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Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Mennorode Statement of the 12th ENHCC Consultation 2012



The Mennorode Statement of the 12th ENHCC Consultation 2012
1. Integral view
As chaplains, we understand the human person in a holistic and integral way. This means that four dimensions are essential in the human person: the physical, psychological, social and spiritual. In healthcare, the spiritual dimension is not always fully recognised, and even if recognised, it is not always put into practice. In a diverse society, it is a challenge to make the importance of the spiritual dimension understandable.
2. Inter-disciplinarity
All professionals have a shared responsibility in the care for the whole person. Therefore, collaboration is essential. In working together the different professional groups have a special responsibility. Chaplains are specialists in the care for the spiritual dimension. Chaplains should be aware of their own beliefs, tradition and the culture in which they live in order to respect and to understand the patient and the other caregivers.
3. Intra-disciplinarity
Chaplains should also work in an intra-disciplinary way within chaplaincy. This implies a clear identity of all chaplains, a lived relation with their Church, faith community or organisation and enough freedom to organise their work. It also implies a common identity of all chaplains as being responsible for the spiritual care of all in the healthcare community.
4. ‘Multi-linguality’
Working in complex and continuously changing healthcare systems, chaplains, like all professionals, need professional training, including knowledge of and a critical attitude towards the system. Chaplains should be able to explain the specific nature of their work in a common language that is understandable for all people involved in the care system and in wider society. Chaplains should be ‘multilingual’.

5. Integration
There is a full spectrum of involvement from complete isolation to total integration. Chaplaincy should be integrated in the healthcare system, but there is no golden rule for the degree of integration: this is dependent on the people involved and the context. In any case, there must be a guarantee of the particular confidentiality linked to chaplaincy.
6. Evaluation
Chaplains work as professionals in a professional context.  Some aspects of spiritual care can be evaluated, therefore chaplaincy should develop its own standards of measurement based on validated methods.
7. Prophecy
Chaplaincy and the chaplains’ prophetic task is to enable the healthcare system to be person-centred and to contribute to the ongoing development of the healthcare system and the Church or faith community.
8. Hope
In the awareness that human life is subject to many uncontrollable events, chaplains may give expression to incurable, irresolvable or tragic situations in life. They may help people to make a connection between their own life story and stories of sacredness or human wisdom in relation to meaning and hope.


Remembering Dad as light perfuses mist...

On this day, 10 June 2011 I gathered with my mum, siblings and our families around the bedside of my Dad as he journeyed through his final earthly hours. These final hours were spent in hospital. The evening before we were on a journey of interrupted recovery, still holding hope that he might recover, that treatment was still possible. However between the darkness hours of 01:00 and 03:30 it became painfully real to us that recovery in earthly terms was not possible. In hindsight I am only beginning to appreciate the depth and distance of that journey from one future to another. This was telescoped into a very short period of linear time and yet its consequence is for ever.

I have journeyed with so many families at a time such as this and yet only now do I realise what it is to be in that lonely place where we can be presented with options when in effect there are no real options. The only option is to be a companion with the one we love. The mists of life and death, of reality and disbelief come down like a thick fog veiling and numbing past, present and future. In this fog past, present and future become as one. We live in a misty 'now' and stay there for whatever length it takes. Somedays the fog lifts, and on others it descends again -often when least expected.

I am so grateful that our last two hours or so were spent loving my Dad form this world to the next in a tender and gentle way. Each of us played our part as we saw our worlds changing in front of us, in the presence of the one, who with our mum had supported us for all the years that had gone before. She of course misses his presence more than any of us. Now in a timeless metamorphosis everything was changing for each of us during those few hours, the impact of which will unfold for each of us in different ways in the time ahead. There in an Intensive Care Unit where the rising sun lit up my Dad's bedspace as its beams flooded through the fan-light above his bed. The sun rising above the Irish Sea just after 5am that Friday morning brought a hopeful radiance and strength into what was for those few hours our little world.

Today a year later I am pained to be away from my family, my mother, my brothers and sisters, my wife and children as they gather to honour my dad. In the quietness of a wildlife park in the Netherlands it is strangely apt to think of Dad as this place, like him is close to the rhythm of nature and the land. I will remember him and my family at the eucharist here.

So now a year later, a new journey is beginning with so much still to unfold. However the sunlight that filled Dad's bedspace that morning continues to pierce through the mist with light and hope, warmth and strength.




So while separated by distance I am delighted to post this photo from yesterday of my three youngest who play in the grass at home on the farm this weekend. It evokes so many memories of a treasured and carefree childhood on the land (coupled with very hard work too!)






The other is a special memory of dad accompanied by one of his grandchildren and a dog as he went about his work...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

European Healthcare Chaplains: Our common purpose

It has been my privilege to represent the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains at the 12th Consultation of the European Network of Healthcare Chaplains meeting at Mennorode Conference Centre in the beautiful National Park De Hoge Veluwe, about an hour from Amsterdam. The theme of the consultation (which meets every two years) is 'Working together -The challenge for chaplaincy in an interdisciplinary era'

53 of us have gathered from 23 countries and regions from across the ecumenical spectrum to share, receive, pray, learn and reflect together. The diversity of tradition, practice and outlook is very rich, yet at they same time there is a very powerful sense of the common practice of spiritual care-giving that unites us all. We have been challenged to reflect on how we minister and work in the context of the wider healthcare discipline working with fellow professionals and colleagues to offer the very best holistic or 'total' patient care and experience.

We have been exploring how we best place ourselves in what for many of us is two different worlds - the world of a Faith Community and the world of the Healthcare Institution. We have explored how we contribute to and work with and within the whole team of carers in a healthcare setting to contribute to the well-being of the person we care for -after all they are at the heart of all our work and care.  Dr Ewan Kelly in his presentation challenged us to engage at both the systemic and the operational level to influence and shape patient and healthcare.


We visited some healthcare institutions in Amsterdam to see how chaplains work in integrated team settings. I visited the Academisch Medisch Centrum and was very impressed with the 'Silent room' that was a space for all faiths in the middle of a very busy hospital and to see in particular the role of the chaplain in the paediatric and neonatal area.

At this stage in the consultation, what strikes me most is the deep level of care and professional expertise that is evident in so many places. The sharing of our stories and insights reveals a common sense of purpose and professional 'connectedness' across so many cultures, traditions and health systems. It is a reminder that as 'spiritual care-givers' -the term most used in the Netherlands- we have something distinctive to offer to the healthcare community and not just amongst patients. We are called to nurture the soul of the health system and to humanise it when there is a strong emphasis towards 'technologising' it. In the words of Professor Ruard Ganzevoort our care is in the 'relational not technical'.

We care for people and not illnesses. In the words of our Network Co-ordinator Dr Anne Vandenhoek  we need as healthcare chaplains and spiritual care-givers to be able to speak many languages -of faith, of spirituality, of healthcare, of economics, of management, of humanity and so forth.


Our hosts, and in particular Gabrielle Gies,  Joost Verhoef, Simon Evers and Robert Koorneef have been wonderful examples of hospitality and grace.

As I sit outside the beautiful eco-chapel at Mennorode, in the middle of a national wildlife park, there is a water feature that is visible from the inside through the glass front. From inside we can see the water rising from within a tree trunk but outside we hear it bubbling in the midst of birdsong. It is a constant reminder of the never-ending source of all life and care that we as chaplains seek to identify with those we care for.
This is a privileged ministry, vocation and profession within healthcare.
It is our joy -with others- to nurture, cherish and celebrate the gift that is humanity and along the way discovering meaning, value and purpose as we embrace our human story with the story of the sacred.