Priests reflect on personal experiences of serious and terminal illness
Jennifer Tann (ed)
Canterbury Press, 2013, £16.99
Pb 244pp, ISBN 9781848252776
Reviewed by Claire Stark Toller, Locum Consultant in Palliative Medicine
This collection of essays is written by Anglican ministers who have experienced serious or terminal illness. The opening chapter explores the meaning of 'healing' and 'wholeness', examining biblical accounts of healing and Jesus' experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, and reviewing these concepts in ancient and current Christian writings.
Topics covered include living with stroke, experiencing multiple miscarriages and living with leukaemia. One recounts a recovery from acute heart failure described by his cardiologists as a miracle. The final chapter encourages the sufferer to lament, and offer this as worship to God.
Many of these reflections could be shared by any Christian but several contributors highlight the impact it has had on their ministry. One reflects on the suffering minister as an 'icon of Christ' revealing the sufferings of Jesus. Others struggle to know how to manifest their suffering when some parishioners expect them to bear their illness with unswerving courage. One notes how his experiences help him empathise with sick parishioners.
This book would be helpful to anyone, and to Christian ministers in particular, wishing to explore suffering in the life of the Christian. It could also provide insights for doctors facing their own illness and considering its impact on their therapeutic relationship with patients.