Pagans are to get their own hospital chaplains offering counselling and prayers in some Scottish hospitals as part of a move by the Tayside NHS trust. It's nice to see an old friend in the news in a positive way - kudos to John McIntyre from the Pagan Federation Scotland, who has been doing hard work on advocacy for chaplains in hospitals, prisons and elsewhere as well as inter-faith reachout work for years now.
Under the agreement reached between NHS Tayside, which runs Dundees Ninewells Hospital, and the Pagan Federation Scotland, newly trained Pagan chaplains will be officially allowed access to wards to minister to patients.The usual folks are outraged.
A Pagan hospital visit will involve meditation, prayers, private counselling and possibly a simple healing ritual, which might include the use of healing stones.
However, Pagans have decided to tone down what are seen as the more exotic and striking forms of Pagan worship and ritual, such as carrying flaming torches.
Under the agreement, the Pagan chaplains are not allowed to use their time in hospital to attempt to spread their own faith, and they may only minister to patients who have requested a Pagan visit.
Tina Stewart, the Hospital Visitor Coordinator for the Pagan Federation Scotland, said: "We have had a very successful meeting to discuss the needs of the Pagan patient. Things are moving forward. There's an understanding that patients of all faiths should be treated equally and that they all have the right to pastoral care while in hospital."
John McIntyre, spokesman for the Pagan Federation, added: "There is a lot more recognition of Paganism in Scotland nowadays. There are about 30,000 people in Scotland who would regard themselves as Pagan and many people are very sympathetic to elements of Pagan belief without necessarily calling themselves Pagans. The equality of men and women and caring for the environment are all parts of the Pagan outlook, and most people would agree with these things."
However, the move has angered church-goers. Moira Kerr, a Kirk elder who in 2005 campaigned against a move by Tayside to remove a communion table from a hospital chapel in case it offend non-Christians, said: "I'm very saddened to hear about this. Scotland needs to get back its Christian heritage which has done so much for us over the years. There's no doubt the devil is at work in this."There you go with that pagan = devil-worshipper crap again. It gets old, I tell you.
Gordon MacDonald, the parliamentary officer for the Christian values charity CARE, said: "I would question what the point is of all this. Very few people in Scotland identify themselves as being Pagan by faith and I would have thought a health board would have better things to do. This is a sign of how much confusion there is in society nowadays. People need to think through the values which we have received from our Christian heritage, such as respect, the value of the individual, and personal freedom."
What's more interesting is who isn't objecting:
Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "As a minority faith ourselves, I don't think Muslims would object to others receiving pastoral visits. Nothing illegal would be happening and people have the right to spiritual care."The Muslims more tolerant of other's faith than the Christians - now I bet that's an upsetting idea for some folks.