Conferences can be exciting and energizing. They are also opportunities to have some basic beliefs validated. These last two weeks I have had the pleasure of participating in two very unique meetings. First, the annual Summit of C-TAC, the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.(www.thectac.org) This was a meeting that brought together some 400 health care professionals, academics, executives and clergy to discuss issues related to advanced illness, costs and practices. There followed a three-day meeting at Siloam United Church in London, Ontario. This “Boomerfest” was convened by the United Church of Canada for Ontario, and brought some 200 people together to look at the impact of spirituality on aging Boomers. Two very different venues and audiences, yet, there was commonality.
What linked these two events was a theme of faith. It may seem strange to consider this, after all, the church group would be expected to emphasise this, however, even at the more scientific meeting, the role of faith and spirituality emerged. It was affirmed in both places that the role and power of presence and faith often was a sustaining influence in so many situations. After all, as one speaker said, after the doctor leaves and the nurse leaves; after the social worker and patient advocate return to their offices, it is often the clergy person who remains with a family to hold a hand, to be present, to offer guidance and comfort.
These two meetings displayed the wide varieties of how faith can serve as an embrace of support. At C-TAC, the issue of faith in one’s self was also discussed. The scientists and health care professionals, all non clergy, affirmed that often, in dealing with advanced illness, one’s own sense of faith and attitude can and does make a difference in how one approaches illness. That same concern about attitude emerged as well in the discussions that always develop in these situations, and that is around caregiving. Very few of us escape this new life stage and, as was affirmed so many times in both places, the stresses and strains of caregiving know no divisions. SO many of our generation is, has been or will be caregivers that the role of faith and the need for a spiritual foundation cannot be over-stated.
So much of our world is cynical about the power and place of one’s faith. Yet, as these two meetings affirmed, in the quiet moments of illness and in the turning to the last chapters of one’s life, the need for a sense of faith in one’s self, one’s purpose and one’s place in the grand scheme of life emerges as a primary need. Each of us walks this path in our own unique way, but walk it we do.
Rabbi Richard F Address