Columba and the SBNR

We are off to Iona this morning with Bishop Kevin and Elspeth for the 1450th Anniversary of the arrival of St Columba. Iona is one of my favourite places and I am fascinated by the reaction of people when it is mentioned. George MacLeod’s comment that it is a ‘thin place’ is obviously well understood – meaning, I think, a place where the veil which separates earth and heaven is particularly thin.

Which leads me to the article I read this week in the Alban Institute material about the SBNR group – Spiritual but not Religious. That’s very much of our [post-modern] times – people do not ‘do’ religion but they perceive themselves as being spiritual and interested in spirituality. That shapes into a challenge – which is how ‘organised and institutional’ religion can engage with such people. I think that much of Casting the Net is actually about that – the Mark of Mission which is ‘worship which renews and inspires’ is about the aspiration to produce worship which has a helpful ‘thinness’ about it.

And I can’t help make a comment about current thinking on Hospital Chaplaincy in the NHS – certainly in the unhelpfully radical form in which we experience it here. There seems to be spiritual care – which can be delivered by almost anybody – and there is religious care which is perceived as being what churches do. When I suggest that what churches do – and what my own long experience in hospital chaplaincy was about – is spiritual care for SBNR people with an absolute minimum of formal/organised/institutional content, there doesn’t seem to be an answer.


  1. This thread may be long forgotten but I have been away and am just catching up. There might be some refinements given the setting but the answer for hospital chaplains – of which I am one (grammar?) – is the same as it is for any other Christian relating to any other person or group of people. We come to each one in love – not our own love but the love of Christ (or, if our own love, it is Christ’s love owned by and expressed through us) – and with confidence in the gospel which is ours in Christ, the gospel of forgiveness. We may not get to share the gospel but the gospel itself and the desire to share it must be behind every conversation and relationship. When we do get to share it the gospel may be rejected (1 Cor 1:18-25) but, in the end, no matter what we bring, if it is not clothed in that gospel it is dust and ashes. Our coming in love may open the door for the gospel but love without the gospel and the gospel without love is…well…noise etc (1 Cor 13:1-3).

Comments are closed.