“Why Bother? Does it Even Matter?” Read an exclusive extract from Treating Body and Soul

In Peter Wells’ new book, Treating Body and Soul, various healthcare professionals reveal how they meet patients’ spiritual needs in medical settings.

Patients who are facing illness and uncertainty often find themselves reflecting on the bigger questions in life, and the core beliefs or principles they live by. These convictions, religious or otherwise, are integral to a patient’s identity, and consequently to their most fundamental emotional and spiritual needs. Perceptive clinicians have proved that, by recognising and working with their patients’ spiritual requirements, they have been able to significantly improve their patients’ experience in the medical setting.

In this extract, Peter Wells questions why we need to address the needs of the body and the soul in healthcare settings and why this shouldn’t just be the role of the hospital chaplain. He also explains how best to use this book.

Read the exclusive extract from Peter Wells here

For more information on this book, or to buy a copy, please follow this link.

Why healthcare practitioners must learn to self-care

Sarah Parry is a senior lecturer in Clinical and Counselling Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her new book, ‘Effective Self-Care in Clinical Practice,’ explores how compassion can enable clinical practitioners to foster hope and resilience for themselves and their clients. We talked to Sarah about her motivations behind the book and why it’s so important for healthcare practitioners to learn how to effectively self-care. 

Effective Self-Care and Resilience in Clinical Practice is a collection of essays from different practitioners, that explore the need for compassion in therapeutic work. Where did the idea for the book originate from?

Developing a personal compassionate framework for self-care has been an on-going endeavour of mine for some years. When I started working in healthcare settings that could, at times, present multiple challenges to my own well-being, I became increasingly curious as to how to overcome these emotional hurdles. I am also a great believer in the power of stories, both in terms of helping us see through the eyes of another, as well as giving us a mirror to hold up to our own experiences, helping us develop a deeper knowledge of ourselves. My motivation for this book came from my own experiences of struggling with competing demands and a realisation that working harder and harder isn’t always the answer. I wanted to understand more about how people developed effective self-care strategies based on compassionate teachings and practices, to enhance their own well-being, resilience and ability to maintain a hopeful outlook. Consequently, I started talking to colleagues who I knew managed their self-care well, as well as people I didn’t know at all at that stage but whose writings inspired me and encouraged me to think about how well I was looking after myself.

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Chaplains are worthwhile because….

Karen Murphy has worked in hospice chaplaincy for twenty years and has represented chaplaincy at national and international level. She is President of the Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains (AHPCC). Here, she argues the case for hospice chaplains. 

The Association of Hospice and Palliative Chaplains held our annual conference in May and considered the following statement: ‘chaplains are worth having because….’ As a group of skilled, trained and experienced chaplains, we had no problem in accounting for our role and purpose in a palliative care setting. There is a view, however, that in these secular days, the role of the chaplain is no longer valid or necessary. The daily conversations that chaplains share with patients and families soon render this argument redundant.

A patient shared with me recently that she had never had a religious faith, although she often thought it would be of value. Her long held view was ‘when you are gone, you are gone’. Now, facing her mortality having being diagnosed with terminal cancer, her thinking has shifted and for the first time, she is considering her life against an absence of faith. Our conversations are not concerned with my attempts to convert her to my way of thinking or persuade her to find a faith or belief, but to support her in this deeply challenging time. I can enable her to think through her questions and listen. At this point the value of chaplaincy becomes clearer as we offer spiritual listening, which is very different to counselling or social work listening. Chaplains have the capacity to instigate and support conversations that get to the root of someone’s spiritual distress and need. We are not afraid to ask the difficult questions about life’s meaning and purpose, and in my experience, patients seek out those with a belief in order to make sense of the spiritual disturbance and trauma experienced. A patient’s relative expressed this very clearly in a recent conversation, saying: ‘My mother, in her last weeks of life, wasn’t concerned with whether or not the chemotherapy had been successful, or what drugs she would need to be pain free. She trusted the doctors for this. What she valued was the time of the chaplain to help her think about life’s meaning and how to live and die well’.

There is a view that chaplaincy services are a waste of time and resources in a stretched and under –funded health service. The rationale for this view suggests that if patients identify spiritual need, they are likely to have religious faith, therefore will have the support of a local faith community. This view ignores the fact that patients faced with a terminal prognosis, while describing themselves as non-religious, will experience spiritual distress which is unfamiliar and frightening. Chaplains are an essential tool of our health care services which provide distinctive and relevant care for patients who are asking the big questions of life which have never been asked before. The positive impact of chaplaincy based on evidence and research is already emerging, with projects demonstrating the need for fewer GP appointments, reduced medication and a greater sense of well-being to live in the face of impending death. This body of research is growing and will offer to those cynical of chaplaincy, a quantitative and qualitative foundation for the chaplain’s continuing contribution to palliative care services.

For more information on Chaplaincy in Hospice and Palliative Care and to buy a copy of the book, follow this link

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How can so many faiths live peacefully together in a society?

Live well together

As the landscape of our society evolves and becomes ever more multi-cultural and ethnically diverse, one of the biggest elephants in the room has been how we will manage to inspire and create a harmonious society. With so many differing and distinct beliefs living side-by-side, it is sadly little wonder that there are increasing amounts of alienation, prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and racism. A darker, more sectarian society seems to have bludgeoned its way to the surface to exert its noisy influence on social media, tabloid press and sometimes even the national news.

Learning to Live Well Together engages with the issue, offering insights into forging strong relationships with those you have differing religious beliefs from, important for all professionals whose work is impacted by religious diversity. In this extract from the book Tom Wilson discusses ‘trust’, the issues surrounding it, and how to go about building it using his wealth of experience gained from work at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester.

Click the link below to read an exclusive extract from Learning to Live Well Together by Tom Wilson and Riaz Ravat

Read the extract

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‘This is Pilates for the soul’ – Claire Foster-Gilbert talks to us about morality in public life

One year after Brexit, a stellar cast of eminent contributors from of politics, public service and religion explore why now more than ever, public servants must consider and reassess how to keep moral courage in public life alive in this new book of essays – ‘The Moral Heart of Public Service.’ Here, she talks to us about her motivations for writing the book.  

What first motivated you to collate these essays on morality in public life?

Westminster Abbey Institute, of which I am founder-director, was established by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to revitalise morality in public life.  We offer twice yearly programmes of lectures to this end.  We have been able to invite some really stellar speakers and to work hard ourselves to produce thoughtful and high quality lectures.  I wanted to turn those lectures into essays and produce them in a form that would last.  The Institute is meant to offer timely wisdom that is also timeless, so the book form is a good one for us.  The test is whether the essays are still relevant in ten, twenty, even fifty years’ time.

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What’s the difference between a public service organisation and a sailing boat?

In this exclusive extract from ‘The Moral Heart of Public Service,’ Claire Foster-Gilbert of the Westminster Abbey Institute explores why we so often think that members of the public service lack moral integrity, and explains how public service companies, like the police, the military and government, can be imagined as a sailing boat.

Click here to read the extract.

‘We live in an age when noisy moralism is everywhere, and the news and social media have invaded the pulpit. Quiet reflection on moral truth, however, and the noble sobriety of public administration, have become under-valued virtues. All power to a book like this in redressing that imbalance.’
– Matthew Parris, Times columnist and author

For more information and to buy this book, please click here.

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Read the Introduction from ‘Multifaith Chaplaincy in the Workplace’

As the global marketplace grows and becomes more complex, increasing stress is placed upon employees. Businesses are acknowledging this change in work habits by adapting the workplace to offer support through multifaith chaplaincy. Through the experience of starting the first multifaith chaplaincy in Canary Wharf, author Fiona Stewart-Darling offers insights into current conditions and challenges of chaplaincy in the business community.

This book will be of particular interest to those working in or setting up chaplaincies in different contexts such as hospitals, prisons, town centre chaplaincies working with businesses and business leaders, particularly those involved in diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Follow this link to read the Introduction from Multifaith Chaplaincy in the Workplace

For more information on this book, or to buy a copy, please click here.

How can faith positively impact the workplace?

Anglican chaplain and author Fiona Stewart-Darling explains how the multifaith chaplaincy at Canary Wharf has contributed to the well-being of the many people who work in one of the busiest centres of global finance. 

While many argue that personal faith is on the decrease, this does not hold true for the public arena. In my book I argue that far from disappearing from our society, faith and religion are still very much present and an important part of many people’s lives, and increasingly visible and active in the public arena. This has been my experience, having spent a number of years working as a chaplain with an international business community from the financial and professional services industry, in Canary Wharf, East London. During this time, I have become aware of an increasing open generosity towards religion and belief and the distinctive role chaplaincy can play in the workplace.

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The Way of the Hermit – an interview with Mario I. Aguilar

 

 

Mario I. Aguilar is Professor of Religion & Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion & Politics at the University of St Andrews. He is also a poet, an eremitic Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate, and has published widely in his interests in the theology of contemplation, the history of religion and issues of interfaith dialogue. We asked him some questions about his new book – The Way of the Hermit – and his life as a hermit. 

 

A hermit’s lifestyle is one of solitude and seclusion from society. When and why did you decide to become a hermit?

As I mentioned in the opening of my book I always wanted to be a hermit. However, this wish had to wait for years as I was a missionary in Africa and then started an academic career. To become a hermit or a monk requires a long process of discernment and this process was carried out over a period of twenty years with the informal support of different spiritual directors. I would say that the decision was taken when Cardinal O’Brien encouraged me to follow this different path within the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. The hermitage and the daily routines developed out of an ongoing prayer life rather than out of an institutional setting. This was seven years ago in Scotland and then I opened a hermitage in Chile.

Some people might find it surprising that you are a professor of religion and a political activist, as well as a hermit. How do you balance these two different sides of your life?

There is only one single life in every human being, thus a hermit relies on a discipline of life where the day is marked by several activities. The life of a hermit, in my case in the Benedictine tradition, starts very early (3.45am) with meditation and silence until it is time to start the university day. During the day, I extend that prayer to those whom I teach and my fellow researchers. Political activism happens naturally because it is an extension of God’s action in the world, a world that should live more deeply justice, peace and understanding. I return to the hermitage happy to be left with God but with reports to be written on behalf of asylum seekers, correspondence, and my own academic studies currently related to India and Tibet.

Your book, The Way of the Hermit, documents your conversations with hermits in Scotland, Chile and India. Did the lives of these fellow pilgrims seem similar or different to your own, and in what ways?

The lives and hopes of all human beings are very similar as the Dalai Lama would reiterate. Thus, I have found a deep communion and friendship with others who seek the Absolute in India and Chile. Particularly in India I have met over the years Buddhist monks, Hindu Sadhus and Sikh scholars with whom we have shared not intellectual thoughts but our very souls, eating together, chanting, and laughing about the joys of being together. I must confess that I have found that many people who live a religious commitment tend to be sad, I do not understand that. On returning to see others at the Golden Temple or in the bathing areas of Varanasi I have always found a warm hand and a ready smile. God has given us a journey and it is great to do it with others even when in silence.

The book explores how living a life of silence and contemplation can contribute to interfaith dialogue. Could you explain how this is so?

The Western world uses too many words, too many texts and too many twitters. We try to understand something to accept its relevance. In silence the quarrels disappear because in silence and contemplation we cannot run away from who we are: human beings on a journey. The many dialogues between faith practitioners in conferences and formal meetings are very fruitful indeed. However, I have found a deeper dialogue sitting in silence with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs because it is that very silence that binds us. I cannot speak Punjabi or Hindi but I can understand our common language of silence, reverence and devotion.

What have been the toughest challenges you’ve faced while living an eremitic lifestyle?

It has always been the challenges from outsiders who want a writer and a monk to become a small celebrity. I have had to clarify many times that hermits do not need other hermits to carry on their lives and that I do not have meditation classes in my hermitage. The keeping of a daily structure and discipline gets interrupted sometimes but I return to read the lives of hermits I admire and that set a very clear example for me: Abishiktananda, Bede Griffiths, Raimon Panikkar, and those sadhus without name who have inspired me in India over many years.

Do you have any advice for readers who would like to apply eremitic practises to their own lives?

Set a small routine of prayer and meditation for your daily life, start and keep to it. Do not read about it, or talk too much about it, just do it! And the Absolute will be waiting for you.

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