By Rebecca Sitzes
Staff Writer, The Shelby Star
Published November 14, 2020
Rev. Alden Sproull’s writings inspired by his work with cancer patients
A Shelby resident has just released a book of poems that were inspired by his years of providing spiritual care for patients diagnosed with cancer.
Walking Along the Edge was released on Oct. 13 and is available on Amazon as both an ebook and a paperback.
Poems began to be part of healing for himself as he found words to express what he was dealing with in the work of caring for others.
“That’s the other flip side of the coin for me,” he said. “These poems became a heart’s ease which allowed me to keep going.”
When he began writing them down, Sproull said he didn’t know they were going to one day end up in a book. The words would come to him, and he would record them.
“I would write them down, and friends and family would encourage me to share them,” he said.
He began putting his work together and when presented to a publisher, he was told they wanted to see more of his work. He submitted additional poems, and they agreed to publish them.
Sproull said one of the things that became a significant part of his work is silence, and he goes on a yearly retreat each year where he takes a journal and practices silence for eight days.
“It became one of the most significant gifts I gave myself,” he said. “You learn about all the things you carry that you don’t need to carry. Get insight into the wounds from all the work you’re doing. You learn that the gospel is more than just a text to read and memorize, that it can really make deep and personal connections in your life.”
One of his poems features the gift of silence. In it, he writes that silence beckons us to let go. It disrobes us and calls us to celebrate the fullness of our lives.
“If you can imagine a patient young or old I work with all ages, young and old, you find there’s so much clutter, so much noise to process,” he said. He would tell the patients to simply sit in silence for 15 minutes.
“The silence gave them space to do some sorting,” Sproull said. “It made a big difference in the work that I was able to do.”
Sproull said he was introduced to poetry at a young age.
“As a child growing up in western Pennsylvania, my dad worked in steel mills and he worked a very difficult job and sometimes he’d come home and write a poem and share it with the family over supper,” he said.
Sproull said his collection of poems was written over the course of his 30 years in California, and some were written while he was in Chicago doing cancer care.
He said due to COVID, he hasn’t done much in the way of formal promotion of the book beyond online avenues. He’ll be doing a Zoom interview with an editor after Thanksgiving.
Sproull said he feels the poems would touch anyone who has gone through major difficulty in their lives.
In addition to just having a book published, Sproull said he continues to work with people in Spiritual Direction and has set up a private practice in Shelby where he works with 14 people from all over the world.
“These poems came out of my ability to listen to patients share some of their struggles and concerns as they battled cancer,” he said.
Rev. Alden Sproull is origi- nally from Pennsylvania but moved to Shelby four years ago with his wife, Victoria, to be closer to family.
Sproull has a background in counseling.
He is an ordained elder and has pastored churches in Penn- sylvania for eight years before entering clinical chaplaincy.
He has a doctorate in Chris- tian spirituality from San Francisco Theological Semi- nary and his primary ministry has been with patients in hospitals and medical clinics dealing with cancer by providing emo- tional, relational and spiritual support during the journey with a life-threatening illness.
He currently has a private practice as a spiritual director in Shelby.
Spiritual direction is the prac- tice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relation- ship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality.
Sproull said many of the poems came to him as he walked home following his shift at the hospital. He said the words would rise to the surface as he walked.