This post was written by Kate Fox Robinson, a paediatric chaplain, but it resonates so strongly with the diaconal vocation that I find it inspirational, and hope you do too.
One of my chaplain friends says chaplaincy is regarded as either pivotal or peripheral within healthcare. Chaplaincy also sits out there on the edges of what matters to the church. A cousin of mine who runs an Ignatian retreat place in Portugal is a firm believer in permaculture which recognises that the most fertile ground is at the edges, and is also the best place for cross pollination. Chaplaincy is often at the periphery of the NHS and also of faith groups. I was in a multi-faith training session for paediatric chaplains and someone stated that chaplains almost have their own emerging community of values as they are so often pushed out of their sending places of worship and work so closely with one another toward a common goal.
Perhaps you are not a chaplain, but perhaps your vocation too is one that finds you on the edges and occupying a liminal space. In recent weeks with social distancing and self isolation, we have all ended up living on the edges on what we thought was possible. The role of chaplaincy has been perceived as more pivotal when so many approach the end of their life. Others may learn things here which will serve them when they return to their pathed ways.
(image from RSPB)
I just took a walk in the fields and paid attention to the edges. They are a little messy, chaotic, different species dwelling together, various plants intermingling in the same space. You would not plant a garden like this, it is not neat. But life and creativity thrive here. It is the same on the edge of the land, where the sea meets the coastline. Abundant diversity reigns. The space where one body of the sea meets a completely different body of the land. And there are pounding waves and stones and sand ground down by the years of being at the edge.
I once read in an article about gardening, that for some reason people are intent on making their garden’s look like the indoors of their homes. All neat and spruced and tidy. Nature is not like this. As Ken Steven writes, ‘The lands edges have not lost their mapless unknown’. My kids yelled at me once for tidying up part of the garden, ‘Don’t ruin the wilderness’ they cried. So my garden is outdoors and it looks like it belongs outdoors. My life is spent on the edges. It can be wearing, to be in a space where different phenomenon’s are bucking up against one another. Or in a space where no one pays that much attention because the ordered fields to be harvested are where the focus and energy and investment is. But the edges bring their own gift to the world, connecting the edge of one space with the edge of another. You will find me on the periphery.
(image from iIMAGINEblank)
You will find us on the periphery
You will find us on the periphery
In the land of the mapless unknown
You will find us at the edges
Where the wild things grow
You will find us in the liminal space
Where no one knows what to expect
You will find us where the sea meets the shore
And no one knows what will wash up next
You will find us among the hedgerows
Gathering what delights are growing there
You will find us with the bees and butterflies
Connecting over here with over with there
You will find us on ours knees
With the beetles and the ants
Living all together
Without a lot of thanks
For our humble jumbled life
And our muddy handed style
But we would invite you
To come a stay a while
In the land where the wild things are
And the place where the periphery reigns
You may learn things here that serve you
When you return to your pathed way.