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Spiritual Care with Sick Children & Young People

Author: P Nash, K Darby and S Nash
Published By: Jessica Kingsley (London)
Pages: 220
Price: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84905 389 1

Reviewed by William Ruddle.

I wish I had had this book when I first became a hospital chaplain. Thrust as I was on day one into the paediatric department (on the grounds that I was the only chaplain who had children!), I was left to fend for myself in a field that I have since learnt has a unique set of parameters and skill-set required to fully engage with sick children, young people and their families. If you ever find yourself in the same boat – READ THIS BOOK FIRST!

This book is sure to become required reading for any paediatric chaplain and I would commend it to anyone who wishes to engage holistically with sick children in their care. Moreover, every church minister at some point in their ministry is likely to have a sick child in their congregation and therefore this book should not be side-lined as a sector specific text only.

Impressively structured, the authors weave together intelligent theological reflection, experienced praxis and case studies that illuminate the principles being revealed and discussed. Beginning with standard introduction to spiritual care principles, it quickly moves on to describe a model of chaplaincy around the notion of `Interpretive Spiritual Encounters’ (ISE). Essentially, an ISE is any encounter that is purposefully seeking to unlock, understand and join in a spiritual encounter that children are clearly open to exploring during times of sickness. Through a number of `activities’ modelled, practitioners are given the skills to encounter, engage and journey with children through the frightening, confusing and often difficult-to-describe experience of serious illness.

Personally, I would have liked chapter 9 on ‘Tensions and Issues’ to have been explored a little more fully, but I appreciate that this is a practitioner’s text, not a political or theological treatise. Chapter 7 is a godsend as it provides resources for how to engage with healthy siblings, an often neglected area of care when the patient and the parent rightly consume so much attention.

At 220 pages, I found myself engrossed and it made for a stimulating afternoon’s reading. If you are blessed to have a whole-age community in your church, I urge you not to wait until one of the children is very ill before picking up this text. Yet if you do, you will find this an excellent guide through what is undoubtedly one of the most taxing tasks of ministry today.

William Ruddle

Baptist Minister currently working as a hospital chaplain

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You are reading Issue 65 of Ministry Today, published in November 2015.

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