Contemporary health care is largely a secular matter that retains little of its historic association with religion, and yet a type of spirituality has begun to flourish in this clinical space dissociated from theological tradition or practice. The relationship between spirituality and health has become a growth area in contemporary health studies and one that has all the makings of a field in its own right. Spirituality in this context represents a fourth dimension to the physical, psychological and social aspects of health and contributes to attempts at rebalancing the dominant biomedical model into something more explicitly holistic and humanistic. Concepts of spirituality have thus developed within the academic paradigms of health, and medicine in particular, that typically take reductive, functional and inclusive forms of spirituality that can be subject to scientific methods and applied broadly to the clinical population. In this seminar, in which I draw upon some of my own research in palliative care, I aim to explore three interrelated themes: firstly, what the emerging healthcare discourse of spirituality might reflect about pastoral practice; secondly, the extent to which pastoral ministry might be empirically responsible and capable of entering into dialogue with more evidence based approaches; and thirdly how practical theology might contribute to the contemporary challenges of nurturing healthy persons and communities.
Mark Cobb, BSc, MA, PhD is a Clinical Director and Honorary Senior Chaplain at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and he holds honorary academic appointments at the University of Liverpool, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. Mark’s specialist field of practice and research is palliative care, and his previous publications include A Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies (Routledge) and The Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare (Oxford University Press).