Revd Vanessa: Graduates MA in Christian Spirituality

Revd Vanessa, one of the @acnbchurch team, was awarded her MA in Christian Spirituality today in Salisbury.

Revd Vanessa graduated from the Sarum College MA degree programme at St Thomas church in Salisbury (@SarumStThomas) on 11 March 2018. Her dissertation was a major part of the degree and uses the writings of Julian to explore the relationship between healthcare, hospitality, and recovery in mental health units.

Speaking just before her graduation Vanessa said that her MA degree: “It’s enriched my faith beyond measure, being able to study so many different ways of connecting with God, from the earliest Christians who sought solitude in the desert, to more modern mystics … and the graffiti of medieval pilgrims in between! Sarum college is a gorgeous place to study, with an inspirational view of the cathedral right outside the window.”

In her dissertation she writes: “Hospitality is an ancient tradition in Christianity, and was the founding concept of hospitals, yet today the concept of hospitality today relates only to catering…” As practical understandings of hospitality have become skeletal, so a diffuse idea of ‘spirituality’ has been eagerly adopted by healthcare organisations as a way of valuing or describing the things that give patients’ hope, meaning and purpose.

Her conversation partner in the dissertation’s main argument is Julian of Norwich a medieval mystic in the church who had and recorded profound experiences of God, and at times questioned her own sanity. Vanessa said: “Julian writes beautifully and powerfully about her relationship with God. She struggles honestly with the fundamental question of suffering and how God intervenes in the world - that’s a fundamental question for all of us who suffer, and is a particular issue for many people whose stories I hear in my role as a chaplain”

Vanessa examines the adoption of recovery focused care in mental health care, which despite its focus holistic, person centred care, but does not appears as effective as it could be. ‘I have suggested it was a relationship of hospitality that allowed Julian to flourish and develop her thinking following her traumatic near-death experience’. Vanessa suggests that Julian’s perception of ‘marginality and space can be adopted in acute mental healthcare inpatient units to similarly encourage contemporary human flourishing in the midst of distress’.

Fitting study for an MA round multifaceted ministerial post and contributions to a local church group and family commitments is challenging. Reflecting Vanessa noted that “Bishop Jonathan has been hugely encouraging and the diocese have contributed towards the costs. My line manager at the hospital has also been really supportive, giving me study leave to attend college.

Vanessa is a Chaplain at Southern Health Foundation Trust. Her ministry includes Adult Mental Health, Winchester Mother and Baby Unity and Romsey Community Hospital. Vanessa has been involved with the churches which have become @acnbchurch since 2007 and is now an associate priest in the group. She was ordained priest in 2001 after training at Wescott House in Cambridge.

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