Spirituality and Religion


9781849054973[1]

Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2015; 280 pages; £19.99 ISBN 9781849054973

I review this book (the second week of July 2016) when two particular conversations were at the forefront of my mind. The first was the smooth transition between Cameron and May into 10 Downing Street and the office of Prime Minister. What followed was much speculation about who would hold some of the key offices of state including the office of health secretary. This speculation triggered a great deal of social media interest in the health service and especially some of the frustrations on the part of healthcare professionals particularly about the culture of change, resource and the over politicisation   of care in the NHS.

The second was a conversation about church growth and how we face the reality of diminishing numbers (and perhaps even confidence) in religion today. Both of these areas of thought might take up many pages of a blog but they certainly shaped by appreciation and admiration of this book of 16 essays that explore issues of how we think about and deliver healthcare chaplaincy.

Let me give you an outline of book. Its editors are leading academics in the area of health, practical theology and chaplaincy studies. In particular Andrew Todd’s work in the Cardiff Centre the Chaplaincy Studies deserves particular respect and admiration for its quality and professionalism.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part (constructing spiritual care) explores models of spiritual care; discourses of spiritual health care; models of healthcare chaplaincy and how chaplains use the Bible as interpreters in their work. The second part (negotiating spiritual care in public) explores the value of spiritual care and the need for negotiation and persuasion for its value in the public domain; some legal and policy frameworks for spiritual care; the work of chaplaincy in a multi-faith and secular environment and the particular relationship between chaplaincy and nursing.

The third part (researching spiritual care) offers an overview of methodologies for research in spiritual care; deals with the particularities of research health context; looks at the significance of volunteers in the culture of the NHS and offers a particular process of observing, recording and analysing spiritual care in an acute setting. Finally part four discusses the practice of the spiritual care in the context of suffering; opens up the much vexed question of assisted suicide; digs deep into the care of those living with mild cognitive impairment and offers experience of spiritual care in a children’s hospice.

The editors provide a comprehensive subject and author index and throughout the work there is a careful structure and system of referencing. While it is almost impossible to provide consistency across a wide range of essays and chapters the editors have succeeded in providing a very useful and significant addition to the literature in this field.

So this leads to my to opening areas of discussion. The first is developed a little in this book that needs further work. How do we deal with our expectations around care and our experience of care in the NHS? With it’s ever developing technology and increased skill and professionalism is the health service nurturing a culture within which people feel valued, understood and responded to? Put more simply – is the health service looking after people as well as it might ? Are there  some indications that despite our increased investment in resources people feel dissatisfied with the quality of engagement, support and compassion. Perhaps it is inconceivable and impossible to deliver but should we always try to start with the patient and the patient voice when developing a narrative for care? This is of course where chaplaincy is at its absolute strongest – it engagement, understanding and transformative presence in and through the attentive and caring relationship. Chaplaincy needs to beware  of its tendency to detach itself from the patient experience in the ever understandable necessity for organisational security and affirmation. The power is  with the patient! Professionalism is always grounded in the narrative of the experience of illness.

The second and I admit a less obvious area of church growth is yet another area where chaplaincy may be critical in turning around the way in which individuals and groups access the spiritual (hence my organising title).Chaplains meet people where they are and on their terms within their life experience. This is an opportunity to illuminate, enlarge and connect with the spiritual – especially in times of crisis and difficulty. It may be that chaplains are altogether best placed to keep the rumour of Angels alive through their presence and engagement. Investment in agency and chaplaincy should be a key element to the churches strategy for recovering the pastoral as part of deepening spiritual connectivity and faith.

This is a very good book and I commend it as a stimulating, resourceful and informed collection of essays on care.

James Woodward

Principal Sarum College

 

 

 

choose-love[1]

You see, only love can move across boundaries and across cultures. Love is a very real energy a spiritual life force that is much more powerful than ideas or mere thoughts. Love is endlessly alive, always flowing toward the lower place, and thus life-giving for all, like a great river and water itself.

When you die, you are precisely the capacity you have developed to give and to receive love. Your recognition of this is your own “final judgment” of yourself which means you become responsible for what you now see (not shamed or even rewarded, but just responsible).

If you have not received or will not give this gift of love to others, your soul remains tied to a small, earthly, empty world which is probably what we mean by hell. (God can only give love to those who want it.)

If you still need to grow in love and increase your capacity to trust Love, God makes room for immense growth surrounding the death experience itself, which is probably what we mean by purgatory. (Time is a mental construct of humans. Why would growth be limited to this part of our lives? God and the soul live in an eternal now.)

If you are already at home in love, you will easily and quicklv go to the home of love which is surely what we mean by heaven. There the growth never stops and the wonder never ceases. (If life is always change and growth, eternal life must be infinite possibility and growth!)

So by all means, every day, and in every way, we must choose to live in love—it is mostly a decision—and even be eager to learn the ever deeper ways of love—which is the unearned grace that follows from the decision!

Richard Rohr Eager to Love

 

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We all have an ambiguous relationship with Authority or power  and so we should as Christians.

I wonder when you last felt powerless? To be powerless is something we all fear briefly clothed, but God laughs when we take it too, so we anxiously remind ourselves of all our virtues and capabilities. Our instinct as human beings is to build our sense of worth, our self-confidence and value on our past achieve­ments, looks, wealth, status, job or family. In other words to build it upon something for which we can claim credit, some power or ability that we possess.

We tend to come before God dressed in our acquired prowess, our moral victories or life’s successes.

Yet before God, none of these counts for anything. The truth is that we do not do God a favour by signing up to this cause. A realistic embrace of our humanity with all its  realities of powerlessness is part of building up a picture of ourselves that God and others recognise and value.

 

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Jesus final words finished. His life is finished. His ministry is finished. The scriptures are finished. The reconciliation of God and creation is finished.

DSC08415

This is good news – everything is lost except the heart of God laid bare. We might just get close enough to glimpse that sacred heart laid bare.

And we might just get to read what is written on that heart, pierced and finished for the love of us. The love of you, love for you, each one of you and every part of your experience.

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Here on the Cross is love, and in our beholding we glimpse life.

Generosity,%20December%2011,%202011[1]

Generous orthodoxy is aware of the need to keep listening and learning in openness to the Spirit and to the world for the sake of the gospel, it seeks to keep conversations going and not to end them. Generous ortho­doxy does not so much specify a particular point or posi­tion as it establishes a spacious territory defined by certain distinct boundaries in which there is space to live, move, and breathe while exploring the wonders and mysteries of the faith. In this context ongoing conversation is nothing less than the gracious gift of God through the work of the Spirit in fulfillment of the promise to guide the church into the fullness of truth.

So let us  not covet the last word, let us be  honest about our presuppositions and potential blind spots, and honest about our passions  and even forthright in our convictions. To do this we should be  willing to engage with the many voices found in the church and in our culture.

Let the Church be a place for  conversation for the sake of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We might be encouraged  to keep in mind the words of Hans Frei, who once commented on the term he had coined: “Generosity without orthodoxy is nothing, but orthodoxy without generosity is worse than nothing.”

(with gratitude  to challenges heard after reading

A Generous Orthodoxy

by  Brian D McLaren )

peace__love_and_happiness__2_by_rebelrevolution1997-d4tokjn[1]

In our era, the idea that we should
lead happy, balanced lives carries the force of an
obligation: We are supposed to push aside our anxieties in order to enjoy our
lives, attain peace of mind, and maximize our productivity. The cult of “positive
thinking” even assures us that we can bring good things into our lives just by thinking about them…

There is something quite hollow about the ideal a life unruffled
by anxiety. It’s why I think that underneath our quest for vibrant health lurks a tragic kind of
discreet death: the demise of everything that is eccentric and messy about human life. Our society sells us the quick fix:

If you get a cold, take some decongestants; if you get depressed, take some antidepressants; and if you get
anxious, take those tranquilizers. But what are we supposed to take when we lose our character?”

From the Chronicle of Higher Education at:

http://chronicle.com/article/HappinessIts-Discontents/144019/

sensing-the-sacred[1]

The sacred is the interference of the uncreated in the cre­ated, of the eternal in time, of the infinite in space, of the supraformal in forms; it is the mysterious introduction into one realm of existence of a presence which in reality contains and transcends that realm and could cause it to burst asunder in a sort of divine explosion.

The sacred is the incommensurable, the transcendent, hidden within a fragile form belonging to this world; it has its own precise rules, its terrible aspects and its merciful action; moreover, any violation of the sacred, even in art, has incalculable repercussions.

Intrinsically the sacred is inviolable, and so much so that any attempted violation recoils on the head of the violator.

Frithjof Schuon

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