Identity and Ministry in Healthcare Chaplaincy: The liminality of the Church of England priest who continues to sing the Lord’s song in the strange land of the National Health Service
Kyriakides-Yeldham, Anthony Paul Richard
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examines the dual identity of the Church of England priest employed as an NHS healthcare chaplain. In 1948, full-time NHS chaplains provided a Church of England ministry of liturgy and pastoral care. Their twenty-first century counterpart delivers existential spiritual or pastoral care. Though Church of England chaplains are licensed by the Church, their work is shaped by the NHS and the Trust which employs them. They are accountable to the Church and the NHS even though each promotes different values and serves different ends. Published literature alludes to the chaplain’s sense of marginalization from the Church and within the NHS. Interviews with twelve full-time NHS chaplains, who are Church of England priests, focused on how they interpreted their dual identity as priest and chaplain, and the impact the two institutions had on these identities. This I framed using the theoretical model, ‘communities of practice’. Analysis of these interviews confirmed that chaplains thought they were disconnected from the priorities and values of the Church. This they described as ‘marginalization’, a term which appears elsewhere in published literature sometimes interchangeable with ‘liminality’. I claim that liminality is not only conceptually different but makes a distinct contribution to understanding the work and identity of chaplain and priest. I argue the existence of liminal intelligence and its importance in the ministry of the chaplain. I maintain that ministerial priesthood needs to be faithful to its liminal credentials. These I trace back to the liminality of the cultic priesthood outlined in the Hebrew bible as well as the liminality of Jesus, his teaching and the communitas of the early Church. I propose that the role of the ministerial priest is not only about recalling the institutional Church to its liminal roots but that liminality is the essence of priesthood.
PhD in Theology