CLERGY need support to counsel people with depression; GP
practices with a Christian ethos can transform communities; and
chaplaincy is a place for "uncomfortable" clergy. These were some
of the views expressed at the Faith in Health and Healing
conference, held last week in Birmingham.
Attended by more than 160 people, the conference was organised
by the Anglican Health Network (
News, 22 February), and speakers included the Bishop of Oxford,
the Rt Revd John Pritchard, and also international contributors,
including theologians from Norway and Germany.
The director of chaplaincy services at St Luke's Episcopal
Health System, in Houston, Texas, the Revd Gary Jones, described
how the diocese's six hospitals are pioneering medical developments
in the United States, performing more open-heart surgery than any
other facility in the world, and running an online resource to help
the uninsured and under-insured gain access to primary care.
"Through the health system, our diocese really found its niche and
focus," he said.
The Revd Dr Kjell Nordstokke, Professor of Theology at
Diakonhjemmet University College, Oslo, explained how the Church in
Norway ran four hospitals within the state health-care system, and
regarded delivering health care as "the gospel in action".
A consultant in theological studies on health and healing at the
German Institute for Medical Mission, Dr Beate Jakob, spoke about
the results of a survey of 40 parishes which suggested that 62 per
cent of pastors "do not feel very well-prepared for counselling
people with depression". She has since helped to develop resources
for churches, and suggested that clerics should consider working
with psychiatrists to deliver services that explored
Examples of specifically Christian health-care delivery in the
UK included the Karis Medical Centre, in Birmingham. One of the
partners, Dr Ross Bryson, described how a woman from Central
Africa, who was staying in a hostel and seeking asylum, had seen
her husband murdered before she arrived in the UK.
She was now "starting a new life in a caring community", which
included talking to people at the surgery as part of a scheme to
bring people together. Programmes run from the centre included
English lessons, friendship schemes, help with filling in forms,
and a community allotment.
During the second day of the conference, the Senior Chaplain of
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Canon Jeremy Pemberton,
suggested that "chaplaincy is a place for uncomfortable clergy,"
which led to a discussion with the panel about the Church's
treatment of gay clergy.
At the end of the two-day conference, there were calls for it to
be repeated, and for better sharing of best practice to avoid
congregations' "reinventing the wheel", with a particular need for
advice on how churches engaged with commissioners of health care.
Audience members questioned whether the involvement of churches in
this field was "the best-kept secret in the Church in this