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20 December 2017

Faith-based chaplaincy

Faith-based chaplaincy

Last week, the cross-party group on faith held a meeting on ‘Faith-based chaplaincy: is it worth it?'. The group, chaired by Darren Millar AM, was launched in March 2008 to coincide with the launch of Gweini’s Faith in Wales report. Cross Party Groups are akin to Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Groups and, although not part of official Assembly business, can have significant influence. The decision by the Welsh government, for example, to appoint an anti-human trafficking coordinator in 2011 stemmed from a recommendation from the cross-party group on slavery.

In the meeting in Cardiff Bay, presentations were given by four chaplains – three Christian and one Muslim – who work in the NHS, prisons, sports and the British Army. Each one provided an insight into the value of their work and the pressures and challenges they face, followed by a discussion.

Chaplaincy is extremely varied and often includes much more than spiritual care, but this is justifiable in order to give meaning to that which is important to someone. And it is healthcare chaplaincy that is perhaps most strongly linked to Welsh government, as this is funded by the NHS through a block grant. Vaughan Gething, then cabinet secretary for health, well-being and sport, stated unequivocally last autumn that chaplaincy services should continue to be funded as part of the standard provision for care as articulated by the healthcare standards.

However, despite this support, there remain challenges ahead if Christian chaplaincy in general is going to retain its current place in Welsh life. According to Claire Wretham, a Christian who works as spiritual care coordinator for Marie Curie:

“Spiritual care needs to be much more diverse in the future and as Christians, the best way to ensure a presence in the welfare and spiritual arena is to accept changes in the landscape.”

Chaplaincy also has links to the Welsh Assembly. Churches were invited to establish a presence in Cardiff Bay in the early 1990s by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation. The iconic Lightship arrived in Roath basin in October 1993 and became the base for the Chaplain for Cardiff Bay to build relationships with the institutions in the area. Rev Monica Mills, for example, conscientiously developed good links with the Assembly during her tenure from 2006-2010, which augmented the Christian presence already established by the national prayer breakfast and Rev Aled Edwards of Cytun and others.

The meeting took place against a backdrop of tragedy in the life of the Assembly with Carl Sargeant’s death and the news last week from the youngest Assembly Member, Steffan Lewis, that he has been diagnosed with advanced cancer.