Rev Kirsti Aalto writes about her memories of the Network


  1. How and when did you get involved with the European Network of Healthcare Chaplaincy?

I heard of the first consultation which was held in Berlin 1990, from my predecessor, Rev. Seppo Häyrynen. I worked in the same office in the Church Council and got his report after Berlin. He told me that the purpose of meeting in Berlin was not only to gather chaplains from Europe together. It was rather to organize a meeting with those who have a leading position in their church organization for hospital chaplaincy. The discussions focused on ethical issues faced in chaplain's work. In Berlin there were  11 participants, mainly Catholics and Protestants from England, Norway, France, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Denmark. There was a questionnaire before the consultation trying to find out how many beds are recommended to a hospital chaplain. In the same questionnaire there was a question about numbers of hospital chaplains and volunteers, publications on the field, and standards for the training required.

I was chosen to work as a director of Hospital Chaplaincy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1991. So it was natural that I participated in the consultation in Uppsala, Sweden in May 1993.
This meeting was organized by Rev. Sten Lundgren.

  1. What do you think the Network contributed to your work and life?


The Network has given me a lot: a wider perspective to health care chaplaincy and its place in health care systems. I have learned how important it is to be able to work in ecumenical way and in co-operation. I have seen that volunteers have a task in chaplaincy, a task which will grow in the future.  I have understood that the co-operation between the local parish and chaplaincy is very valuable. I have learned that the professionalism and our faith go hand in hand in chaplaincy.
I have seen how ethical issues are linked in health care and that hospital chaplains have to learn more about them. I have gotten dear friends for life.


  1. Can you share some of the most memorable moments for you in the history of the Network?

  2. Consultation on Crete 2000.

The Consultation had 23 participants from 15 countries. Father Stavros Kofinas hosted the consultation, supported by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This consultation was the most difficult as far as the discussions go. There were two different opinions: the "liberal" part emphasized the professionalism in chaplaincy, the "conservative" part rather described the identity of the chaplain as co-worker of Christ. The best in the Crete consultation was new, strong organizing of gatherings. The group got a new name, European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy.

Working group meeting in Istanbul 2002

The task of the working group was to prepare the outline for common standards for Health Care Chaplaincy. Members of the working group:  Fr. Stavros Kofinas, the Rev. Michael Möller-Herr, Germany, the Rev. Fred Coutts, Scotland, and the Rev. Kirsti Aalto, Finland. We also had an honor to meet with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He told us to remember that hospital chaplaincy is a holy task.
ENHCC Consultation in Turku, Finland, June 2002. The goal of the Consultation was to get the common standards accepted. We were very happy on the last day of the meeting when we were able to agree with the contents of Standards. There were 40 representatives of churches and organizations, representing 21 European countries who all signed the standards. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland hosted the consultation.   

  1. Which story would you want to be retold in the future of the Network?


At the Anniversary Consultation in London, September 2010, I got the honor and was called to be an Honorary Participant of the Network. For this I thank the Committee and especially Fr. Stavros Kofinas who with his whole heart and with great talent has worked as the Coordinator of the Network since 2002 until London 2010. Without him and without the great Webmaster, Rev. Fred Coutts  the Network would not be what it is in 2011.