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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

James Woodward tackles the topic of spiritual pain

More than forty people from all over the country gathered on Zoom last week to hear James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury's masterly exposition of the nature of spiritual pain.

James Woodward had asked all participants beforehand to think of their own definition of such spiritual or 'soul pain'. Part of the 90-minute Zoom was spent considering the effects on people's spirituality post-Covid. But first he outlined four categories of spiritual pain, often referred to in nursing literature, notably: Meaning, Forgiveness, Relatedness and Hope.

There was discussion of the complexities of modern life with so many people feeling 'pressured'. Modernity involves living at such a rapid pace that rather like 'drifting in a boat without an engine', people are beset by the 'unresolved stuff in us', by the 'people we simply can't forgive' and yet 'that we hang on to'.

James Woodward spoke of a formative period of his life when, after university, he was a young medical auxiliary working at St Christopher's Hospice, south London, alongside Dame Cicely Saunders. He quoted her term 'Total Pain'- the division of a whole experience into the physical, emotional, social and spiritual components. 'We can't isolate the spiritual from a whole lot of interlocking factors', he said. When, for example, did we last have a spiritual health check?

Several helpful books were mentioned during the course of the session which passed all to quickly, with James generously acknowledging the wealth of experience and knowledge among those who had gathered for his short course.

A list of books and resources circulated afterwards included:

'Mortally Wounded' by Michael Kearney,

'Pain -The Ultimate Mentor' (Kevin T Hunt 2023) by Kevin Hunt,

'Tell Me Good Things: On Love, Death and Marriage' (Bloomsbury 2022) by James Runcie,

and 'The Body Keeps the Score - Mind, Brain And Body In Transformation Of Trauma ' (Penguin 2015) by Bessel van der Kolk.

Woodward's own excellent book 'Valuing Age- Pastoral Ministry with Older People' (SPCK 2008) is a text book referred to frequently in Anna Chaplaincy training.

Visit the Sarum College website for details of forthcoming short courses on offer.




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