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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Recommended reading on the nuts and bolts of chaplaincy

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Pursuing the path of Anna Chaplaincy in Devon is Revd Dr Paul Fitzpatrick. As part of his preparation, he's been reading some of the latest crop of books on the subject of chaplaincy and reviews two of them for us here:

Good Tools are Half the Job: The importance of theology in chaplaincy and pastoral care by Margriet and Cornelis van der Kooi ( Wipf and Stock, 2021).

An American publication, authored by a world-class theologian and a health care chaplain; this book promises much and it delivers. I am currently reviewing six books on the theology of chaplaincy published recently and this, I feel, uniquely, offers concepts and ideas directly relatable to Anna Chaplains, no matter what their specialist fields and working environments.

The book uses case studies largely from health care but is very adaptable to our work. Each chapter begins with a chaplain's encounter with a patient in crisis including pain, loss, abandonment, trauma, abuse and guilt. God is often absent from the initial conversation but the chaplain still needs to respond.

The book provides options and scenarios but fundamentally allows the reader to find their own way to deal with these encounters and see how faith and applied chaplaincy can work in these situations. This is followed by an in-depth theological exploration and reasoned assessment of what tools are available to the chaplain and what we should, and should not, risk.

Chapters are short, readable, easy to engage with, incredibly relevant, powerful and beautifully written, this is a book I had wished I had had when I started my ministry; applied theology at its best.

A Christian Theology of Chaplaincy by John Caperon, Andrew Todd and James Walters (eds), (Jessica Kingsley, 2018).

My second choice, a British book, is more of an academic reader. This is not a set of separate papers, but a cohesive whole. Each chapter has a separate author, nearly all working chaplains with direct expertise in their field. The theological content is excellent and the contextualisation of theology and chaplaincy is the guiding theme throughout the book.

Fundamentally, it explores what it means to be a chaplain in the 21st century, why chaplaincy is so important and successful, and the stresses and strains of chaplaincy in relation to parochial ministry.

Again, short, easy to read and with powerful chapters which address subjects such as models of chaplaincy, chaplaincy and traditional church structures, chaplaincy and evangelism, and a welcome sub-chapter on whether clerical chaplaincy is the norm anymore (or even should be?).

This is a completely different book from the Kooi's and is much more of a specific exploration of what it means to be a chaplain in the UK context. Both books are, however, entirely complementary and expertly written. Time with either, or both, will be time well spent.

Revd Dr Paul Fitzpatrick




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