Chaplains on Hand


This group has just appeared on my screen:  Chaplains On Hand

They’re sponsored by the Healthcare Chaplaincy Network, so the focus is on hospital work, but I find the approach hopeful.

I’m intrigued by offering compassionate care to people online and (apparently) nonjudgmentally.

Eric Hall, the CEO, says

Spiritual distress is the disruption in one’s beliefs or value system. It can affect a person not only in their thoughts about what is the meaning of their new or ongoing health crisis, but also physically and emotionally. It affects someone’s whole being — body, mind, and spirit — as beliefs once held as important may now be challenged.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first online service that provides professional-quality, thoughtful, and practical spiritual care information and resources and support to the general public.

The questions begin to flow:  What if a patient is choosing to no longer believe?  What if their “spiritual distress” is letting go of spirituality?  How do your Chaplains handle a person whose beliefs “may now be challenged” or their value system is non-theistic based?

Also from their website:

Professional chaplains do not provide definitive answers to questions and issues of spiritual distress. Instead, they help people in spiritual distress to identify and draw upon their sources of spiritual strength – regardless of religion or beliefs.

Professional chaplains will accept without judgment the person in pain’s own beliefs, faith and practice as well as their doubts and misgivings.

This is tricky for a Clergyperson, but I respect the intent!

These are “Board Certified” Chaplains, meaning,

A health care chaplain becomes board certified by one of the professional associations when he or she meets the requirements: has completed graduate level study and 1600 hours of supervised clinical training, demonstrates competencies through a rigorous peer review process, and commits to a professional code of ethics prohibits proselytizing.

As a Chaplain who never completed any “clinical training” I see some clear benefits in that.  I’ve mentored a number of seminary students over the years and some have done Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as well.  I’m not against that formalized program.  I just don’t think it’s necessary or essential to the Chaplain’s Education.   So, I have some questions:

Who trains the trainers?  Who makes up the “board” that certifies a Chaplain?  Have ANY of them served as an Interfaith or Humanist Chaplain?  What are their views of Atheists?  These Chaplain Boards seem heavy on the Judeo/Christian side, so what about Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims and Wiccans and Seculars?  How truly “Interfaith” and Inclusive is this program?  They must know that Ministers, Priests and Rabbis cannot represent ALL faiths or No faith.

Here is what gives me a hint.  On their “Resources” page, there are sample “Prayers and Meditations.”  It’s good to see Buddhists and Wiccans included.  Yet, when we see “No Formal Religious Affiliation,” every “meditation” is more a prayer to “God” or “Holy Spirit.”  So are we to conclude that Chaplains on Hand is not only primarily serving religious people but ever so subtly suggesting a Non-affiliated is a Theist?

I’m contacting Chaplains on Hand to see what they think about care for non-religious patients.  And I’d like to know what they think about including Humanist or Secular Chaplains.

I will be asking some of these questions and let you know what I hear.


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