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APC Forum Resource Reviews September 2019

APC Forum, September 2019, Vol. 21 No. 5

Caregiving to Muslims: A Guide for Chaplains, Counselors, Healthcare and Social Workers
Imam Muhammad Hatim PhD DMin (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017, 188 pages, Kindle, Softcover)

“The main purpose of this book is to offer suggestions for Islamic compassionate care to individual healthcare workers and administrators in related institutions” (19). Dr. Hatim begins his book with this sentence. His desire is to place in the hands of chaplains, counselors and other caregivers a resource for “cultural competency” as care is provided for those who practice the Islamic faith. He defines “pastoral care” as a “term of art” (19) and equates it with the term “Islamic companionate care.” He clearly states, “If non-Muslim caregivers are to be effective and have an authentic relationship with Muslim patients and clients, it is incumbent upon them to be as informed about Al-Islam and Muslims as possible” (19).
Dr. Hatim begins the book with a discussion on the political nature of the United States during and following the election of President Donald Trump. He feels this is important to gain a clearer understanding of some of the issues a Muslim may face while he/she is hospitalized. He states, “America has a shadow self (Jung, 1933, pg.35) that informs its relationship with Muslims around the world” (28). He then provides a very helpful list of possible concerns on pages 29 and 30. While he acknowledges that the list is not complete, it gives a chaplain or counselor a starting point to build the bridge in providing care.
Each chapter develops understanding the religion Al-Islam as experienced and practiced in the United States. From fundamentals of the faith, including the strong belief that “there is no deity/god except Allah” (33), to distinguishing differences in practice based upon ethnic understandings, Dr. Hatim paints a wide path of understanding. He incorporates practical examples not only from the Islamic traditions, but also from respected authorities in the field of psychology including Carl Rogers, Alfred Adler, and Viktor Frankl. This strengthens his book for use.
This is not a book that one can sit down and consume in one evening. It is best read and referred to on multiple occasions. As the reader continues to read, a clearer understanding for those who care for Muslim people will emerge and strengthen. He concludes the book with five brief case studies to help the reader discover how to apply his suggestions in practical ways.
His companion book, Qur’anic Comfort and Healing in Contemporary Times: Unfolding the Joy of Al-Islam, contains a variety of Qur’anic verses that he found inspirational, and that can be well used when providing care for Muslim patients or clients. Both books will provide the caregiver, whether chaplain or counselor, with practical suggestions and methods for providing effective pastoral care with Muslim patients.
Reviewed by Jeff Uhler MDiv BCC, Lead Chaplain, Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, WI.

Chaplaincy: What in “H” was I Thinking? A Champion of CPE & Self-Discovery
Susan R. Street-Beavers DMin (Bloomington IN: AuthorHouse, 2015, 528 pgs., softcover, Ebook)

When Dr. Susan Street-Beavers was beginning her CPE journey, she “looked for resources about CPE and chaplaincy everywhere, yet [she] just could not find the information in one place. [She] wanted to know a little of what to expect so that [she] could be equipped” (10). Finding few resources on the topic, she wrote her own. The result is this book.  I’m sure many of us can relate to the perceived mystery of CPE and the desire for a roadmap.

Chaplaincy:  What in “H” was I Thinking? is a good introduction to someone in the very early stages of discernment into CPE and chaplaincy. There are a lot of self-reflective questions and room to respond in workbook form. I recommend the book. I liked the content of poems, written prayers, and the opportunity for reflection. In fact, I would have liked something like this at the beginning of my discernment process.

However, it must be stated that Dr. Street-Beavers writes from an evangelical Christian orientation that some may find off-putting. She seems to love words and metaphor, and uses Christian “insider” language (i.e., “the trickster,” 8) and CPE phrases. She writes extensively of her own experience and has included her own CPE materials as sample documents. As a self-published book, it is very wordy and would have benefited from some good editing. I was also distracted by her in-text citations that seemed to be inconsistent with any standard form of which I’m aware.

The book does begin with a disclaimer regarding its completeness and accuracy, and the stated “purpose of this manual is to educate and encourage” (xxxiii). Even so, I was distracted by inaccuracies and perceived inadequacies. She states that there are hundreds of CPE centers and aspiring students should not be discouraged if they don’t get into their first choice (43), yet that is not true in the more rural parts of this vast country. I had to drive 100 miles each way for my last two extended units.  Hospital “codes” are far from universal (138). Information on Palliative Care is included but is very limited (141-142). In her chapter on working with veterans, Dr. Beavers includes good information about rape and sexual assault, but very little about PTSD and nothing on Moral Injury, which are also associated with high suicide risk in veterans.

While this book seems somewhat daunting at 528 pages, it is very approachable, and I read the content in under 7 hours. Doing the included reflection work would of course be of great value to the new CPE student. The endnotes and extensive bibliography are more than 100 pages. And, for the record, the “H” stands for Heaven, as “God has ordered [Dr. Susan’s] steps” (2). As she explains, “once you step down into the work of [chaplaincy], you are given a different lens from heaven through which to expand your worldview” (393).

Reviewed by Sheryl L. Black MDiv BCC, Spiritual Care Manager, SIH: Herrin Hospital, Herrin, IL.

Thoughts from the Bedside: From Medicine to Chaplaincy and Beyond
Bill Holmes, MD MDiv (Macon, GA: Nurturing Faith Inc., 2018, 130 pages, Kindle, softcover)

“A Retired Child Neurologist Becomes a Chaplain,” the title of Chapter 1, neatly summarizes Bill Holmes’s beautifully-written anthology of memories, as seen through Bill’s unique lens of pediatric neurologist, board-certified chaplain, and patient. Informed by his own health challenges and experiences as a patient, Bill explores with insight and sensitivity the “sacred places” that often open up at bedside for chaplains and other caregivers.

Chaplains, medical professionals, patients, and family members alike will benefit from Bill’s gentle wisdom and unique perspective as chaplain, physician, and patient. In Chapter 1 he describes his evolution from physician to chaplain, and in subsequent chapters he explores death, his own experience with cancer, community, hope, prayer, and miracles. Also discussed is the impact of poverty and racism on health care. Interspersed throughout the book are poems, prayers, dreams, and other “scribblings” Bill has jotted down, all of which attest to the sacred presence of God at bedside:

Four Past Midnight
Infants cry out
Mothers do what mothers do
The Spirit speaks
The soul hears silence
Prophets lament and wail
Deaf ears turn and sleep
Agonal breaths quicken
Vigils are kept
Reason takes its leave
Would-be poets scribble. (xix)
Bill writes through the lens of his Christian (Baptist) faith tradition, liberally sprinkling scripture passages throughout the book, and even devoting an entire chapter to “psalms on the ground.” Those of other faith traditions may struggle with his Christocentric perspective; however, the humility and vulnerability evidenced throughout the book are universally applicable. The reader is invited to ponder, with the author, some of life’s most difficult, and significant, questions:
Protest, depression, and apathy are three levels of lostness of a neglected and lonely soul. In my humanness I was now learning to struggle with fear and face aloneness. I refer here to what I felt inwardly, for there were people all around me.

The danger I faced was settling for easy answers about my fears and sense of loneliness instead of wrestling with what it means to be in a divine-human relationship. I had forgotten about God. Questions of faith and hope began to take center stage and have yet to exit. (68)
I found Thoughts from the Bedside to be inspirational—so much so that I bought a notebook and began writing “scribblings” of my own to document my own sacred bedside experiences. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to find meaning in the midst of suffering, and/or to those who simply want to better understand what it means to be a compassionate caregiver in a hospital setting.
Reviewed by Rev. Nancy Lynch MDiv MBA BCC, Staff Chaplain, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH.

When it Feels Impossible to Pray:  Prayers for the Grieving
Thomas McPherson (Brewster, MA:   Paraclete Press, 2018, 64 pages, softcover)

The author’s thesis is contained within the title of the book, “prayers for the grieving.”  The book contains a variety of scripture excerpts from the Bible and a selection of prayers from recognized familiar authors within the Christian such as Thomas Merton and Anne Lamott.   In this reviewer’s opinion the appeal of the book would be as a companion resource for chaplaincy with Christian patients or as a personal devotion for those chaplains who come from a wide range of Christian faith traditions.

The book contains a simple prayer on each page that invites the reader to reflect on its meaning without additional commentary.  It is 5 by 7 inches in dimension, ideal to carry to a patient visit or steal away for a moment of personal grounding during the course of one’s day. 

There is one poignant prayer alluding to the Jewish tradition of removing a veil covering a new headstone at the first anniversary of a death.  An excerpt from this poem by Rami M. Shapiro reads as follows:
When a loved one dies we sometimes seek
to hide from the death
and veil ourselves from friends and memories.
But with this unveiling
we let go the hurt and fear,
we make peace with the living and the dead.
Out of respect for our loved,
out of respect for our grief,
out of respect for our continuing obligations
to self and others,
to life and to community,
we remove the veil
and embrace the love
that so desperately wishes to envelop us. (60)
One limitation of the book is that it does not include resources for those from the Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American or other faith traditions outside of Christianity.    Still, in a world in which we are flooded with words, this little book and its layout invites those who pick it up to be still, to reflect, and to connect to a life of faith and devotion.

Reviewed by Mark Oster MDiv BCC, Chaplain, Cleveland Clinic, OH.

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