Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, Vol 5, No 2 (2017)

https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.34268

https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.34268

Review

Stephen Faller, The Art of Spiritual Midwifery: diaLogos and Dialectic in the Classical Tradition. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2015, 139 pp. (Pbk). ISBN: 978-0-71889-415-3, £15.00.

Reviewed by: Marion Chatterley, Chaplain to people living with HIV and Hepatitis C, Diocese of Edinburgh. Emmaus House, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Email: [email protected]

The title of this volume feels very current, combining as it does a nod towards the arts alongside a clear indication that this is a book that deals with change. In a political climate of uncertainty, at a time when the major denominations are considering what it means to be church in the early twenty-first century, this book offers some interesting insights. The author is clear that spiritual journeying is a process that takes its own time – hence the references to midwifery and birth. There is no quick fix for either midwife or the one giving birth; this book encourages a measured approach, recognizing that the Spirit moves in God’s time, not ours.

The author works as a hospital chaplain and is a CPE supervisor. The book emerges in part from a symposium which was held in 2012 at Capital Health in New Jersey, the hospital where Faller exercises his ministry. The author used the symposium as a forum to discuss the draft text of his book and to invite feedback from a number of colleagues in the field. He is clear that he would like his text to stimulate wider dialogue, to encourage others both on their own spiritual journeys and in their encouragement of the journeys of others.

The book is divided into four parts, each with its own shape and integrity. Part 1, Poetics, Aesthetics and Ethics, sets the framework and shape for the text. The author has studied the writings of Kierkegaard at length and that work is referenced throughout the book. A deep interest in philosophy emerges in this section, grounding the theology within a classical framework. There is an interesting exploration of the concept of soul, suggesting that it may be the “unique set of relationships between the parts that make us human” (p. 15). The section concludes with a helpful summary, making it useful as a tool for study.

Part 2, Physique and Physics, explores the thinking of Kierkegaard and Socrates in more depth. This is a deeply reflective chapter, offering cognitive underpinning for those engaged in the praxis of spiritual care. The author offers an interesting suggestion that we might balance the ministry of presence with a ministry of absence, actively making space for God. He offers some tangible examples of how he has offered spiritual care in different and unusual ways.

Part 3, Immanence and Emanations, uses psalmody and parables and is a more Jesus-centred section of the book. There are references to centring and prayer, useful suggestions for practitioners, whether they are experienced or just at the start of their ministry in chaplaincy.

Part 4 shares learning from the symposium that considered the manuscript. Participants in that event are quoted and the author takes time to respond. This section gives an interesting insight into the genesis of the book.

This book is firmly rooted in the experience of ministering within a healthcare setting. It offers deep reflection and makes interesting connections between philosophical thought and the practice of ministry within the author’s workplace. It will be useful for both students and practitioners who are looking for tools for reflection. It may also be of interest to those in wider fields of ministry who are seeking to reflect on the foundations of ministry. This is not primarily a source of practical ideas for ministry; rather it is a text which encourages reflexivity in the reader and gives tools to encourage the reader’s distinctive creative approach to come to birth.

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