An important part of my ministry has always been visiting people in hospital.
At the Eastbourne District General Hospital their own radio station invites a different church from the area to have a service in the chapel every Sunday afternoon broadcast to the patients.
Hellingly’s turn is at the end of September.
Traditionally, there has always been a faith and spiritual element to what our hospitals provide.
Indeed the earliest hospitals were often founded on a religious foundation.
Personally, I have always appreciated being able to visit hospitals, and often it has not been possible to do it inside regular visiting hours.
In the main, I have always found staff helpful and supportive as I have tried to minister at a spiritual level to those I have visited.
Health goes deeper than simply the physical.
It touches upon the emotional, but also for those who can acknowledge it, a spiritual level as well.
Being able to talk to the dying about what they might possibly face in the future can give hope and can sometimes bring a little light to a dark time.
So I was particularly struck by the Birmingham NHS Trust’s appointment of a humanist to be the head of the Chaplaincy Team.
Humanists do not believe in an existence beyond this life, although upholding the highest ideals of being alive with compassion and kindness.
Sadly I know of Christians who fail in this regard!
But I believe their denial of the eternal spiritual dimension is a severe limitation on their ability to minister to the whole person.
The same trend can be seen in the fairly recent subtle change of ethos in the St Wilfrid’s Hospice spiritual care, and in our hospitals is a trend towards an increasingly ambiguous definition of ‘spiritual’ care.
My fear is that the pendulum is slowing and subtly swinging away from a societal acceptance of faith and fundamental spiritual principles more and more.
We are in severe danger of losing a precious element to our society and culture which will leave us the poorer as a result.