No 31 September 2007
You might recall that at last year's AGM there was a lot of useful discussion about the future of SACH and how best it might serve its members with the impending transfer of employment for whole time chaplains to the NHS and all that it might entail.
The members present instructed the Executive to examine all the issues and make recommendations at the next AGM. The Executive has met with interested parties and sought advice and has come to a decision about those discussions.
There were a number of issues which we needed to consider
The aims and objectives of SACH
The efforts made on behalf of chaplains by Amicus.
The status of the Journal
The Scottish dimension in health policy and delivery of care
Representation of members in employment matters
Arising from these issues came the following options which we considered carefully and at length: 1) retain the status quo, 2) Affiliation or association with Amicus, 3) join with CHCC.
It was clear that, having taken all the issues into account, option 1 was not desirable, as it does not adequately address all the issues.
We then considered the option to join CHCC. There are considerable merits in this option, not least having one body representing chaplains throughout the country and having a larger pool of personnel to draw from as well as a reduction in the administration of members and finance.
One of the difficulties in this course of action is the question of what would happen to the Journal. It is a highly respected and valued academic enterprise which has played a major role in the development of chaplaincy over the last 10 years, as was highlighted at the conference earlier this year. Despite this the Journal is heavily dependent on SACH to fund its publication. In discussions with the Editorial Board the Executive considered the various options put forward for the future of the Journal under the possible merger arrangements and how they would affect it.
We also discussed the differing health agendas in the various parts of the UK. We considered whether a merged body would be able to respond to the Scottish dimension as laid out by the devolved administration as a small part of a larger constituency. We also considered the high regard in which chaplaincy in Scotland is held throughout Europe and America and how that might be affected by a merger.
Given the concerns about the Journal, the national and international agendas and the present aims and objectives of SACH it was decided by the Executive that it would not recommend option 3.
Bearing in mind the aims and objectives of SACH and the negotiations by Amicus on behalf of all chaplains already referred to, the Executive will be recommending option 2, that members wishing the benefits of trade union membership, which SACH does not offer, should make their own arrangements to do so.
This is necessarily a brief outline of the careful and considered discussions which have been happening over recent months. Please do come along to the AGM in Edinburgh to find out more and to have your say. It will also be an opportunity to hear about some of the exciting research proposals which have been worked on by chaplains following the first course in research led by Harriet Mowatt. I hope to see you there.
President of SACH
On 18 th July I was invited to a conference organised by Patanjali Yog Peeth (UK) Trust which took place in the SECC, Glasgow. I was among a small crew of speakers who were totally overshadowed by the main man, Swami Ramdev Ji. This was an Indian, primarily Sikh conference and the main speaker is a highly thought of teacher well known throughout Indian and Sikh circles. What tickled me was the announcement by the chair person that we were being video'd for a potential audience of 300 million!
On a smaller scale I am looking forward to the cross border chaplains' consultation in Cambridge, which will be well over by the time you read this. A chance for chaplains to meet and share our similarities and differences of approach as we try to develop a capability framework and look towards professional chaplaincy qualifications. It is important that we keep in touch with colleagues and share with them our strengths and weaknesses because we are essentially on the same road. I was pleased to share one of the conference days of the College of Healthcare Chaplains at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh – again a good mixture of Scottish but mostly south of the border chaplains.
The NES corporate plan this year contains the intention that we write a Capability Framework for chaplains and healthcare staff. It also asks that following preparation, we should be in a position to commission an HEI (Higher Education Institution ie a university or collaboration) to draw up a curriculum and programme for qualifications in healthcare chaplaincy. Fortunately I have been able to form a project group with dedicated time to work on these joint projects. David Mitchell, Iain Macritchie and Janet Foggie are the project group and I am pleased to have them working with me as well as the many others who serve on committees and groups of various kinds.
Another new group is one representing the chaplaincy associations and NES to look at the possibility of developing an e portfolio as a way of maintaining a record of our CPD, experience and chaplaincy journey. Life is quite complicated and so it's a good time to have a short spell of annual leave to celebrate an event in the life of my significant other.
Study days, courses and conferences have been good occasions and I have been pleased to be able to offer these without charge. I know that many have some difficulty in finding funds for such events. While there are many calls on your time it is encouraging when good numbers take the time to attend and take part. I hope this will continue. I realise that there are always pastoral demands on the time of chaplains, but it is also important to take time away to think, be challenged and re invigorated for the work. The use of the Standards document (for auditing chaplaincy services) and the continuing demand for the Multi Faith Resource suggest that they are being found useful. I believe the Resource has been short listed for some kind of public award. There may even be a free dinner associated with it!
- Carberry Conference 9/10 October
- Recent Appointments Course: 23/4 th October, Beardmore Hotel, Clydebank
Every good wish in your work and all else.
Healthcare Chaplaincy Training and Development Officer
SACH Annual General Meeting
Tuesday 30th October 2007
10.00 am - 3.15 pm
in Arthur Seat Seminar Room, Post Graduate Education Suite
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
On September 4th my pager rang. A very distressed man wished to speak with a chaplain. Gary told me his story. His partner of 20 years was terminally ill, and they wanted to get married. They had often talked about it but never got around to it. Anne had been widowed for over 20 years, Gary had never married. Both were professionals – he an accountant, she a teacher.
We spoke for quite some time, as I absorbed the situation, and I asked about Anne. She had been ill intermittently for years, had previously been as ill as she presently was on a few occasions, but to his shock and dismay he had been told at the weekend that she would not, this time, recover. She was, he said, barely conscious. However, I wanted to see her for myself to see if it would be possible to marry them. The medical and nursing staff were very unwilling for it to go ahead, deeming her incapable of participating meaningfully in such a rite.
Anne was indeed very poorly. Drips and needles and tubes and apparatus were all around. She was dozing when we went into her single room. I knew that if Gary spoke to her she would respond if possible, for patients do respond to the voice of those they know and love, even when staff cannot rouse them. Anne was barely able to respond, but when asked she agreed that she wanted to marry Gary.
I was very unsure, for it didn't seem possible that she could make a knowledgeable response to any question I asked her, but I asked Gary to check with the Registrar what she needed for a special licence and made an appointment to meet him later.
Meanwhile, he organised with the Registrar, obtained a letter from the very reluctant consultant, and I agreed that I would conduct a service the next afternoon if Anne could participate meaningfully. Gary was not in any way able to organise witnesses. He was too distressed and all his energy and time were being taken up caring for Anne, who panicked when he went away, feeling abandoned. So I arranged for two very able, professional men to be witnesses, for we all had to be very sure about what we were doing.
Next morning I spoke to the Registrar on the telephone, assuring her I would not continue with the wedding if I was at all unsure of Anne's ability to engage meaningfully with the service.
Rev John Brewster, Dr Allan Taylor and I presented ourselves at the ward at 5 pm the following day. I asked the nursing staff if one of them would be willing to watch us, not in a legal capacity but in a medical one, to witness that the patient was indeed fully conscious. One of the Ward Sisters agreed, although she announced that she was not in favour of the wedding.
When we went into Anne's room, she appeared sound asleep and Dr Taylor immediately showed his reservation. However, I asked Gary to speak to her. Anne awoke. Really awoke. We were astonished.
I said to Anne that Gary loved her and wanted to marry her. ‘Do you love him' I asked her. She replied in a very strong voice and with great energy and meaning ‘yes I do'. ‘And do you wish to marry him?', and in the same strong voice replied ‘yes I do'. The witnesses indicated that they believed she was sufficiently coherent and aware for the service to go ahead.
Thereupon a very simple and moving wedding ceremony took place, with all of us totally convinced of the rightness and viability of it. Anne voluntarily moved her wedding ring finger out when he came to put her ring on, and she tried to sign her name on the schedule herself – the witnesses however witnessed her name as it was not too clear. We have a photograph of her doing it. She asked ‘do I look alright?' when we took the photographs!
After the wedding Anne was much more peaceful, and the nursing and medical staff all noticed it. She continued to deteriorate though and five days later the SHO could get no response from her whatsoever. She maintained Ann was now comatose. Gary at this point had been out of the room, but when he returned he said she would respond to him, and she did. He asked her did she remember getting married, and she nodded. He asked if she liked being married and she opened her eyes, looked at the doctor and smiled beatifically.
Anne died peacefully the next day
Gary has been in touch by email and phone since then. He has had great comfort in going over the wedding ceremony and looking at the two pictures we took. He has of course no further contact with the hospital, but said on his last phone call: ‘but you look after the soul. That is what we needed'. And that is what we are continuing to do. Care for his soul.
Just to say a BIG Thank You for enabling the advert for our chaplaincy vacancy at Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow to be advertised via your websites.
There was a very good response, a short list and I'm happy to say that the new chaplain is Marian McIlhenny formerly of Scotland, south side of Glasgow. Marian's lived and worked in France and England for the past 31 years managing L'arche community houses and more recently working as a chaplain in the acute sector in mental health in Nottinghamshire in the Rampton Special Mental Unit. I've spoken to her a couple of times and she's looking forward to relocating ‘home'.According to Tom Gordon who was on the interview panel, Marian's lovely and will fit in well with everyone at Hunters Hill, no doubt some of you will meet her in due course.
I leave Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow Friday 31 st August – can't quite believe it now it's literally THIS month! It's been an amazing 3 years here at the hospice and I'm looking forward to working at Marie Curie Newcastle, so Marian will be my colleague.
Thanks again, for your support, it's been so good working with some of you over the last few years, I've always valued your input and the networking in Scotland amongst hospice and palliative care chaplains is second to none. I know I'm going to MISS this aspect of work when I'm in ‘sasanach land'!! Here's to getting to grips with the Church of England hierarchy and ALL that that entails having left it all behind 9 years ago! I'm not saying ‘goodbye' YET…
The Secretary of SACH pro tem is :
Rev Iain Telfer
Spiritual and Pastoral Care
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
51 Little France Crescent
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