No 25 March 2006
She was pacing around the room in obvious pain and discomfort as her contractions came and went. Her baby had died in the womb some days previously and now she was waiting for the delivery but she needed some questions answered before that happened. She didn't acknowledge any live faith and so her questions were very practical. She wanted to know what would happen to the baby once it was born and what a funeral would consist of. I said I would come back later if she would like me to as it didn't seem the best time to be holding such a conversation. I didn't expect to be asked back.
However I was wrong. A few hours later I was called back to see her, somewhat surprised to find her in a state I can only describe as radiant.
“I know this might sound strange,” she said, “but I feel so blessed. I wouldn't have wanted this to happen, of course, and I know it will be hard in the days to come, but I really feel this has been something special. I'll always treasure this time.”
This encounter wasn't what I had been expecting, but then I've been doing this job long enough to know that it is silly to assume anything.
As we are now in the season of Lent that story served as a reminder to me that not all wilderness experiences are devoid of meaning. Forty days in the desert were the biblical proving ground but, as chaplains, we come across people going through severely testing times almost every day.
What does it do to you? Do you feel that you have adequate opportunity to reflect both spiritually and professionally about the situations in which we operate? The pace of hospital life does not always lend itself to having time to think these things through in a meaningful way.
Following the success of last year's spring meeting the Executive has organised another for this coming May. At the heart of our discussions will be a paper written for the Chaplaincy Academic and Accreditation Board.
It's a very stimulating document and I would comment it to you not least because we need to think about these things and consider fully what they may mean and how they may affect what we do. It is hard to say what lies ahead of us as chaplains. For many there will be a new status as NHS employees. For all there may, in the future, be a new self understanding as registered healthcare professionals.
Maybe chaplaincy is experiencing a spell in the wilderness at the moment as we try to find our professional promised land. There will be hard lessons to be learnt and plenty of challenges along the way. The question is can we, individually and collectively, find meaning in all that is happening in chaplaincy's sojourn and embrace it with the confidence and courage shown by those we seek to serve in their own far more significant wilderness experiences.
President of SACH
Mark Evans, a Church of Scotland Deacon, has recently been appointed chaplain at the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline.
Throughout my working life, I've been asked one question more than any other: ‘What's a Deacon?' And it's not always an easy question to answer! I grew up in North Edinburgh where after attending School in West Pilton I started studies at the Churches College in Edinburgh. After leaving college I was ordained by the Church of Scotland as a Diaconal Minister. As a Deacon, I see my role as to offer pastoral and spiritual support to those in need, regardless of their church connection or faith.
My first post was in a unit for homeless men within Edinburgh's, Grassmarket, working with 16 – 21 year olds. As well as being homeless many of these younger clients where either IV drug abusers or worked in the sex industry. By the 1980s many of them had started to show symptoms of TB, unusual infections and signs of declining health. It seemed HIV and AIDs had arrived! HIV was a new illness and those who had been infected were shunned by society and there prognosis was seen as a death sentence. Due to my experience of working with this client group I decided to train as a nurse.
So it was off to the Lothian College of Nursing and Midwifery, as a ‘mature' student. The original plan had been to train as a nurse and then go back to my old job! However, I loved nursing – especially surgical wards and A&E so I decided to stay. Once qualified as a staff nurse, I got a job with the ‘bank' moving between the Surgical High Dependency Units at Sick Kids and the Western and Eastern Generals.
In the mid 90s I left nursing and returned to parish work. My first Parish was in Glenrothes, setting up community developments and initiatives. I worked closely with the local Health Visitors and Community Nursing services in providing support / help to young people and families in the area. I also worked Fife Council in seeking ways to improve the community facilities and the support/care network within North Glenrothes. In 1998 I left Glenrothes, to join a specialist team working in areas of multi-depravation within West Lothian.
For the past six years I have been the Parish Deacon in Colinton Parish Church. Over the past six years I've been responsible for managing and running a large Children's and Youth Programme as well as having lead responsibility for Pastoral Care.
So what's a Deacon? Well take my work within community, nursing and parish. Mix them with my love for coffee, good wine and holidays – and we may just nearer in finding an answer!
SACH has endorsed the Code of Professional Conduct prepared by all three of the UK professional bodies for healthcare chaplains (SACH, the College of Health Care Chaplains and the Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains). It represents a major step forward in the development of the profession, and provides a basis for greater confidence in the care we give. SACH commends it to patients, staff and chaplains as a document of reference for the best practice of contemporary healthcare chaplaincy.
All members of SACH received a copy of the code in the December mailing. If you would like more copies - for a colleague or for your manager etc then please contact Fred Coutts (Address on the back page) You can also download the code from the SACH website:
Monday 15 th May 2006
10.30 am – 3.00 pm
‘Advancing the Professional Agenda.
What does it mean? '
Scottish Churches House
DUNBLANE, Perthshire FK15 0AP
Tel: 01786 823588
For Directions go to:
The small but busy group which has been working on “Standards for NHSScotland
Chaplaincy Services” has produced a draft document which is about to go out for consultation. This is all part of a process by which it should become possible to develop chaplaincy and spiritual care across the health service in a coordinated way. All involved in chaplaincy, from chaplains themselves, the chaplaincy associations, spiritual care committees, involved managers, faith communities, and others will be invited to comment and contribute to the final document.
A seminar is being planned where comments can be brought together and each of the standards can be discussed following a more general presentation. The date of the seminar is 27 th June and we plan to hold the day in Glenskirlie House at Banknock just south of Stirling. Invitations will be going out shortly but why not pencil it into your diary! We hope that Professor John Swinton will chair the day and David Mitchell will present the standards. Other arrangements are in process of being made. The day will be joint funded by Quality Improvement Scotland (QIS) and NHS Education (NES).
Other items of note include the preparation for a new multi-faith resource which is being planned, produced by NES and to be made available widely throughout the health service from hospitals to GP practices. We are looking at the possibility of developing research opportunities for chaplains and later in the year I believe the revision of the HDL (Health Department Letter) upon which the spiritual care policies are based, will begin.
The subject of chaplaincy was brought up in the ACTS Forum and it was decided that a day for churches to discuss chaplaincy developments and issues might be useful. Hopefully such a day will take place later in the year. Plans are at an early stage and we expect that areas such as the spiritual/religious theme, the employment of chaplains and the generic/denominational discussion will be aired.
Healthcare Chaplaincy Training and Development Officer
The editors are pleased to announce that the Journal is shaping up well for Volume 9 2006. Volume 9 No.1, due out in May, will have a focus on research and time management issues in chaplaincy alongside the usual spread of more general articles. If you've ever been asked “what do you do with your time?” then this issue should hold an interest for you.
Alongside our usual appeal and encouragement for you to get writing for the journal we also have copies of a number of new books for review. We are looking for a review of 250 – 400 words by 30 th June 2006. As a thank you for the review you keep the book and receive a complimentary copy of the issue in which it is published.
If you would like to review any of the following books please contact the editors on email@example.com
- Skills for communicating with patients (2 nd Ed), Silverman J, Kurtz S & Draper J.
- Stroke Survivor: A personal guide to recovery McCann A.
- Life after darkness: A doctors journey through severe depression. Wield C.
- Healthcare and Spirituality. Kliewer S and Saultz J.
- Coming In: Gays and lesbians reclaiming the spiritual journey. Mattmann U.
Georgina Nelson & David Mitchell
This cartoon appeared in the Church Times beside an article warning that some Trusts in England may not be able to pay for chaplains to provide an on-call service when Agenda for Change payments came into force.
The Secretary of SACH is :
Marie Curie Hospice
1 Belmont Road
Glasgow G21 3AY
Telephone: 0141 531 1346
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