Life is hard

No matter who you are, at some point in time, things will get pointier. Illness, trauma, transition, loss can be debilitating. But unexpected awfulness can also lead to recovery and build resiliency. And often the difference between the two lies in our ability to find meaning, purpose, and connection.

Spiritual care can help with that. It’s why the State of Victoria now recognises spiritual care as an ‘allied health’ offering found to bring about better mental and physical health outcomes. Unfortunately, for people who don’t identify as religious, accessing spiritual care can be problematic.

For many, it’s because they don’t have a faith community to turn to for support. For others it’s a fear of evangelism that makes spiritual care difficult to receive. And for some, it’s caused by having experienced shame or abuse by religion.

That’s where we come in.

We’re the Secular Spiritual Care Network (SSCN), an emerging community of qualified support people dedicated to companioning Australians through difficult times in a way that is religiously neutral, person-centred and evidence-based.

Suffering is part of being human. Suffering alone doesn’t have to be.

The secular is a thing that makes space for beliefs as they engage with the facts of the world as we see them. It is a meeting place and as such requires people with different belief systems to engage with each other. I do not hold with the idea that secular space is an anti-religious space. In its imagination, the secular is a profoundly democratic project. A space where people with all kinds of different points of view can engage in a project of meeting that seeks to deliberately undo supremacist and dominant styles of power, and instead seeks to engage in a project that meets the world right here, right now. That requires courage and truth and belief in all kinds of things and the capacity for those beliefs to have a serious, intelligent conversation without freaking out.

Pádraig Ó Tuama, from a public lecture at Stirling Theological College

Early in my stay in the hospital I was approached by a guy who offered me his ‘time’ if I wanted to talk about my experience. He said he was there to support people who ticked the ‘no religion’ box. But what did he want? What was he selling? To my great surprise and relief, the answer was nothing. He came to me with no agenda. He listened, we shared experiences, and he provided a ‘sounding board’ for all that was swirling through my mind. What he gave me was human connection.

John Davey, former patient and Secular Spiritual Care Network, Advisory Board Member