Much of the burgeoning field of contemporary spirituality studies positions spirituality within a model of positive mental health and well-being. This paper argues that we are in danger of by-passing the everyday conditions of the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and oppressed in our society if we fail to offer a spiritual response to their experiences. Developing this theme, it examines three social and spiritual challenges: dementia, the abuse of vulnerable persons, and the plurality of contemporary religion and belief. It then suggests three action points for contemporary spirituality studies to address these and other challenges: that we must further develop the evidence base and tackle new frontiers; engage with social and public policy; and embrace the model of the Wounded Healer.
This article was first delivered as a keynote speech at the Third International Conference of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality, Spirituality in a Challenging World, and takes up the theme of challenge in the world of social work and social care. It draws on the author’s own body of work as well as making reference to other authors in social work and social care to develop its arguments.
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