The value of art

Rev. Norman Harrison

11.8.2017 | Mission in Ireland, Chaplaincy

Norman Harrison has now been chaplain to the Royal Victoria Hospital for two years. In his blog, he explores the use and value of the arts in chaplaincy and patient care.

This summer I reach my second anniversary as chaplain to the Royal Victoria Hospital. When I first arrived, knowing my interest in the arts, our lead chaplain, Rev. Derek Johnston, encouraged me to pursue wider connections through the arts, to promote the work of chaplaincy, and to find new forums for the delivery of spiritual and religious care.

Over the past two years, alongside my regular chaplain’s ministry, I have been involved in exhibiting paintings, songwriting, music video recording, and poetry writing in conjunction with ministry to young adults surviving cancer and, through the Renal Arts Group, more songwriting and performing for the promotion of organ donation and to develop research into the value of art in patient care.

Openings and blessings

I have been blessed, together with the excellent Heather McCracken, our deaconess, to see a number of people find faith and hope in God, renew faith, and return to worship within God’s family. However, I have also found vistas opening for ministry which have been personally fulfilling and affirming, and in which the gifts God has given have found new means of expression.

The arts as therapy

As I write, I have just been granted funding for an arts project I proposed, which is designed to improve patience experience. It means engaging with wide numbers of people from all backgrounds and specialities across the Trust. It should serve as a vehicle in which chaplains can enable Christians to maintain personal devotion in hospital, and also provide an effective tool for therapeutic intervention.

Right now I have a painting on display in our Trust’s ‘Hidden Talents’ exhibition. Furthermore, I have a poem, Love, published in a UK National periodical, The Journal of Medical Humanities. It was composed during the arts programme for young adults who were being treated for cancer. Participants were encouraged to write down words meaningful to them in their cancer journey. I noticed that among the many positive contributions one word seemed glaringly absent – love. Only the heart symbol was drawn. Using their words, I composed this poem to explore why people may feel less loved, either by God or others, because of their suffering, and as a means to reassure them that God places great value in those who find the grace to overcome in all kinds of trials.

Norman Harrison is a chaplain at the Royal Group of Hospitals. This blog first appeared in the Mission Connect section of July/August’s Presbyterian Herald. You can download a full copy of July/August’s Herald here.


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