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APC Forum Resource Reviews November 2018


APC Forum, November 2018, Vol. 20 No. 7



The Forgiveness Handbook: Spiritual Wisdom and Practice for the Journey to Freedom, Healing and Peace
Editors at Skylight Paths (Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015, 242 pages, hardcover, softcover, Ebook)
 
The Forgiveness Handbook is a compilation of essays, passages of Scripture from several religious traditions, suggested practical spiritual practices, and many stories, all of which touch on some aspect of forgiveness. The book looks at forgiveness with a wide perspective: letting go, forgiveness in relationships (including caregiving, divorce, and suicide), forgiveness in relationship to God, accepting forgiveness, loving one’s enemies, forgiveness as it relates to justice and peace, and finally cultivating a forgiving heart.
 
In her introduction to the book, The Rev. Canon Marianne Wells Borg quotes one of the essayists, Rev. Donna Schaper: “Forgiveness can happen early or late—when we realize just how short life is, we usually want it to happen early. We want to [have] the goal of perpetual forgiveness already in our hearts” ( ix).  Borg writes that Augustine had come late to his loving relationship with God.  She adds, “I can say the same about my relationship to forgiveness: How late I came to love you. Beauty. Wisdom. So ancient. And so fresh. This book has come to me late. But not too late." 

The diversity of the authors chosen by the editors is impressive. They present many thoughtful ideas on forgiveness. This book is helpful whether one is seeking assistance in forgiving, in being forgiven, or in other spiritual issues around forgiveness.
 
Intended for personal use, group discussion, or for professional counseling, this book would also be a helpful resource on a chaplain’s bookshelf, useful in counseling a patient/inmate/student/family member who is struggling with forgiveness. It is also useful for those who deal with forgiveness issues themselves.
 
The chapters are fascinating not only in their diversity, but in the creativity and wisdom of the writers. They cover topics such as forgiving a person who has committed suicide (with excellent journaling ideas for the reader), granting ourselves absolution, offering hospitality to “enemies,” and warding off and getting rid of ill feelings and mistrust that have built up over time. This book is one that will likely leave its reader feeling both comforted and energized.  Those who read it may also move forward in their journey toward freedom, healing and peace.
 
Reviewed by Chaplain Marcia Marino, DMin BCC, Online Instructor, Church of the Larger Fellowship (Unitarian Universalist), Boston, MA.




Paediatric Chaplaincy: Principles, Practices and Skills
Eds. Paul Nash, Mark Bartel and Sally Nash (London/Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018, 320 pages, paperback, Ebook)
 
In their edited volume, Nash, Bartel, and Nash set out to demonstrate what is unique about pediatric chaplaincy, and what is integral to providing that chaplaincy.  In their introduction, they state that pediatric chaplaincy is unique for the complex issues of authority, of navigating the medical world, and of managing the many kinds of transitions that pediatric patients and families face.  This volume intends to work both as an introductory text for student chaplains and as a reference text for professional chaplains.  It should be useful for any pediatric spiritual care provider.
 
This volume has a number of strengths.  First, it is loaded with illustrations drawn from pediatric chaplains’ clinical experience.  The illustrations that show how children make meaning are particularly revealing.  They demonstrate how rich the spiritual lives of children are.  They encourage chaplains who may have had extensive theological and professional training to recover their own sense of imagination as they partner with patients in the search for the sacred.
 
Second, the chapters and sections are organized by topic, making it easy to browse for reference.  The first half of the book focuses on general topics, and the second half touches on a variety of particular themes and interests, such as pediatric palliative care (Chapter 16) and research (Chapter 20).  Quite helpfully, each chapter concludes with a summary, focus questions, suggestions for future research, and bibliography.  This common format makes the book feel like a dialogue. 
 
Some limitations stem from the same limitations that affect any survey text: in 320 pages, breadth is going to sacrifice depth at some point.  For example, Chapter 14 (“Working with Trauma and Abuse”) uses examples mostly drawn from isolated traumatic accidents, such as a “pedestrian vs. auto” scenario.  However, recent research on trauma-informed care and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) suggests that trauma is often complex, chronic, and intertwined with systemic racism and poverty.  I would suggest that ACEs and the impact of race on health disparities are vital enough of topics for pediatric chaplains to warrant fuller discussion in the volume.
 
Overall, Paediatric Chaplaincy is an excellent resource.  I wish I had had a text like this when I was a chaplain resident at a children’s hospital.  It provides a balanced look at the many facets of pediatric chaplaincy: care of patients, families, staff, and self; acute, chronic, and terminal illness; medical, emotional, and spiritual interventions.  It generated ideas for interventions to incorporate into my own practice.  It exposed me to research with which I wasn’t familiar.  There may be a case to be made that pediatric chaplaincy requires more creativity, but I think there are lessons to be drawn that could restore a creative edge to any chaplain’s practice.
 
Reviewed by Paul Goodenough MDiv BCC, Chaplain Fellow, Bishop Anderson House/John H Stroger Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL




A Personal Spirituality: Finding Your Own Way to a Meaningful Life
Thomas Moore (Boulder, Colorado:  Sounds True, 2017, 6 audio CDs totaling 7 hours)
Thomas Moore trained to be a Catholic priest, lived for a time as a monk, but was never ordained. He went on to become a professor of religious studies and then a psychotherapist. He describes himself as both a Zen Catholic and a life-long seeker of a spirituality that is ordinary, not separated from daily life. Throughout these six lectures he is often autobiographical.

In his first, “Embracing the Secular and the Spiritual,” he recommends responding to the rapid onslaught of change and secularization by embracing the paradox of remaining rooted in aspects of one’s religious tradition while exploring others in order to find deeper truth. He hopes our culture can find and embrace a sacred base. In the second, “Dream Work as Spiritual Practice,” he describes his appreciation for the work of Carl Jung and James Hillman and how this led him to focus as a therapist primarily on dreams, not seeking intellectual interpretations, but embracing the images, travelling with them consciously and forming ongoing relationships with the characters within them.

In the third, “Ordinary Mysticism,” he differentiates soul from spirit. The former takes one downward into ever deeper layers of oneself. The latter addresses the dimension of life that wants to transcend upward beyond our daily existence to encounters with the divine. He recommends that the latter is best done through very ordinary life experiences such as being in nature, playing or listening to music, drawing or taking pictures, cooking, shopping and walking.

In the fourth, “The Relationship between Spirituality and Sexuality,” he urges all to “cultivate pleasure modestly in everything we do.” He offers 13 suggestions for putting spirituality back into sexuality, hoping religion and sexuality can cease to be enemies. In the fifth, “Art, Intuition and Life,” Moore urges the seeker to view the arts not as entertainment but as guides and pathways to the mysteries and meaning of life. He counsels avoidance of separating spiritual from secular artists and offers illustrations from painting, music, architecture and writing, especially poets.

In the final lecture, “Adapting the Monastic Spirit,” Moore revisions the elements of monastic life, including community, prayer, rituals, study and the Lectio Divina, blurring the distinction between sacred and secular and blending the traditional and innovative. He concludes with 10 summary statements of his principles for spiritual practice.

Anyone seeking to develop, change or enrich their spiritual practices would benefit from the multiple suggestions that are offered throughout. Any seeker of a greater understanding of one way spirituality and psychology can intersect or how discussion of spirituality could be use in interreligious dialog would benefit from these lectures. They are suitable for individual continuing education and in educational settings with spiritually mature adults.

Roy F. Olson DMin BCC, endorsed by the ELCA, is mostly retired but continues to work as an on-call chaplain at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois.