I attended a ‘stakeholders’ meeting on Spiritual Care in the NHS recently. As I confided to my Facebook page, it whetted my appetite for a ‘fence-sitters’ gathering – should anyone feel like organising one other than those which we already attend regularly ex officio.
During all the time that I was Rector of Seagoe, I was also Church of Ireland Chaplain in Craigavon Area Hospital – just over the back hedge. It was a very rich experience – but for much of the time I felt that marginalisation was not far away. So I was glad to see a Stakeholders Gathering on Spiritual Care attended by a very wide range of people.
And yet. At the time and since, I have gradually been turning around in my mind the understanding of spiritual care around which people were gathering. Ultimately it seemed to me to be ‘helping people to face and respond to major life questions raised by illness’ In spiritual terms, it seemed to me to be content-free [or at least non-specific]. One ponders what it means when there are humanists as part of a chaplaincy team.
And then I heard people begin to differentiate between spiritual care and religious care. Now it would obviously be wrong for the churches to seek to have a monopoly of spiritual care. But then to identify religious care as it it was something different seems to bring us back to ….. marginalisation again. Plus ca change and all that.