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“The Dance of Life –
Between desire and happiness”

Nordic Healthcare Chaplaincy Conference
25-28 August 2004

Norway invites healthcare chaplains from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway to the Nordic Healthcare Chaplaincy Conference at the end of August 2004.

Every 3rd year, one of the Nordic countries hosts the Nordic Healthcare Chaplaincy Conference. This year's conference will be held in the town of Horten, at the west side of the Oslofjord. There are apparently many conferences now and even smaller budgets for travelling, so it seems now that there will be approximatley 60-70 chaplaincy workers attending from all four Nordic countries.

Near by Horten we find the little village Åsgårdstrand. The world famous Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, did much of his work here – and that gave us inspiration for our conference. Edvard Munch showed through his paintings how he dealt with existential questions in rather naturalistic paintings. His paintings describe both in a symbolic way, deep human aspects and also in a mystical way, themes from the nature itself.

We started our work on themes for the conference, with the words “desire and happiness”. There is a fundamental tension – and connection - between those words and we might say that in our experience with illness, disease, death, we touch in an existential way, our desire to live, to be happy, to be helped and to have totally control over life itself. The hi-tech and very modern healthcare institution, based on a positivistic view, gives us much hope when we are in pain and illness and that makes us full of hope and desire for what hi-tech medicine can do for us. But as we know, modernistic expectations for full control over life and happiness, is not possible to meet.

Integrated in this positivistic healthcare context, we are placed as spiritual caregivers, taking care of all the broken pieces, all the broken expectations.

Edvard Munch's painting, used as a symbol of our conference, is called “The Dance of Life” He describes through his work the tension in human life between the young innocents and the old, with no more desire for life. We used the theme from his painting as a framework for the conference and we will look into our theological, ethical and spiritual role as pastoral caregivers in an context where desire for happiness also can end up with loss of control, health and even life itself. From his painting, came our conference title: “The Dance of Life – between desire and happiness.”

Our lecturers are:

Dr theol and philos Jan-Olav Henriksen, professor in systematical theology and philosophy of theology.
Rev Ralph D. Kolnes. Parish minister in Oslo. A writer and lecturer on psychology of religion.
Rev. dr theol Paul Nome. Parish minister in Oslo. Made his doctorate on Edv Munc.
Dr philos Leif Gunnar Engedal, professor in practical theology and pastoral care and counselling.
More Information:


Coordionator of the Network sends Greetings to the Nordic Conference

To the Participants of the Nordic Healthcare Chaplaincy Conference,
Åsgårdstrand, Norway

Dear Fellow Chaplains,

On behalf of the European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy, allow me to greet all of you who are taking part in The Nordic Healthcare Chaplaincy Conference. Your gathering is most significant in that it brings together the Chaplaincies from the neighbouring countries of Norway, Finland and Sweden, countries that share many common aspects on many levels. It is indeed reassuring that such gathering are taking place, gathering which afford the development of communication and exchange on a theological, clinical, organizational and interpersonal level.

Your theme, “The Dance of Life – Between desire and happiness” strikes a very important issue which all of us face in dealing with pain, suffering, illness and the desire to live. What we must keep in mind is that parallel to the tension between desire and happiness, there is also the difference between fun and joy. We live in a society which seeks much fun in the hope to find joy. Here though, we must note that there is also a difference between joy and happiness. In Greek, one of the meanings for the English word “happiness” is “hedone”, which is synonymous to pleasure. Joy means chara. Very often the desire for happiness (“hedone”) can be a self-centered and individualistic pursuit for pleasure. In Christian thought, true joy (chara) can only be reached in living a life in the Holy Spirit, a pursuit to attaining union with God in His Kingdom. St. Polycarp of Smyrna (60-155 A.D.) points out that true joy is a result of living rightly in a spirit of Christ-like love for neighbor, friend and even our enemy. Rejoicing follows love! St. Chrysostom adds that even in our suffering, we can rejoice in that our sufferings bring us closer to our God who rejoices always. If one lives in the spirit of Christ’s suffering and selfless love for mankind, then, “even if one is afflicted, yes whatever one may suffer, such a person always rejoices!”

In Edvard Munch’s beautiful and meaningful painting, joy and desire is expressed in a dance of unity. True life and joy cannot be attained in any other way. Your Conference is a dance of unity and thus is an expression of love – love for your ministry, for each other, and mostly for those for those to whom you care. We in the ENHCC are dancing together with you in the desire and hope that our Chaplaincies will be a true expression and bearers of rejoicing that follows love.

May your conference be successful in every way.

Rev. Dr. Stavros Kofinas

Coordinator of the European Network of Healthcare Chaplaincy
(Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate)