This course introduces the field of chaplaincy studies. Chaplains are rooted and accountable to their religious traditions but serve people and communities who may have different religious backgrounds or no religious affiliation. How does one develop a ministry resilient in the face of pluralistic religious demands, complex human suffering, and institutional cultures that may conflict with human flourishing? This course will engage five contexts of chaplaincy ministry: hospital, military, prison, campus, and hospice.
Chaplaincy ministries are distinct in many ways from congregational leadership. However, there are situations in chaplaincy ministries that necessitate liturgical expertise, including facilitating spiritual practices and rituals, prayer, leading worship, and providing sacraments including baptisms and end-of-life liturgies. This course will engage the particularities of chaplaincy contexts including the pluralistic character of ministries in those contexts and equip students with liturgical competencies for faithful and effective service.
The spiritual and emotional demands on those who accompany others in time of distress and transformation can be intense. Ministering to those experiencing profound change requires a dynamic balance to be found between the expending of internal energy and the need for boundaries and replenishment. This course explores practices for self-care both at the individual level and in terms of nurturing an organizational culture that positively contributes to healthy, professional, and sustainable ministry in the long-term. Students will become more familiar with literature considering studies of emotional fatigue, vicarious trauma, and develop potential replenishing strategies in light of their possible presence. The course is designed with experimentation and practice in mind: students will leave not only with knowledge, but having reflected on their own experience and needs, designing practicable habits for their own context(s).
This course studies select group theories and practices from multicultural communities in order to appreciate group processes from multiple perspectives. Pointing to current trends in community organizing, public expression of solidarity, and civic engagement, we will discuss community as a concept and students will outline their emerging understandings of community, pastoral responses to developing community, and the inventiveness of gathering as a theological resource for care.
Dysfunction, dysregulation, and trauma are passed from generation to generation; chaplains and spiritual care providers are often called upon to offer critical intervention. This course helps students to understand, appreciate, and think in terms of system theory with special attention to the student’s own family system, families in spiritual care contexts, and spiritual traditions and religious institutions as a whole. While rooted in Bowen’s approach to systems, students offer theological and cultural critique, including of superstructures, in the construction of the self, and for their professional development.
Spiritual care professionals are morally and legally bound to act with integrity. This course explores professional ethics for chaplains and other spiritually-integrative care providers and deepens student understanding of philosophical and theological underpinnings of professional care and best practices in the field. Issues learned through case study include professional code of ethics (APC, AMC, etc.), confidentiality, legal issues and liability, informed consent, the role of touch, mandatory reporting, misconduct, professional boundaries, dual or multiple relationships, and power and privilege in constructing an ethic of care and assessing healing in short- and long-term care relationships.
Chaplains working in diverse settings will encounter diverse religious beliefs and will be expected to attend to all people in need of religious, pastoral, and spiritual care. This course helps promotes proficiency in understanding different belief systems from cultural, psychological, and anthropological disciplines as it relates to religious/pastoral/spiritual/community care. Students will be challenged to reflect theologically and theoretically from a psychodynamic perspective, on who they are becoming and who the counselee is becoming, as experienced chaplains minister to people outside their religious/faith/spiritual community.
The aboriginal lands of the region we call the United States of America was and is still inhabited by people of various cultures. These lands are now also inhabited by people from all over the world, coming with their particular legacies, narratives, ways of perceiving themselves, their relatives, and their environment. They have come speaking many languages, engaging in many customs, and practicing their religion in different ways. Even people who claim the same religion but come from different regions of the world and country may practice differently. In this course, students will learn how to identify their own cultural conditioning, the value of and practices around cultural humility, and how to appreciate difference to effectuate spiritual care that is culturally sensitive.
Chaplains and spiritual care professionals encounter persons of different belief and value systems in various life-stages and contexts. Operative notions of faith development and interrelated theological anthropologies exert their assumptions and biases on practices of care. In this course, students become familiar with foundational theories of human development and faith development and critically examine and assess spiritual growth with decolonizing, liberative praxis. Case studies and case material serve as grounding points.
This course introduces nuance to the ministry of spiritual care occurring in hospital contexts. Some connections will be natural to other contexts of ministry, but we focus upon the unique experiences occurring within medicalized settings. We aim to introduce ourselves to skills of cultural analysis fit for hospitals and skills used by chaplains, ministers, and congregational leaders who provide care to the sick in hopes to build empathy for those afflicted and ill.
This course helps prepare students for chaplaincy in the context of higher education. The course examines developmental and identity formation issues in late adolescence and young adulthood with an eye toward practices of care that are developmentally specific. Theory and practice of spiritual care will be developed in areas of vocational discernment, mental health crises, sexuality and gender identity development, reflective meaning-making, and student emergence into a precarious planetary context. Students will develop capacities in supporting student spiritual wellbeing, cultivating community in a pluralistic and multicultural institutional setting, providing short-term care and spiritual guidance, and helping students prepare for meaningful contributions toward compassion, peace, and justice in the wider world.
Become aware and knowledgeable of the formation of prisons / jails and the conditions of injustice (race, gender, conflict, ministry, etc.) within jails and prisons, to the struggles of those who are incarcerated, to the challenges facing their families, and to the struggles of victims of crime. Provide students with a clear and dynamic account of the cosmic reality and nature of justice and reconciliation in Christ. Contrast between reconciliation and any theology of retributive justice, which provides the ideological underpinning for many current practices, including for capital punishment. Understanding the Restorative Justice movement as an effective alternative way to resolve disputes, conflict, and trauma. Learn how to be missional agents of change in the criminal justice system, in particular, as Chaplains/ Pastors that serve with a certain type of presence, pastoral care or spiritual posture that underpins long term engagement, which inspires hope but also generates acute challenges in terms of burnout, discouragement, and malaise.
For generations spiritual professionals and caregivers have walked alongside movements to support the spiritual care and health of those fighting for social justice. This course will explore spiritual care and chaplaincy in these contexts. We will explore social movement trauma and the cycle of social movements in our current global and national moment to understand the terrain of social justice as it relates to spiritual and emotional wellness. We will explore important boundaries, practices for caregivers to engage when entering into spiritual care in social movements contexts, structures of referral for those needing more intensive social-emotional support, and how to support ourselves and stave off burnout in this sacred work.
This course offers a short-term method of practice for spiritual care and counseling in chaplaincy settings. Narrative therapeutic theory addresses the construction of religious, spiritual, and ethical identities and orientations through story, narrative, and social discourse. The theory offers ways of carefully attending to the preferred directions into which care-seekers wish to move, offers an empowering framework for helping care seekers make those movements, and attends to the social justice dimensions of caregiving. The course offers a strong theoretical basis in narrative praxis and the development of practical skills for spiritual care in short-term contexts.
Practices in mindfulness have taken hold in U.S. culture, but what is mindfulness, where did it come from, and how can it help religious leaders connect with those they aim to lead and accompany? In this course, we will examine the importance of attentiveness to ’’oneself and others, the origins of mindfulness and the separation of mindfulness from its rootedness in Buddhism, and the value of secularized mindfulness for stress reduction and cultivating empathy. Students will be expected to engage in and reflect on various mindfulness practices for their own spiritual formation.
Evidence-based research suggests that practicing bodily postures (asana) and breathwork (pranayama) accompanied with mind entrainment techniques supports positive affect, emotional regulation, radical acceptance, and greater spiritually-integrated health outcomes. In this course, students practice and learn how to incorporate mindfulness and somatic interventions in their chaplaincy work while also developing a deep understanding and appreciation for the religious, social, and cultural origin of these practices. Resources from yoga studies, vipassana and mindfulness meditation, and dialectical behavioral therapy guide the course.
Traumatic experiences overwhelm normal functioning, coping-strategies, and meaning-making. Traumatic suffering can be generated by life-threat to self or loved ones, deep exhaustion, profound loss, and moral crisis. These human experiences are found in every context of ministry and are common in chaplaincy ministries. This course engages the literature of trauma studies, theologies of suffering, and practices of healing and recovery.
Spiritual and religious trauma are unfortunately prevalent phenomena in our current spiritual world and work. This is harm that occurs within a spiritual or religious context. As healers, chaplains, and spiritual caregivers, it is essential to understand this specific area of woundedness, not just to be well-rounded professionals but also because there are sensitivities specific to this hurt which impacts how we assess and address spiritual care. In this course we will learn what spiritual trauma is, explore case examples across traditions and lineages, and work to understand how to assess and address this issue in working to support spiritual growth and development for ourselves and for others.
Moral injury is a term that has been used to better acknowledge the moral dimensions of traumatic experiences. While the symptoms of moral injury are identical to those of post-traumatic stress disorder, the traumas that produce moral injury are rooted in moral evaluative emotions: guilt, shame, humiliation, betrayal, disgust, contempt, and rage. While much of the current literature on moral injury is focused on the context of military service, moral injuries can be mapped in many other contexts: activist movements, healthcare personnel, schoolteachers, police departments, etc. This course will orient students to the current literature on moral injury and envision constructive engagement of broader contexts in understanding what causes moral injury and what effective response looks like in communities.
This course examines the challenges and opportunities of providing pastoral care with veterans and military families, focusing on issues including warrior identity, deployment and combat experience, impact on families, post-deployment reintegration, and the role of congregations. This constructive, contextual course is at the intersection of religious traditions, military culture, clinical disciplines, and personal experience.
This course invites students to reflect on how to provide non-judgmental, empathic pastoral care to African Americans impacted by gang violence. Students will explore in depth four specific interventions for care: the provision of social services, psychological first aid, existentialism and meaning-making, along with healthy, appropriate theological resources. Students will be challenged to reflect on how they can address poverty and particularly classism in urban settings in both their personal and professional lives.
One of the most ubiquitous experiences for a spiritual care provider is being called upon at the time of death. Situations of death and dying call for a chaplain to employ a cross-section of ministerial roles and functions: caregiver to the dying and to the grieving, liturgist and musical consultant for funerals and memorial services, ethical consultant for families and physicians in healthcare settings, and occasional liaison to funeral care providers. The course includes an introduction to common funerary practices in the U.S. and their historical and cultural development, including the growing interest in natural burial and “home funeral” practices, and will introduce students to multireligious perspectives on death and dying. Students will develop pastoral and even prophetic perspectives on questions surrounding what we do with our bodies when we die and will develop skills to pastorally accompany others in situations involving death and dying.
This course analyzes basic experiences of loss and corresponding emotional responses to them. In acquainting ourselves with pastoral theological discourse, we discuss different care approaches for engaging those who grieve and work to imagine practical models for serving those who grieve. Attention will be given to the griefs of students but in ways that are preliminary and analytical and that assume student use of communities of support and care.
This course meditates upon Black language about and resources for addressing the experience of suffering. The theological approach of the course will be to lean into Black experiences of suffering in order to love Black people while also drawing methods of learning and loving into the experiences of other suffering folk. Students will regularly articulate, in creative ways, their understandings of suffering and their developing strategies and inclinations for liberative approaches to spiritual care with particular attention to their own ethic, cultural, social, and spiritual understandings.
This course invites students to reflect on how to provide inclusive, interreligious spiritual care to African Americans impacted by systemic racism such as police brutality. Students will explore in depth four specific interventions for care: the provision of social services, psychological first aid, existentialism and meaning-making, along with healthy, appropriate theological resources. Students will be challenged to reflect on how they can address racism and particularly anti-Blackness in both their personal and professional lives.
This course invites students to reflect on how to provide inclusive, interreligious spiritual care to African American women impacted by systemic sexism, patriarchy, male dominance, homophobia, and transphobia. Students will explore in depth four specific interventions for care: the provision of social services, psychological first aid, existentialism and meaning-making, along with healthy, appropriate theological resources. Students will be challenged to reflect on how they can address gender oppression and sexuality oppression particularly against women of color in both their personal and professional lives.
Feminist psychology and spiritual care critiques and challenges masculinity as the norm of human experience in theory and in practice. This course examines critical and contemporary theories and models of spiritual care attentive to gender, promotes feminist praxis, and advocates for social equality and feminist social architecture. Course resources and course design recognize a diversity of women’s experience and ways of knowing, including gender presentation and sexual orientation, religious belonging, culture, age, ethnicity and race, and ability, includes attention to special issues of importance, and contextualizes the uses of power to manipulate, delegitimize, dominate, and exploit.
This course explores how the praxis of spiritual care is best shaped to respond to the particularities of LGBTQ lived experience, as well as how LGBTQ experience might inform theology and pastoral praxis more broadly – that is, how critical reflection on LGBTQ lives might queer spiritual care. Students will gain knowledge of the major pastoral issues emerging from the lives of LGBTQ people, encounter relevant social scientific and philosophical theories of sexual/affectional orientation and gender identity, and will develop pastoral theological perspectives conversant with the lived human experience of LGBTQ people.
Chaplains work with people in systems influenced by politics. The First Amendment can be interpreted to support the religious freedom to discriminate against others on religious grounds, can be used to support the reversal of civil rights protections, and can be used to remove oneself from caring for another, on religious grounds. Chaplains are often expected by others to understand how and why religion is practiced in public life, but do they? In this course, students will learn how the First Amendment has been interpreted and applied in different situations so they can be better prepared in diverse settings to discuss how to promote responsible religious practice in shared spaces.
Much of religious education and spiritual care training focuses on the wisdom and spiritual care knowledge emanating from western and dominant religious traditions. While this has value, what it obscures is the thousands of years and generational wisdom across traditions and lineages across the world, throughout time, and held within the indigenous communities of our ancestors. More and more people reclaiming and remembering these spiritual wisdoms and folx seeking spiritual care want to engage these wisdoms in their own spiritual work and spiritual care. This course will explore elements of value and wisdom across a variety of indigenous lineages – not as a way to “take” or “appropriate” those wisdoms into our own practice but rather to understand the where and what of our sacred global past and how to respectfully walk with someone as they explore these wisdoms – sometimes alongside western spiritualities and sometimes without them – as spiritual caregivers.
Mystics and contemplatives across lineages and around the world have often, also, been the spiritual caregivers in community and carry great wisdoms for us as spiritual professionals to access to support our own grounding and wellness as well as supporting the spiritual journeys of others. In this course we will explore some examples of spiritual wisdom across traditions, explore how we apply these wisdoms in our current context in ways that deepen our own journey and support the spiritual work of others, and learn the ways in which a mystic orientation can allow us a more expansive world view, a deeper well of compassion, and a more intensive commitment towards the value and equity for each of us.