Communities of Chaplains
Chaplaincy can be a lonely profession. The solitary hospice chaplain visiting dying patients in a wide area of a rural setting. The police chaplain in an urban district assigned to support several law enforcement units in times of crisis. The lone chaplain working long hours in a hospital where budgets are too tight to hire a colleague. How can chaplains create a sense of belonging with others called to similar work in settings where they may be the only provider of spiritual care on the payroll? What can combat the sense of isolation many chaplains feel in their unique role? Are there ways to foster that community author Henri Nouwen speaks about that is so important to the continued professional and spiritual development of chaplains?
To help address this problem, the Spiritual Care Association encourages its members to connect in virtual “Communities of Chaplains.” Each community will consist of approximately 12 members. Communities are formed in a shared geographic area of the country that provides a context for the social, religious, and cultural diversity its members may encounter in their work. Communities meet monthly for 60 to 90 minutes either via Zoom. Each community will choose a moderator to act as the focal point for planning and communicating meeting times, agendas etc. A rotating facilitator may lead each monthly meeting. Where possible, communities are encouraged to meet quarterly for longer sessions in which more in-depth discussion and peer learning may take place.
The purpose of Communities of Chaplains is to offer:
- peer support for professional chaplains especially those working in isolation
- mentoring for new and less experiences chaplains
- a safe community for mutual accountability and peer supervision
- opportunities to enhance professional and spiritual development among members
- CEU’s for attending meetings
The values that will characterize these communities include:
- diversity of religion, spirituality, and thought
- diversity of chaplain service settings represented
- diversity of backgrounds from advanced professional to no CPE
- common support for evidence-based best practices
The benefits of community life can be profound. As one chaplain who has been a member of a similar small group for many years affirms: “Community life is essential in the continuous formation of chaplains. Community life affirms us, teaches us, connects us, and invites us to share experiences and advise one another. And community life unites us in our own spiritual development.”