Pastoral Care Services “chaplaincy” can frequently be found in most of the following sectors: Health Care, Education, Industry and Commerce – even shopping centres! They include a dedicated group of caring individuals, a chaplain (most religious faiths being represented). The most common group can be found on the streets, at weekends: the “Street Pastors”, who look after and befriend the vulnerable.
The care aspect for most pastoral workers is non-bias, and does not infringe on anyone’s belief or non-belief, but offers a non-judgemental support structure alongside key professionals: hospital staff, educators, employers and key charities. This less formal spiritual care offers support to those who may be ill, vulnerable or in some need. But what do they do?
Listen, the primary task is to be a good listener, giving opportunity for service users to share their stories and concerns. It is in the experience of shared listening that one experiences healing.
Focus/Signposting: Simply listening, writing a letter, making a phone call, being an advocate or, signposting the service user to professionals, that deal with: medical matters, benefits, basic supplies, homelessness etc. All are valued forms of caring.
Pray/Spiritualise: Largely due to the rise in incidents of religious abuse, or incitement of it has been seen advisable to seek permission before offering to pray – avoiding offence. Where there is a difference in religious belief, the offer to seek that persons’ minister is frequently welcomed. Religion is a difficult terrain, it is noted that praying together can be helpful in the healing process, but more importantly, that the person offering to pray is the one where the service user will feel at ease.
Healing: The major charities engaged in palliative care, are often known to use alternative/complementary therapies. This is also in some areas becoming welcomed in Spiritual care; for example, Reiki: hands on spiritual healing, anointing (Holy Unction) provided by a Priest. The benefits being welcomed by service users, but again, personal choice is an important matter for all concerned.
The most important focus for the care professional is to ensure that spiritual care is part of the core provision and that the personal choice of the service user is respected in accordance with any administrative records that record such preferences. The benefit of spiritual care can frequently be a source of comfort and encouragement that compliments care provision.