Review by TONI EREBOR
The pattern for this book is shaped on recognition that, while religious expressions differ markedly in their presentation, at the core of all religious expressions is a supposition of sacred presence.
Walter Blair Stratford has been a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia since its inception. As well as parish ministry, the author spent 13 years in hospital chaplaincy and a number of other years as secretary to the Queensland state ecumenical council. His continuing involvement in interfaith activity has led to authorship of this book.
Part one is an exploration of some of the complexities that emerge as we engage with other faiths and experience the differences.
It makes clear the necessity of validating faiths within their own parameters.
With the title ‘Spiritual Care’, part two discusses ways of caring for each other in the search for meaning which all undertake from time to time.
The art of spiritual care can be seen in the chapter ‘Dancing God’. Being in touch with a dancing god allows us the liberty to not take life earnestly, but take it as precious. Spiritual care will also engage in focused listening and a creative presence. It will validate differences as expressions of particular religious beliefs and practices.
Part three claims that spirituality cannot be clearly defined. Spirituality has its own elements however, and in describing these we can portray something of the essence of spirituality, and so envisage images that take us into the realm of spirit presence.
Part four focuses on core understandings that must be considered in any practice of spiritual care. These include maintaining a close presence, validating our common humanity, engaging in meaningful dialogue, practicing hospitality, and ensuring that safe habitats are established.
While focussing on spiritual care in a chaplaincy setting, the issues discussed in the book are relevant to anyone in their day-to-day interactions in the wider world.
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