Pastoral and Diverse | The Community
The Anglican Church of Canada home page
Sites at the Anglican Church of CanadaFind a ChurchFrequently Asked QuestionsStaff Listing

Pastoral and Diverse

Since reading about the cuts in correctional chaplaincy I have been reflecting with despair. From at least two or three directions. It begins with my personal upset that our present government appears to show little understanding or recognition of diversity. I was alarmed when it was decided that a Wiccan Chaplain was inappropriate and not needed. My alarm increased when the decision-making around the fact to let go of  part time chaplains in corrections was financially led without discernment into the fact that most were non Christian. The quick remark to explain the decision, showing no research, was that Christian Chaplains can care for everyone. This remark met my own frustration about the direction of hospital chaplains to becoming washed out generalized spiritual care givers. Our largest education program called CASC (Canadian Association of Spiritual Care) now works to form care providers who are psychotherapists with a spiritual care modality. Many disciplines can claim that. (I will expand on my own thoughts and hopes for the direction and education of chaplaincy in a future blog.)  Pastoral care which I seek to bring as a chaplain is different. I have found few better ways of describing the difference than the words of Joseph J. Driscoll of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains in the U.S:

During my sabbatical while working on a manuscript for an upcoming book on spirituality and medicine, I was delineating a “menu of spiritual care services” so that others on the health care team could understand exactly what we offer to our patients, residents, parishioners, or clients. When I came to choose a term for “patient visitation,” the regular interaction with those to whom we minister (in contrast to more specialized services such as “ethical consultation” or “ministry to staff”), I realized the power of the term pastoral care.

Here’s what I wrote. . . . I would like to distinguish pastoral care provided by the professional Chaplain from spiritual care provided by all members on the health care team. Pastoral care is specific in its history, ecclesiastical or congregational authorization, training, skill sets, licensure, and patient focus. Spiritual care is general in that all have some greater or lesser responsibility for the spiritual dimension of the person’s well being and health. Pastoral care is one specific kind of spiritual care….

In addition to history and tradition, I have come to realize that if everyone is offering spiritual care, then what defines what the chaplain does that others on the team are neither called nor skilled to perform? For a long time some of us spoke of professional spiritual care in contrast to a general concept of spiritual care. My recent experience, however, particularly with the Harvard program, Spirituality and Medicine, is that the nurses, and now even physicians, will strongly claim that they are doing spiritual care, and further, at times, will not even reference the chaplain, never mind his or her unique competence in the field.

On the other hand, none of these professions can or do lay claim to pastoral care. Pastoral care emerges from the religious traditions, historically Christian, but now clearly interfaith in the ranks of the professional bodies.

Pastoral care is also highly symbolic. It is not simply the tending to the spiritual needs of a person. The pastoral care person, the chaplain, represents the religious tradition before he or she ever says a word or offers a gesture of support. The patient, resident or client (or even parishioner who is inactive or alienated), whether religious or not, knows that the provider is not merely a single individual with listening and responding skills, but the provider is also a whole community with traditions and rituals.

As a hospital chaplain I visit and care for people of all faiths and no faith and in between. From Agnostic to Christian to Wiccan to Seventh Day Adventist to Aboriginal Spirituality to Jehovah Witness to Muslim to Humanist to Jewish to Buddhist to Atheist. And all the myriad of magic and mystery and earthiness in-between and beyond. And I learn and grow from everyone. However, I could not do this without support from colleagues of different faith backgrounds in chaplaincy who have expertise and knowledge. And sadly sometimes I have no one to turn to. Diversity teaches and opens up the world. My learning from my patients is a gift I treasure but it is not their responsibility to teach me. I need to seek out wisdom from my colleagues in order to give the care. Cultural references and images of God and surrender and awe are not all one and the same. And words are powerful. Everyone has a right (an actual legal right too) to the good care of hearing their words of faith spoken with knowledge and accountability. And no matter who I visit I still arrive wrapped in my own identity and faith as a Christian, an Anglican. I offer pastoral care from my faith of a welcoming loving God of all life and I have never been received with anything but gratefulness and the desire for connection. But many times in order to give the best care I need to call a Chaplain who is different from me. Here below are the words of Archbishop Fred Hiltz words from his recent letter to the minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews. I am grateful for his letter and in full agreement :

As is the case with our military chaplains, correctional chaplaincy is responding to a growing diversity in the prison population by including religious support from many faith traditions primarily through part-time arrangements.

The decision to cut all part-time chaplains will have a detrimental effect on the functioning of the prison chaplaincy program and risks having a de facto discriminatory effect. Value for taxpayer dollars needs to take into account the importance of providing adequate chaplaincy services to meet the needs of a changing and diversified Canadian population, something that contributes to the overall good and safety of the Canadian public.

Joanne Davies

About Joanne Davies

I am a Hospital Chaplain in Toronto. I began doing on call work during my Divinity studies. After receiving my M.Div. I completed a year’s residency in CPE at St. Michael’s hospital. For the past 11 years I have been a Toronto Diocesan Chaplain. I am the Ecumenical Chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Chaplain at St. John’s Rehab. I am also an Anglican priest. And a Trekkie. And a Vegetarian who loves to vacation in Venice Beach, California.

This entry was posted in Call the Chaplain and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Pastoral and Diverse

  1. Thank you for your post which was both insightful and challenging.  I welcomed your quotes which brought clarity to the discussion as to what we have come to understand as ‘pastoral’ and ‘spiritual’ care.

    Your post raised for me a number of questions…

    Why do hospitals and other institutions give credence to only one model of training for chaplains ? in both Canada and the USA Clinical Pastoral Education has a monopoly in the provision of education.   Why not an apprenticeship model, a three year training program with a minimum wage (rather than paying to hospital to let you work for them) coupled with a degree program which is targeted at chaplains.  The degree program at the University of Wales, St Michael’s college, would be an excellent example, where military, school and hospital chaplains receive their academic training.


    I find myself asking why in the whole of Canada there are no certified chaplains in the Canadian Association Spiritual Care from the Hindu and Sikh faiths and as far as I am aware there is only one Muslim.  Does the current model of CPE exclude them in some way ? are the requirements to be certified to Western / Christian ?


    If we wish to include chaplains from faiths to work our hospitals and prisons are we doing enough to ensure we are not putting obstacles in their way to employment and training?


    Your points raised as to who can undertake spiritual care was interesting, for as a qualified Social Worker, I am aware that the curriculum for many social work schools includes teaching on this area. Furthermore, colleges are now offering a graduate certificate in contemplative practise for Social Workers, giving further training in the provision of spiritual care.

    So that being said, if spiritual care is something everyone can undertake,  what is unique about chaplains…. Unless chaplains can answer this and find what is unique, then I fear posts will be lost as there are plenty of social workers, nurses and psychotherapists all too keen and readily available to take up the job of spiritual care provider….


  2. A wonderful and very timely reflection! My spouse and I had a similar lively discussion about prison chaplaincy and the rights of an incarcerated individual. He is a longtime atheist and yet was adamant that the government needed to revisit these cuts. He framed chaplaincy (not just generalized spiritual care) as similar to any number of things that the government should be required to provide, like clothing, food, and other necessities, specifically, because by being incarcerated people are no longer able to access any of the regular things they would normally access. No-one in government would dare say to an incoming inmate, “You can’t wear the shoes you came in, but we’re just going to give you shower flip-flops instead of actual shoes because flip-flops are a kind of shoe.” That’s how I feel about these cuts. I think you’ve touched on something: there’s a big difference between “spiritual care” and chaplaincy. A chaplain, as you say, represents much more than an individual. A chaplain is there to represent an entire community (and in some cases, a whole tradition, if she’s the only one representing that tradition in the prison system). They are trained very specifically to answer to spiritual longing and need using the tools from that tradition, and that can be the difference between full integration into society once a sentence has been served (say, by having a church/temple/mosque/community to go to) and loneliness, alienation, and high rates of re-offense later. How can the government not see this?

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *