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Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland
Hospital Chaplaincy Conference
20-22 August 2002

"The Power of Evil and Goodness" was the theme for Hospital Chaplaincy Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, held in Pori August 20 - 22, 2002. The conference had 93 participants, all hospital chaplains, one guest from Sweden and Estonia.

Theme picture "The Powers of Evil and Goodness" 
by Hospital Chaplain Olli Majamäki

The conference was held at the Liisanpuisto, Restaurant School in Pori.

The first lecture was given by the Bishop of Turku Ilkka Kantola. His topic was "When the power of evil is growing around us", words from a hymn written by a German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed in 1944. The hymn goes on "make the voice of the other world stronger". The Bishop pointed to everyone´s responsibility in dealing with the evil: we have to face the evil within ourselves. When feeling evil powers or hatred, we should unload it into small peaces, without hurting people near us.

  Bishop Ilkka Kantola

In the second lecture Dr. Theol. Kari Mäkinen talked about the meaning of the literature in dealing with personal suffering, loneliness or crime. He spoke about the relationship between the text and the reader; how everyone who reads a text (a novel) sees it through his/her own life story. Is God present or absent in the suffering of the world was one of the main questions dealt in the lecture.

The third lecture was given by psychoanalyst Kristina Saraneva who talked about psychoanalytic perspective on evil; the psychodynamic of the racist and offender. She has a long experience in doing psychotherapy among those who were victims or tortured during the war.

The local working group

In the programme there were six workshops:

1. The Faces of Fear

Leader Hospital Chaplain Hannu Salonoja,
Reporter Hospital Chaplain Kirsi Stickler

Out of six workshops, a workshop named "The Faces of Fear" gathered the most participants, focusing on addressing fear which is closely felt in one´s life and ministry. A chaplain is exposed to various fearful situations and stressed by fear (sometimes nondescript) that gets mixed in with his personal issues of fear. It is not a rare moment when a chaplain is shaking from fear himself after an encounter with a crisis situation and has to ask who would receive and hear him in turn. One often needs a kind of reality check to set boundaries between one´s personal life and ministry.

There is a lot of fear in our culture, transferred to all of us already in our mother´s milk. As vulnerable as a chaplain can be, one can do a lot for a person in need by giving a name to an anonomous fear or by perhaps helping a person to find an end to a fear that has been perpetuating from one generation to the next. In all this and because of various fears and evil continuing to be part of our existence, a chaplain, no matter how experienced and well educated, would need to have the right to utilize continuous supervision, for the benefit and well being of himself and his ministry.

2. The Pastoral Caregiver as a Supporter

Leader Hospital Chaplain Raija Kiviniitty
Reporter Hospital Chaplain Marja-Leena Meller-Mattila

The workshop discussed the theme from the psychodynamic perspective. From the psychodynamic viewpoint one of the basic reasons for an uncontrolled unloading of hatred and violence is in the babyhood and the early childhood. A mother or a father does not have enough empathy in the child's needs of development. If parents have not enough ability for holding/caregiving and containing of impulses and feelings of their child, the child cannot adopt the ability from them.

The most essential role of a hospital chaplain is to be as a holder/supporter of hatred, agony and evil powers at hospital. It means that she or he will create the emotional relationship as well a safe external environment, where a patient is capable of calming down and getting in touch with himself or herself and the pastoral caregiver.
As pastoral caregivers we can develop continuously our abilities to take advantage of using our own counter-transference, images and understanding in the role of a caregiver/supporter.

How can spiritual powers, for example prayer, work as an holding/supporting element in our ministry?

And finally, we must ask, how in our life we have organized experiences from the good and the evil? Who has received us in a good enough way as our caregiver/supporter? How we have integrated in ourselves the experiences of the good and the evil? How a chaplain can take tender care of her or his inner boundaries and holding environment?

3. "Deliver us from evil"

Leader Secretary for Training Jukka Tuominen
Report Hospital Chaplain Tuula Pasuri

Some of the main points of discussion in the group: 
1. The headlines of newspapers in Finland lately: A nine-year-old  school girl killed in a crossroads accident, a mother of three children driven over and killed by a drunken driver, teenagers kill a couple,  terrorists bomb busses, soldiers kill civilians in Israel...
2. The Christian doctrine of original sin is true and realistic today.  > 3. The humanistic way of thinking tends to put its belief in the  basic good in man. 
4. The Christian conception of man is pointing out a constant fight against evil. Evil should not be projected outside. 
5. Evil will never leave us. Good may do it.

4. The Powers of Goodness

Leader: Rev. Kirsti Aalto
Reporter: Hospital Chaplain Antero Aalto

Many people have, of course, much to do with the powers of the evil. But how can we rather work for powers of goodness? How can we give space to the goodness? We were inspired to the list given by Paul in Galatians 5: 22: "But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and selfcontrol." How could these qualities characterize a hospital chaplain? How could they give him or her strength in work and personal life?

What can we learn about the return of the Prodigal Son to his father? (Luke 15: 11-32) (see the picture; see also the book The Return of the Prodigal Son, written by Henri J.M. Nouwen, 1992.)


The Prodigal Son, made by Hannes Autere (1940)

5. Working in the Grief Group

Leader: Hospital Chaplain Sirkku Eho
Reporter: Hospital Chaplain Pekka Leppänen

A small group is one way in helping people in grief. Many local parishes in Finland organize grief groups for people who have lost a family member. Small group is maybe not the right support for everyone. That is why it is important to offer different ways in helping: candlelight service for the memory of those who have passed away during the year, music services, lectures, services with special themes, e.g. "service of an empty lap (empty arms)" for childless people or people who have lost their child. It is especially important to help men to find ways to express their grief. In our culture women usually tend to express their grief with words, whereas men often express their grief physically without words.

The role of the hospital chaplain is to support and encourage local parish workers in organizing grief groups through supervision, education and arranging co-operation with health care personnel. In addition, the hospital chaplain can work as a group leader in special groups, e.g. groups for relatives of persons who have commited suicide or for people who have lost a child.

6. Lost Seniority

Leader: Hospital Chaplain Eija Mäkinen,
Reporter:  Dr. Theol. Matti Sippo

The discussion revealed that aging or becoming old creates many kinds of fears. The aged ones, nurses, hospital chaplains, politicians, economists, have fears for the elderly people and aging. Medicine can be too successful in prolonging people´s life time. How can everything be paid if we live "too long" and/or need costly treatments?

What is the attitude of a hospital chaplain towards the fact that she/he also is getting old? She/he looks at aging: patients, one´s own parents are aging, so is oneself. This has an impact on her/his work.

Finally, instead of "Lost Seniority", what could be (re)found seniority? What would it be like in our work? What is positive aging in our work? What connotations does it carry in itself and for hospital chaplaincy?

Are the institutions for elderly people present-day concentration camps or oases for the aged ones?

A small book on dementia was given to the participants of the workshop.

The Pori working group, Hospital Chaplains Hannu Salonoja, Raija
Kiviniitty and Eija Mäkinen, thanks the team from the Centre for Hospital Chaplaincy Kirsti Aalto, Minna Latsa and Jukka Tuominen

On the last day of the conference we saw a play, played by four actors from a local theatre. The theme of the play handled our fears to what is different. The main role figures were a young man with HIV, his boyfriend, his twin brother who died in a car accident and his girlfriend.

The actors of the play "A Story from the one who is Different"

In connection with the conference, the health care chaplaincy in Pori celebrated its 40 years anniversary. In the festival dinner we had guests from local hospitals and health care organisations.

The participants of the Conference going to the Festival Evening

Worship service was celebrated in the Keski-Pori Church, with the choir made by hospital staff singing


We also visited the Pori City Hall where the city of Pori gave a reception to the members of the conference.

The participants of the conference were informed about the ENHCC meeting in Turku and the European Standards were delivered to them. The Ethical Guidelines for Hospital Chaplains in Finland were discussed. They still need some changes before the Assembly of the Association of Hospital Chaplains will accept them in February 2003.

The Icon Christus Pantokrator and the Conference Candle 

Next annual Conference will be held in Kuopio, Finland, in August 2003.

Kirsti Aalto


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