'The human spirit is so creative': Edmonton spiritual care practitioner looks ahead to Easter

Easter celebrations across Alberta will be busy for chaplains who provide physical and spiritual presence.

Chaplains are busy helping families of hospital patients mark the holiday

Spiritual care practitioner Blaine Allan says he and others in his field are finding innovative ways to bring loved ones together. (Submitted by Blaine Allan)

For the second year running, Easter celebrations are happening in a pandemic.

With restrictions in place, many people will attend church services and family gatherings only virtually. Celebrating in-person with family members will be difficult, since indoor social gatherings are prohibited.

It will be especially challenging to celebrate the holiday with family members who are in hospital. But that inability to visit loved ones in hospital has forced families, and hospital staff, to get creative.

"The human spirit is so creative when it needs to be," said Blaine Allan, a spiritual care practitioner with the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care, in an interview for CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

Spiritual care practitioners train for years to make sure they have the resources to work with all faiths and denominations, and those of no faith.

Allan works for Covenant Health at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in south Edmonton. He works on several units, including a COVID-19 unit.

Spiritual care practitioners train for years to make sure they have the resources to work with all faiths, denominations, and those of no faith. (Submitted by Blaine Allan)

This year's Easter celebrations will be busy for chaplains as they provide physical and spiritual presence and help families connect virtually.

"That presence alone hopefully can help the patients, families and staff realize that Christ is present among all of us," Allan said.

He advises families who want help celebrating Easter with loved ones in hospital to reach out to the unit the patient is in for help setting up a phone or video call, or contact Spiritual Care Services. The program is offered by Alberta Health Services at the Grey Nuns and other hospitals.

The role of Spiritual Care is to provide spiritual and emotional support, not only for patients but to their families and to hospital staff. The services are for people of all cultures and religions, including those with no faith.

Religious holidays are not the only busy periods for spiritual care practitioners, Allan said. The entire pandemic has been a busy time.

"I find all the chaplains throughout Alberta are a lot busier because of the fact that it's a painful journey to be a staff member or to be a family member, but especially the patients where they're going through the illness and being isolated."

With files from Madeleine Cummings.


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