Editor’s Note: This guest blog post is provided by Rosemary Lloyd, BSN, MDiv, Advisor to Faith Communities for The Conversation Project.
Congregations are ideal settings for starting conversations about what matters most to people when it comes to making decisions about the kind of health care they want—or don’t want–in the face of life-limiting illness.
The Conversation Project—a national campaign to get people talking about end-of-life wishes sooner rather than later—recognizes the key role clergy and congregations can play in transforming the American death-avoidant culture. Ever since Ellen Goodman founded TCP in 2012, our strategy is to reach out to people where they live, work, pray, and gather with a message: have “The Conversation” now. Don’t wait until there is a medical crisis and someone you love is in the ICU. Start talking at your own dinner table or in another familiar setting—like your congregation.
By listening to sermons from trusted clergy or talking in groups about how others have addressed these topics in their families, people feel better prepared to be stronger advocates for themselves and their loved ones. Exploring one’s own questions and concerns about aging, illness, and death in a spiritual setting is also a powerful entry point into a profound spiritual practice: embracing the reality of one’s own mortality.
We know from surveys we’ve done and from talking with thousands of people throughout the country that people really DO want to talk about the fact that we are mortal. And they want to share their preferences about how life can be lived until the end. Still, there is this little problem: many people don’t know how to bring up the topic or think they will upset their family if they do.
That is why The Conversation Project developed short, easy to use, free Conversation Starter Kits: to help frame the conversation and offer some ideas and icebreakers for getting started. While people report feeling nervous or fearful before engaging in these kinds of conversations, once they have had them, most people say they feel relieved.
Drawing on years of experience with scores of congregations, TCP also developed a free guide for clergy and lay leaders who want to bring these essential conversations to their congregations. The guide, which is filled with examples of how other congregations did this successfully, can be downloaded at our website. There is also companion webinar: Bringing Advance Care Conversations to Congregations, beginning Tuesday, April 17th. For more information and to register for the free, six-week course, go to www.theconversationproject.org/faith/
Give an invaluable legacy to your loved ones: have “the conversation” now. Don’t wait. It’s always ‘too soon’…until it’s too late.
Rosemary Lloyd, BSN, MDiv, is Advisor to Faith Communities for The Conversation Project at the Institute for Health Care Improvement in Boston, Massachusetts. Rev. Lloyd supports clergy and congregations in having values-centered conversations with loved ones and health care providers about crucial end-of-life matters.
A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Divinity School, Rev. Lloyd has a life-long interest in end-of-life care and ethics that is fueled by her experience as a registered nurse and hospice volunteer. An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, she served The First Church in Boston and has spoken nationally in congregational and health care settings on end-of-life issues for more than a decade. She is a graduate of the Metta Institute for End of Life Care Practitioners and an advocate for deepening the spiritual practice of embracing the reality of our mortality for the sake of having more joy in life.