I’ve just had a spiritually refreshing conversation with Steve Bushell, Chaplain of our local Mental health NHS trust. Steve has studied Desert Spirituality closely, and together with excellent senior colleagues in the trust is working out a fascinating new integrated approach to Spiritual Care. As he talked about his work, I was reminded of Robin Skynner’s Institutes and how to survive them. There Dr Skynner proved the key contribution staff attitude makes to the health of the whole and the healing of patients. This closes the gap between Spirituality and Religion, which has been so disastrous in Western Christianity.
The key to good healthcare, we decided, was the willingness and ability of the hierarchs to give away control, to support and facilitate rather than direct people in what becomes a healing community, not a controlled-and-controlling bureaucracy. What the hierarchy does builds either understanding and respect, or cynicism, depending on its alignment with its professed values. This reminded me of a wise, experienced and perceptive Vicar telling me recently how he had observed that when he stopped forcing his initiatives on people and doing stuff, far more happened, and in a different, more spiritually significant way. More the Coach, less the professional Guardian of the Sacred; more the resourceful friend, less the eccentric drill sergeant. See Mark 10:42.
Steve and I scoped the role of of the Chaplain as someone who learns and listens carefully to the languages people use to express themselves, a spiritual interpreter, someone who can hold the lines and ask key questions of any and all, including themselves. The prime task is to help people identify where God is in their lives so that he can grow their Sacred Centre... Like Vicars?