Archive for the ‘Care’ Category

I am quite a fan of TEDtalks – there have been many fabulous talks and enlightening speakers presenting on a wide-range of subjects from surviving a suicide attempt to becoming an activist, with almost every conceivable topic in-between.

Strangely enough religious leaders often do not make the best speakers, regardless of the topic they’re exploring. Pope Francis though, unlike his immediate predecessor, has an engaging, well-grounded and warm personality that brings to life the subjects he passionately cares about.  His delivery is straightforward, as are his public messages; they are not couched in convoluted theological language.  In this respect, I often feel that there is a clear parallel between the incumbent Archbishop of Canterbury and his predecessor.

Anyway, I digress! Francis’ TEDtalk is not delivered from the typical TED stage; instead he talks from behind a desk in the Vatican.  His message is simple – change starts with individuals; hope begins in the individual heart. From that starting point, hope and solidarity with ‘the other’, those who are marginalised and powerless becomes a powerful possibility. In-so-doing he makes the point that there is really no difference between us – we are all loved by God in our uniqueness and imperfection.

That said, Francis reminds us that the powerful….the significant in worldly terms……are especially tasked by God to use their wealth and influence in ways that bind us together rather than pull us apart.

That our world is in a mess, largely because we have ignored the radical message of Christianity and settled for something that is, in many ways radically exclusive and uncaring, is obvious.  Our world is fractious and riddled with war and cruelty in myriad forms.

But Pope Francis provides a timely reminder that each and every one of us, regardless of creed, can harness the power of hope and promote equality, solidarity and tenderness.  His call, in essence a reminder that we all need each other and that none of us exists in isolation.  In that respect he echoes, in his own words, that wonderful Ubuntu saying, ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’  Hope demands therefore that we should all be ‘team players’, constantly looking at ways to co-operate with each other for the greater good of all.

Never has Pope Francis’ plea, “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number,” been more important than it is today.  How we work that ethic out in practise in a complex and perplexing world is another matter.  But then again, we need simply start with ourselves, reflecting on the work that needs done within us and amongst us – the rest will unfold against the universal backdrop of hope and love.

You can make your own mind up by watching the whole presentation here:

This is the text of my New Year sermon, shared today at Cliftonville Moravian Church in Belfast:

Moving into 2017: Recognizing the Value of All Human Life

Last night, and in to the wee small hours, and across the globe, the words of one of Robert Burns’ most famous song – Auld Lang Syne – would have been sung.  Sentiments of togetherness and a looking forward to the future in friendship mean so much to so many at the dawning of a New Year and the leaving behind of a turbulent old one. Auld Lang Syne is a song that reminds us of the values we possess across geographical and religious boundaries.

I love these displays of togetherness; it is so important that we come together whenever we can and wherever we can.

But all of this comes in the midst of global turmoil.  Crucially, as I have been reading and watching the news of late, I have been struck by a number of things.  One in particular: It strikes me that today, and throughout human history, life is often cheap, dispensable and non-consequential.  Now that is a very bold statement, I accept that.  But let us start at our New Testament Reading for today, where we encounter an enraged King Herod, lashing out in his paranoia, ordering the killing of male children under the age of two. What a ghastly and unthinkable thing to do.  Herod’s narcissism was all-pervasive.  As he aged and his behaviour became increasingly erratic and unstable, he clearly had no concept of the intrinsic value of life; the life of others was only important inasmuch as it served his purposes.  He clearly did not grasp the fact that life was precious, a gift from God, as we read in Genesis 1:27: ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’. It was this divine imprint that makes the life of each one of us valuable.

And we think of our experiences today.  The first example: the war in Syria, where we see night after night on our TV screens, or our newsfeeds, young children being pulled lifeless from the rubble of a bombed house…or hospital….or school.  It is unbearable to watch.  But, we hear those words ‘collateral damage’ used by the protagonists in the war, and somehow this is supposed to make the situation less desperate and appalling – these children were not directly targeted. Implicit in these situations, and the explanations that emanate from those involved, is the notion that some lives are worth more than others…..some lives are expendable in the rush for military and political conquest. The echo of Herod can be heard loud and clear amidst the din of the shelling and gunfire.

Then there is another example.  Just yesterday there was news breaking of a market suicide bomb in Iraq that killed dozens of people and injured at least fifty.  The area in Baghdad that had been targeted was packed with shops and the bomb (or bombs) went off during a particularly busy time.  Yes, there was news coverage, but it was quite far down the list, the global response was muted, and the story will most likely have disappeared into the ether today or tomorrow; we’ve almost become conditioned to expect such atrocities in Iraq.

And then there is the situation in Myanmar, or Burma.  Just the other day a group of 11 Nobel peace prize winners wrote to the United Nations pleading for it to ‘end the human crisis of the country’s Rohingya Muslims.  There have been widespread claims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and somewhere in excess of 30,000 people have been forced to flee the military onslaught.  That’s a huge number of people – women, children, families. And we hardly hear anything at all about it.

From these three examples, we might be tempted to ask ourselves some uncomfortable questions.  Is it just because these atrocities are committed so far from home that we here little of them? Or is it because they have little impact on our own lives that the media does not focus in on them as it might?  Or is it because the people affected are different to us in some way or another?  Or even more uncomfortable is the notion that, in the collective subconscious, not all lives are equal?

I read an article, some time ago now, on the ‘Big Think’ website.  It was called ‘The Geography of Empathy and Apathy: Some Countries We Care about More than Others’, and it was written by a man called Frank Jacobs.  He concluded that, from a Western perspective, when there is a tragic event, ‘Those feelings of empathy decrease as the cultural, economic, and geographical distance to the disaster and its victims increases’.  In other words, we care most for those who are most like us, and less for those who are less like us.

Now that really is really difficult reality to reflect on, but as our New Testament reading reminds, us, it is nothing new; our generation is no different in this respect from any others.

But, the challenge comes when we pause to imbibe what Luke wrote in Acts 10:34, ‘Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favouritism’. Indeed he does not; and neither should we.  Each life, wherever it is lived, regardless of the circumstances, is as valuable as any other. Imagine how radically different our world would be if we truly took this on board?  It would be revolutionised.

Francis Schaeffer once so perceptively wrote: “Man, made in the image of God, has a purpose – to be in relationship to God, who is there. Man forgets his purpose and thus he forgets who he is and what life means.” 

He is right.  Let me suggest to you that we do not always take on-board fully our mission, who we are in relation to God, and the life we have been given to live.  We do not always adopt unequivocally that intention to live out the Gospel message, to show compassion to all and to live out our faith in this broken world, difficult though that nay be.  Acknowledging our connection to God is the key that unlocks the ethic of love for one another, despite our differences.

Now, this might all seem quite overwhelming.  And it is.  How can we, ordinary individuals make that difference, to reflect more deeply on how we relate to others?  How do we do something that, is quite frankly, so difficult?  Well, we start with what we have and what we have been given; we start here.  Once we have acknowledged the intrinsic value of the other, whoever that might be, then we can reflect on what our response might be.

And here is just one more thought.  Even within those most like us, for example those who share our Christian faith, there can still be a hierarchy of empathy that develops.  Consider then these words from Thomas Merton, which were written in the context of segregation in the US, but the sentiment undergirding it is more broadly applicable, and surely causes us to stop and think: If we realize that we are each bound to the other members of the human race in the Mystical Body of Christ, that we must love the human race as a whole, and love all the groups which constitute it, then we can scarcely fail to realize the evil as well as the stupidity of hating any part of the Mystical Body of Christ…. There are persons who feel quite acutely the duty of individual kindness to persons of other races, and yet who seem to be totally unconscious of the injustice of race relations as a whole…who are violently antagonistic to any effort to reform the political, economic, social, and even religious oppression of the coloured race. Would this be possible to anyone who really believed in the doctrine of the Mystical Body?’

Merton’s point is well made.

Now personally, I do not really ‘do’ New Year Resolutions.  But this year, the closest I have come to one is to think more deeply, more prayerfully on how I affirm the God-given identity of others.  I need to take on-board, not just intellectually, but emotionally, the profundity of that truth that we are all made in the image of God. You too will, I have no doubt, make your own response to this call.

As we collectively go forward into this New Year, we have the opportunity to take on board the biblical injunctions we have explored, to listen to the prophetic words of people like Thomas Merton and Francis Schaeffer, and yes even revisit Robert Burns and his calls for brotherhood and a recognition of the value of the other.

With the help of God, Let us do just that.




This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.Flag of Germany.svg Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”  Viktor Frankl (Psychiatrist, Holocaust Survivor and Author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’).

Mirabilis Health is pleased to announce an exciting new course for those involved in ministry and pastoral care:

Self-Care for Pastoral Carers: A Specialist Workshop

Trainers: Rev. Dr. Scott PeddieDr. Volodimir Bezulowsky (Psychiatrist) & Dr. Paul Miller (Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychogeriatrician)

Date:  Thursday 26th February 2015 from 1-5pm (tea/coffee/biscuits available from 12.30pm)

Venue: Mirabilis Health, Holywood House, Holywood, BT18 9HF

Cost:   £45 per person (includes refreshments)

This interactive course is designed especially for Ministers/Priests/Pastors/Pastoral Carers and will comprise the following sessions:

  • Understanding, recognising and managing stress.
  • Exploring the implications of mental/physical well-being and good pastoral care.
  • Revisiting that Christian response: the interface between faith and self-care.

Here’s what people say about our courses:

  • ‘Excellent afternoon. Very helpful and informative. Both presenters’ (Scott & Volodimir) way of communicating and responding to us created the perfect atmosphere and modelled the kind of listening and attentive response they advocated’.
  • ‘Absolutely excellent. Very clear, helpful and relevant’.

Other courses that will be made available in the forthcoming year in our pastoral care series include: dementia, eating disorders, trauma, meaning-centred pastoral care and suicide awareness (You Must Ask).

I do hope that you can join us on the Self-Care for Pastoral Carers course! To book your place, or to find out more about our other courses, please e-mail me ( at your earliest convenience.

With best wishes,


Rev. Dr. Scott Peddie (Mirabilis Health)


All too often we hear negative stories about Christianity, where institutionalised religion goes against the grain of a vibrant and living faith and Jesus the revolutionary is lost in a sea of social conservatism.  It can be easy to forget that the plethora of bible passages from both the Old and New Testaments bear witness to God’s concern for the poor and our responsibility towards them.  After all, who can forget those simple, yet powerful words written in Leviticus 25: 35 – “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you”? And what about 1 John 3:17, where it is written – “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him”?

Against this backdrop I found it so uplifting to read a short story on the BBC News website this morning featuring Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland’s oldest Benedictine monastery, which has opened its doors to asylum seekers.

The monastery’s new Abbot, Urban Federer, wants to create new roles for Einsiedeln that show just how relevant Christianity is to our modern age, particularly as these pertain to the challenges confronting 21st Century Switzerland. As Abbot Federer was reported as saying by the BBC, “As everywhere in Europe, there are more and more people coming from other countries, from other continents………….And I thought we should do something too, as a church, as a monastery.”

 Abbot Federer, and the monks who live in his community, are beacons of light that prompt us to reflect on how we live out our faith.  There is much that we can all do to reach out to the margins in innovative and effective ways.

You can read the whole story here.

By Prints & Photographs Division Library of Congress (Commons File:Jung 1910-rotated.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Prints & Photographs Division Library of Congress (Commons File:Jung 1910-rotated.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For some time now I’ve been fascinated by Carl Jung and groundbreaking work in the field of psychology and psychoanalysis.  Although for me, Jung was far more – he was a mystic and a very unconventional ‘holy man’ who gave us a profound insight into human nature and its interaction with the Divine.

I was interested therefore to read an excerpt from a letter he wrote to Jolande Jacobi on the 24th June 1935 (Carl Jung, Letters Volume 1, Page 191) and reproduced on the Carl Jung Depth Psychology website (  In this letter Jung was outlining how he treated Catholics suffering from a ‘neurosis’; he wrote the following:

… When I treat Catholics who arc suffering from neurosis I consider it my duty to lead them back to the bosom of the Church where they belong.

The ultimate decisions rest with the authority of the Church for anyone who is of the Catholic faith.

Psychology in this context therefore means only the removal of all those factors which hinder final submission to the authority of the Church.

Anyone who puts another “factor” above the authority of the Church is no longer a Catholic. .

In many aspects Jung is to be admired in the stance he took – he understood the primacy of faith and tradition in the life of a believer, as well as the role of religion in providing meaning (ultimate and proximate), as well as direction and focus in life.  Although he was himself raised in the Swiss Reformed Church (where his father was a Minister), Jung quickly outgrew the confines of narrow denominational Christianity.  Crucially, he did not allow his own beliefs, which rapidly become very eclectic and non-conventional in nature, to cloud his therapeutic worldview; that he had the humility and wisdom to accept that wholeness can only be achieved with reference to a persons spiritual ‘home’, is shown very powerfully in this letter to Jolande Jacobi. Jung was indeed ahead of his time in this respect.

I recently came across a fantastic short documentary entitled ‘The Vicar of Baghdad’.  A well-known figure in both the ecclesiastical and popular realms, The Reverend Canon Andrew White is known for his dogged determination to provide a strong Christian witness in the war-torn suburbs of Iraq’s capital city.

White is vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad, the only Anglican church left in Iraq. Attached to the church is a clinic and a school, providing a powerful outreach and much needed practical help to the entire population.

As President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, Andrew White is also deeply involved in mediation between different factions in the Iraqi civil war, notably Sunni and Shia sects.

‘The Vicar of Baghdad’ shows White visiting his parishioners in the most dangerous areas of the city and paints a picture of a man who is determined to live out his vocation; it would clearly be anathema to him to have an easier life in a leafy English suburb. He clearly empathises with those who are suffering – it underlies his ministry and provides him an authentic ministry to those who truly are on the margins.

Interestingly, in his early thirties White was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition which has affected his mobility and speech, and leaves him physically exhausted. Unsurprisingly, such a diagnosis has barely held him back. The film shows Mr. White, always in good spirits, reflecting on his condition and how it relates to his ministry.  That he has been undergoing a new stem cell treatment in Baghdad is shown in the film; utilizing his own extracted stem cells White is very positive about the effects, stating that it has completely transformed his life and enabled him to continue his work.

‘The Vicar of Baghdad’ is such an uplifting film that shows us how much of a difference a single person can make.  By refusing to give up or give in, despite the circumstances, Andrew White is an example to us all, whether we are Christians or not.

You can watch the film here:

It was Henry Marsh, a celebrated neurosurgeon, who once so perceptively said: ‘what are we if we don’t try to help others…we’re nothing, nothing at all.’ These words were uttered in the closing moments of ‘The English Surgeon’ an emotionally charged BBC film that looks at Marsh’s charitable work in Ukraine.

Marsh, and his fellow surgeon Ivan Petrovich, make a formidable team, despite the limitations placed upon them in Ukraine with respect to equipment and facilities.  The film presents each encounter with a patient as an existential experience for both the medics and the patients.  Unsurprisingly, Marsh is at his most comfortable when he can offer hope to person sitting opposite; but then there are the inevitable encounters with people where there is, medically speaking, no hope.  And then there are the cases where the decision to operate is an agonising one – where the risk of intervening might just be too high. But whatever the situation, Marsh is always looking for ways to help and he is visibly frustrated when he encounters terminal cases, where there is nothing more to be done.

As the film unfolds we see the limitations of medicine and surgery laid bare. Despite the technology and expertise that exists in a consulting room or an operating table, the substantive existential questions remain extant.  What is the value of life? How can people find meaning in their lives when they are terminally ill?

 These questions are posed, but not answered in ‘The English Surgeon’.  More reflection is offered in Marsh’s superb book, recently published: ‘Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’.  Marsh talks candidly about his failures, his disdain for the National Health Service as it is currently constituted and his frustration with what he sees as its overwhelming and desperately stifling bureaucracy.

Do No Harm

Marsh’s candid account of the agonies of balancing risk, operating where there is little hope and dealing with the aftermath provides a powerful insight into the life of a neurosurgeon and the ethical dilemmas that they face each every day of their working lives. Most of us would find it incredibly difficult to function in such an environment, where existentialism and ethics are brutally real, rather than abstract concepts we have the luxury of debating at a distance.

The life of a neurosurgeon is unique, but embodies those meaningful words of Albert Pike: ‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal’.

 Check out ‘The English Surgeon’ on youtube: and

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’ on Amazon:

The mental health provision in North Korea is truly shocking.  In my bipolar blog – ‘an uneasy awakening’ I explore some of the issues that confront those struggling with mental illness in this isolated country.

Bipolar In North Korea: A Frightening Prospect?.