Rituals in General Spiritual Care

N.M. Hijweege, J.Z.T. Pieper, W. Smeets, H Hamers, J. van Meurs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The tension between a classic institutional religious identity and the ‘postmodern’ eclectic and ‘unaffiliated’ religious identity is one of the most striking features of the contemporary religious landscape, causing religious identity to be contested at various levels. Spiritual carers working in public organizations in the field of health care, the law or defence find themselves particularly confronted with changes in the religious landscape. Nor do these changes in religiosity apply only to their clients; the spiritual carers themselves are affected too. The emergence of the general spiritual carer who is not a minister within one clearly defined denomination is in fact an embodiment of the return of religion in forms that do not fit a traditional religious framework. However, the concept of a general spiritual carer is disputed both by the traditional churches and by a group of professionals among spiritual carers who believe that they need a basis in a church to safeguard their official status. It is perhaps in relation to the conduct of rituals that the most serious doubt is cast on the religious identity of the general spiritual carer. It evokes the discussion on the relationship between legitimacy and effectiveness of rituals. In our contribution to this discussion we tackle the issue in three stages. In the first stage, we outline the overall context of the changes in the religious landscape, at the same time showing how contemporary health care is characterized by its market-driven character and an increasing emphasis on extramural health care provision. In the second stage, we examine the ritual dimension of religion and the meaning that rituals can have for people in the context of health care. In the third and final stage, we reflect on the scope for ritual in general spiritual care in the light of a study of outpatient spiritual care in the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-48
Number of pages20
JournalJaarboek voor liturgie-onderzoek
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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