On March 1, 2018 my phone rang at the appointed time arranged by email a few days before. After we each said hello, the caller jumped right to the heart of the matter, asking, “So, you have a PhD in religious studies, and you’re a chaplain. Are those things related?”
With remarkable succinctness for me, I replied, “Yes.”
“Say more about that,” the caller responded.
This was the first part of my first real-time interaction with Wendy Cadge, PhD, professor of sociology at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL). You may also recognize her name as one of our keynote presenters at the IACAC conference in CLT in September 2018.
Our hourlong interview/conversation that day was part of Dr Cadge’s information-gathering ramping up to the launch of CIL later in 2018. By the time the lab launched, I had become a project leader.
Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s purpose is to spark innovation in spiritual care. A huge part of that work is figuring out ways to connect chaplains across domains and contexts of chaplaincy—ports and airports, healthcare, first responders, military, schools and universities, prisons and jails, workplaces, sports and entertainment, and all the other locations and situations in which chaplains are embedded and in which and through which we provide spiritual care.
In the midst of this strange and difficult season for the whole world, CIL has been offering regular online town hall meetings for chaplains of all kinds (“Caring for the Caregiver”) and organizing and/or hosting a wide variety of other online webinars to support chaplains in these days of global pandemic.
As we who are airport chaplains across the world’s airports know, many people have no idea that there are chaplains and chaplaincy/spiritual care services available in spaces and places such as airports. Moreover, as we also know, there are often few clear avenues for connecting chaplains across domains of chaplaincy service.
CIL’s founders and project leaders suspect that there are common best practices in multiple chaplaincy contexts along with specific skills that may be unique to each. We also suspect that chaplains of various kinds would benefit from being in conversation with each other. We suspect both these things, but no one has ever congregated chaplains from various domains and contexts and gathered the data that would allow us to test these hypotheses—until now.
And, in this season, understanding that chaplaincy and spiritual care services—like nearly everything else—will be remade and renovated on account of the circumstances occasioned by COVID-19, CIL is looking for new partner organizations that can join their collaborations to bring chaplains together, both to reimagine our work and also to do it as fruitfully and effectively as possible.
With all this in mind, Chaplaincy Innovation Lab would like to begin a formal partnership with IACAC. This partnership will cost us nothing in terms of money but will offer us new pathways of connection, support, resources, and training. As a member of IACAC and a project leader for CIL, I have proposed to the IACAC board that we accept this partnership offer. It is the kind of win-win situation members of the human family are always in need of, and never more than now.
The Reverend Donna S. Mote, PhD
Episcopal Chaplain, ATL