No 19 sEPTEMBER 2004
No, it's not the title of a new political thriller but the instruction delegates to the 8th consultation of the European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy were given, when the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, officially opened the meeting in Dublin earlier this month. I was there representing SACH and was greatly honoured to be present to hear what the President had to say to 37 chaplains from 23 different countries. Her remarks showed that she had a deep insight into the work of chaplaincy and greatly valued the contribution that the provision of spiritual care makes in the healthcare system. She said, "The existential and spiritual dimension of suffering, illness and death is as real as the physical pain. It creates a very testing and challenging set of needs and you are the people who have responded to that challenge."
President of Ireland, Mary McAleese addresses the Consultation
The Network is a group of faiths, denominations and chaplaincy organisations and its purpose is to enable chaplains to share and learn from one another, to develop guidelines for spiritual care, and to promote high quality healthcare chaplaincy throughout Europe. There is a lot that we can learn from one another even allowing for the differences in approach and tradition that each of us has in what we do.
and tensions were in fact the focus of the consultation and we heard
very challenging and stimulating papers from a number of participants
about chaplaincy in the ecumenical sphere, in the realm of inter-faith
dialogue, the area of multi-disciplinary working and at state and government
Sharing our experiences and providing possible avenues of exploration to solve the obstacles facing chaplaincy helped us to see that what we had in common was far greater than that which divided us. I was pleased to be able to promote our Journal which had addressed some of the issues raised by participants, such as standards and competencies, managing service delivery, professionalism of chaplains to name but a few.
my surprise I found myself voted onto the Committee of the Network whose
task is to keep the flow of information going, lobby where necessary
and to plan for the next consultation which is to take place in Lisbon
But it is said that all work and no play makes chaplains insufferable. Networking is as much about getting to know one another as it is anything else. Never to be forgotten is the rendition of 'Three craws sat upon a wa'' and 'Ye cannae shove your granny aff a bus' by the Scottish contingent at our farewell dinner. We left Dublin full of anticipation that our deliberations and connections would bear fruit and brimming with generous Irish hospitality.
'Three craws sat upon a wa''
of a more domestic concern have not gone away! The upcoming AGM will
give us an opportunity to address Agenda for Change, Registration, and
the questionnaire sent out from the training unit. I would also encourage
you to come along to hear Dr Harriet Mowat of Aberdeen University speak
about the research she has recently conducted into chaplaincy in Scotland.
It promises to be extremely interesting. I hope to see you there.
With every blessing in your work.
President of SACH
Pictured in Dublin, eager to kiss the President (?) are (L-R) Chris Swift (President, College of Healthcare Chaplains), John Thomson (Chaplaincy Administrator Church of Scotland), Derek Brown, and Edward Lewis (Chief Executive, Hospital Chaplaincy Council Church of England)
[Photographs by Naatan Haamer, Estonia]
One of the fundamental aspects of life most of us find difficult, is its unpredictability. The unexpected can knock us off course in a moment. In hospital chaplaincy, not to mention our own personal experience, we know this almost daily.
It seems, from its inception, the long-term future of
the Healthcare Chaplaincy Training and Development Unit could not be
guaranteed, any more than can the future of any organisation. The Health
Department of the Scottish Executive has been supportive of the Unit
since originally establishing it and appointing Chris Levison as its
first Officer. But, funding beyond the first three years has always
been an issue of some uncertainty. We also have learned to live with
the distinct possibility of secondments being terminated almost at a
So it is, that we find ourselves approaching the third anniversary of the Unit's existence with existing funding able to support the Unit only until the end of January 2005. While there are positive indications coming from the Health Department, definite confirmation is still awaited. It is also hoped that hand in hand with this decision will be one relating to the Unit's future place within NHS Scotland - options include NHS Education, Scottish Health Council, Quality Improvement Scotland, NHS Health, Equality and Diversity Unit. We wait patiently and hopefully.
Meanwhile, the ongoing work of the Unit continues, including contacts with Boards to progress the development of Spiritual Care Policies, continuing conversations with Divinity Departments and Glasgow Caledonian University regarding accreditation of courses / modules leading to a formal qualification in healthcare chaplaincy (perhaps including CPE), the production of a questionnaire in conjunction with Quality Improvement Scotland, intended to assess awareness of chaplaincy and spiritual care issues amongst healthcare professionals, as part of a Scoping Group study anticipating new Clinical Standards in Spiritual Care and chaplaincy. The Unit's participation in SEHD's 'Fair For All - The Wider Challenge' initiative is also valued.
In response to feedback from previous conferences and study days, a small group will meet with Chris on 21st September to plan for next year. Any suggestions for programmes will be welcomed and may be sent direct to the Unit - email@example.com . A day conference for chaplains in mental health takes place in Perth on 7th September whilst on the 5th and 6th there will be a two day course for recently appointed chaplains at the Bield in Perthshire - enquiries to the Unit.
At this meeting, Fr Kenneth Owens who, within the past
year became parish priest at St Mary's Stirling, retired from the Chair.
Tribute was paid to his efficient handling of business and the Group's
varied agenda. Blair Robertson, whole-time chaplain at the Southern
General Hospital in Glasgow was appointed in his place. The Group also
looks forward to someone succeeding Isabel Smyth who has served the
interests of the Scottish Inter-faith Council well.
Finally, people will be interested to know of two meetings that have taken place recently, both relating to data protection. One with Jane Durkin, Assistant Information Commissioner for Data Protection with particular responsibility for the Health Service, the other with Helen Eadie MSP who, though recognising the UK application of the Data Protection Act, is keen to raise the problems being encountered by chaplains in some of Scotland's hospitals with colleagues in the Scottish Parliament. It was pointed out to Jane Durkin that the underlying problem with the Data Commissioner's interpretation of the law and the Scottish Executive's understanding of health care was that one (the former) marginalized spiritual care as a minority interest, whereas the Executive with HDL76 (backed by WHO documentation) was clear that care for the human spirit is central to health care. She undertook to investigate further and report back to Chris.
We all look forward to future developments.
Infirmary of Edinburgh
The ultimate in data protection arrangements?
Included with this edition of SACH Soundings you will find a programme and application form for the AGM on Tuesday 26 October.
Please return the form to us so that we have some idea of numbers.
Dr Harriet Mowat is our speaker in the afternoon and I am sure that her contribution to the day will be stimulating and thought-provoking.
Three ordinary members of the Executive are due to stand down this year, so think about whether this might be something you would be interested in. The Executive meets four times a year in Perth.
Look forward to seeing you in Stirling. Remember this is your Association and the AGM is your chance to have a say.
has members who live and work worldwide. One of these is Michael Jackson, Interfaith chaplain and Director of Pastoral
Care, Primary Children's Medical Center
Salt Lake City USA. He will be making a couple of presentations at the 16th World Congress of Children's Hospice International which will be held in Edinburgh 26 - 29 September. It is co-sponsored by Children's Hospice of Scotland (CHAS), Association of
Children's Hospices (ACH) and Association for Children with Life-threatening or Terminal Conditions and their Families (ACT).
You can check it out at the CHI website: www.chionline.org . Click on the link to World Congress.
Gathering the great prayers from all spiritual traditions around the world into a unified non profit archive; for the purpose of inspiration, study and cross cultural appreciation.
[Send your favourite health care or religious cartoon to the Editor.]
work with the monthly, international 36-page newspaper Science &
Theology News, which is devoted to covering theological and scientific
dialogue and research news on health and faith, and science and theology.
The publication covers many issues of relevance today in the science,
religion, and health fields, including discussion of the effects of
prayer on recovery rates, research on church attendance and longevity,
and more. It is edited in chief by Harold Koenig, MD, Duke University,
a pioneer in expanding research in this area. The associate editor is
Karl Giberson, Ph.D., a physics professor at Eastern Nazarene College.
We are offering a 6-month free trial subscription to the paper, to members of the Scottish Association of Chaplains in Healthcare. (We offer this trial subscription at no charge due to a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation). You may see sample articles at www.stnews.org, although the paper itself comes in print form.
In recent weeks there has been a small flurry of activity in the area of Data Information/Protection. The Deputy UK Commissioner, Jane Durkin, paid a visit to Scotland and I was able to meet with her along with Isabel Smyth (Scottish Inter faith Council) and Hector Mackenzie of the SEHD. Prior to this she had written replies to several groups who had made representation over the last nine months or so. The letter generally explains the situation as it has become for chaplains over the last year or so. Basically because chaplains are not defined as being part of the "medical" team they are therefore not exempt from the restrictions of the Act and can only be given information about those who are present in hospital by the informed consent of the person concerned.
We made very clear that in Scotland the thrust of the Scottish Executive Health Department's policy was towards "spiritual" care in its broad sense and that the restrictions and interpretations of the Act seemed to be based on the more narrowly defined "religious" aspects of care. In Scotland we are trying to be holistic and see that the care of the human spirit is central to the needs of patients and staff, whereas the interpretation from the Commissioner assumes that we are talking about a minority activity (i.e. religion) for those who wish that sort of thing. The commissioner is marginalizing what in Scotland we have every right to say is central and integral. Therein lies the contradiction we find difficult to accept.
We asked Jane Durkin, in what was a good meeting, if she could check
to see if chaplains at least had the right to know who was coming and
going from their hospital or place of work. She undertook to look again
at this question.
Meanwhile, an MSP, Helen Eadie (South Fife) had been asking questions in Holyrood of the Health Minister on behalf of her constituents. This was passed to the Unit and I was pleased to meet with her and a small group of chaplains, ministers and volunteers at her constituency office in Inverkeithing. After some discussion Helen Eadie indicated that she hoped to convene a meeting of MSPs in the new parliament on this matter as she felt it required to be taken further. She is aware that Data Protection is a reserved (UK) matter, and I advised that I thought it very unlikely that lists would ever again be available for parish clergy. However it is encouraging to see someone in the political arena taking such an interest.
It will be interesting to see how this develops, but it would probably be unwise to hold one's breath!
Training and Development Officer
The new issue of the Journal has an article on direct employment and
four different perspectives are offered: "Who should employ the
chaplains?" (Volume 7 No 2 2004). The editors feel there is more
to be said and would invite readers to express their views. We are happy
to accept letters of up to 400 words in response to the article or short
articles of up to 800 words which we will consider and compile as an
article for inclusion in Volume 8 (2005).
The editors wish to express their thanks to the Editorial Board and James Falconer our Business Manager for their continuing support and hard work that ensures we have a credible and respected professional journal.
You can find this (and previous) editions of SACH Soundings in full colour
on the SACH Website:
If you would like to receive the colour version of SACH Soundings by E-mail in Acrobat PDF Format, send your E-mail address to: Fred.Coutts@sach.org.uk
Send news, articles, pictures, stories and ideas s soon as possible to:
Rev Fred Coutts
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
Tel: 01224 553166