitating learning around the nature of the pastoral and Pastoral engagement here at Sarum College. Again and again the chapters remind the reader of the vital role of story and the necessity for imagination if there is to be some measure of transformation and flourishing in both the practice and experience  of care. This is certainly Pastoral and practical theology at its very best.


Here is some further information from the book:
“From a 16-year-old with a belief that God would enable a miraculous recovery from paralysis, to an African man with a history of psychosis and depression whose cultural belief in witches complicated his treatment, to a dying Jewish man, aggressive and isolated due to his traumatic life experiences, each case includes insight into the patient’s needs and chaplain’s perspectives, discussion of spiritual assessments and spiritual care interventions, and accounts of significant encounters and dialogues.

The nine paediatric, psychiatric and palliative case studies and reflections in this ground-breaking book will enable chaplains to critically reflect on the spiritual care they provide and communicate their work more effectively, help healthcare professionals develop a clearer understanding of the care chaplains deliver, and provide an informed perspective for those who develop policy around spiritual care and need to make the case for chaplaincy services. ”

James Woodward

Sarum College



Here at Sarum College our aspirational strapline is Learning to nourish the human spirit ( see something of our work  at and as I complete the first year of my presence, engagement and leadership of the College I have been much intrigued about what it is that enables such nourishment and learning to take place. Over the course of August we have attracted many varied individuals and groups into the College. At the moment we are busy recruiting to our MA programmes having just published the new academic course brochure. This is the context within which I offer this short review.

It is impossible for any of us to sit still and this book Transformative Imagery ( Ed by Leslie Davenport JKP £19.99 ISBN 9781849057424) happily landed on my desk at the right time for reflection and review. We have just embarked upon a re-organisation of  the colleges learning into a number of centres and  have established the Centre for Human Flourishing. In conversation with my skilled and creative colleagues on Friday we began to explore how best to communicate and convey of vision for connection and gathering with those who come here. We want to do this in such a way that can dig deeper into our human condition and what it might mean to work together for wholeness through personal and social change.

In the context of this conversation  I was glad to be challenged to look again at the images and pictures we use when we attempt to try to capture some of that work together.

The expertise and professional skill of Leslie Davenport is demonstrated through this book and its careful organisation and intelligent accessibility. It covers an extraordinary amount of ground. Part one opens up the foundations of guided imagery through four chapters that look at the history and overview of the use of guided imagery. Part two offers four further chapters which examine imagery for health and healing. Part three explores the subject area in relation to depth psychology and Part four offers five chapters that discuss the nature of spiritual images in wisdom traditions. The final part gathers together seven chapters challenging the reader and practitioner to apply some of this good practice and thinking in and through their work. The book is clearly printed and offers comprehensive resources. It is not surprising therefore that Davenport has succeeded in pioneering the adoption of guided imagery into the mainstream practice of medicine and psychotherapy.

Much of our learning is diminished through a dualistic approach that emphasises the cognitive, the physical and the tasks and functions of relating and living at the expense of meaning, mystery and transformation. I have an intuition that many individuals and groups who seek places of learning beyond school or university are longing for something more beyond these materialistic and capitalist models of controlling truth. The chapters of this book demonstrate the extraordinary capacity of human beings for imagination – for moving beyond the immediate and obvious into a deeper place of connectivity and fulfilment.

In the formation of lifelong learners who will engage in living with an emotional intelligence so sadly lacking in many areas of our society this book is really important. However written as it is out of the American context and experience some of it will not be easy to translate into northern European structures and cultures. This reviewer, nonetheless, is determined to use this framework of learning and expertise to shape the work of the Sarum centre for human flourishing. For that inspiration and encouragement this review expresses admiration and gratitude for this volume of essays.


James Woodward

Principal Sarum College