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Member’s Review, by Mike Rattenbury

As the title suggests, this is about Christian Mission. Rather than being a manual on personal evangelism, this is more about how the Church can relate to the wider world at all levels.Sam Wells writes from a parish perspective, but with considerable chaplaincy experience. His writing is clear and his insights are insightful.

His initial analysis of four models: working for, or with, and being for, or with was helpful, particularly in drawing out clearly what it means to ‘be with’. The earlier chapters are about relating to individuals with different beliefs (or lack of them).
These included a very helpful study of the Luke 15 ‘lost and found’ parables, which argues that the church needs a stronger sense of loss and humility, underlining the role it has often had in losing those it views as ‘lost’!
In relation to other faiths, while Wells appreciates the value of any common ground that there is, he argues that instead of adopting a ‘lowest common denominator approach’, it is more helpful to recognise and acknowledge the differences that exists, in order to reach a truer and more respectful understanding.

Later chapters address ‘being with’ on a collective level – neeighbours, organisations, institutions, government, and excluded communities.
The one area that I partly disagreed with here was Wells’ view that chaplains should ‘reach into’ organisations, but not be part of them. This would preclude being a full member of the clinical team, which is often the case with hospice chaplaincy (though it does highlight the drawbacks that this can present).  However, though the next chapter, on Institutions, did to some extent ease this.

Wells identifies eight aspects of each type of relationship: presence; attention; mystery; delight; participation; partnership; enjoyment; and glory.  He applies them, in turn, in each chapter, and while this sometimes provides a useful structure, it can at times feel forced.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this as relevant to healthcare chaplaincy, both in the insights it gives in supporting individuals who have very different stances to our own and also in what can be involved in being chaplain to an organisation – or institution!

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