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What may be ahead?

The Secular Chaplain welcomes constructive comments here.

He is available to give presentations, book readings, workshops or weddings.

Contact Chris by leaving a comment here.


17 thoughts on “Contact

  1. I found your site at the Clergy Project on The FaceBook.
    I can understand that you may have doubts about Jesus being the son of God, but how do you deny that there exists some God?
    In fact, if you can explain morality without God, I will be glad to join you in your new faith.

    1. You’re welcome to visit here, Carl, but it looks like I need to clarify several things. I have no “doubts” about the divinity of Jesus or the existence of any god. I once had faith, but now I do not. Regarding “morality,” let me turn the question back to you: Are you saying that a person who does not believe in a divine being cannot be a good, loving and compassionate person? Are you aware that there are millions of us, probably your neighbors and co-workers or family, who do not believe as you do, but live fine, decent, reasonable lives? I would hope you would think a bit more about that. I get the jab of “your new faith.” It’s one of the old, tired jabs by believers against non-believers. As the naturalist philosopher John Burroughs once wrote, a natural “faith” is not a faith at all, but a love, an enthusiasm, a commitment to natural truth. This is based on experience and reason, Carl, not faith. I wish you well.

  2. I am a professional chaplain, Chris. This means I went through a year of full time training in a hospital, and I am board certified. Professional chaplains, such as myself, do not off the bat offer prayer. We listen to people’s stories. And we are present to their grief. That is what people need and want from us. If a person indicates they are religious we may ask if they would like us to pray with them — because they may feel the need for this. We also do not push religion and we are very aware and do not push agendas. The only agenda we have is to be present to the person we are helping. When a chaplain offers prayer without an invitation from that person they are helping, it usually indicates fuzzy boundaries — which means it is for the chaplain’s benefit and not the client’s. There are ministers who may call themselves chaplains, but they are really pushing their own religious agenda and beliefs on a person who is vulnerable — and that is not chaplain ministry in any way, shape, or form.

    You never want to take from someone in a disaster a coping mechanism that has worked for them in times past — including prayer — because it may be the only thing they can hold onto. If that is their coping mechanism, you have to honor that — and if you don’t, then you are violating that person and not allowing them to be who they are. You have to meet the person where they are.

    There are many things in this world and universe which we do not understand. We like to feel secure — feel the earth solid beneath our feet — and that orients our perception of reality — until the earth shakes and then everything we had thought was secure is in flux — and we feel afraid — and that is totally natural and totally human. Religion plays an important role for people in trying to make sense of their life experiences for events and circumstances they cannot explain or understand — so that they can ground themselves and move forward.

    Because of this, you need to be very careful to not criticize people for praying — because chances are if they are praying, then this is fulfilling a need they have in order to move forward, and we all need this. It may be the only thread they have to hang onto. . .

    1. Siberian, I agree with much of what you say, esp. about listening, presence and the basics of Chaplaincy. However, I think you may be missing that fact that not everyone we encounter is a Christian. I am not criticizing people who pray (except in a blog that people can choose to read, or not). I am asking hard questions. Prayer means many things to many people. I think the wisest approach is to sit with a person and if they choose to pray we quietly listen. The Chaplain is not a “professional pray-er,” though that is exactly the impression many chaplains give. How would you pray with/for a Hindu, a Pagan, a Native person? Do you pray to Krishna or the Goddess or the Great Spirit? I’m doubtful. If, as you say, someone invites you to pray for them, I’ve found this is often a deeper invitation to let them express their fears, grief, etc, with a listening ear (the request may really be for the Chaplain’s ear, not so much a “divine ear”).
      What if a person says (which they often do), “This is God’s Will” or “Pray for my loved one!”? Someone is buried under ten feet of mud. What do you say, “Dear God, keep them safe and deliver them”? Awful. Cruel actually. Most prayers like this are never answered, but leave people wondering what’s wrong with them that God wouldn’t save their loved one. A Chaplain cannot support that magical thinking.
      Yes, prayer is a coping mechanism and something to hang onto, for some people. Granted. But the Chaplain is there to assist persons through difficult times, which requires much much more than speaking to someone not visibly present, or a divine image you are not familiar with.
      First and foremost, in my book, is being grounded in the present moment and being compassionate. All else is unnecessary or unhelpful.
      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Dear Chris,

    I got to know you through the website The Clergy Project which I am also a member in Brazil. I am a secular humanist and a while I odesejo working as a secular humanist chaplain in a hospital , for example.

    I confess that I was very glad I was able to find a specific site on the Secular Humanist Chaplaincy, like yours.

    While in Europe and the United States are filled with celebrants/humanist chaplains, here in Brazil there is no one with this desire. But I ‘m very glad I have this desire and know that I will make this my wonderful dream. I am 60 years old and already I was a novice in religion and religious communities lived about 12 years.

    I am very grateful to you for this your website and your posts. Even with regard to the basics like posture of a secular chaplain.

    But I am poor, with very few resources and I do not like paying a course/qualification to become a Secular Humanist Chaplain… If, for so many years, religious missionaries came to preach Brazil theistic doctrines, why secular humanists the United States and Europe could also not bring or support people with the same desires to work or engage the rest of their lives as chaplain?



    1. Good to have you visit, Carlos. Thanks for your comments. I’m sure you have your work cut out for you in Brazil! I think the more we speak out and let our voices be heard, and show that a person can and does live a good life without god, the more we will find others who think in similar ways, open to reason.
      I wish there was a Secular Seminary, and affordable! You might contact the Humanists and see if they would give a reduction on the amount of certification. I don’t know.
      As I present a Chaplaincy, anyone can practice this model of reasonable, responsible, compassionate human service. It will take different forms in different places. A Brazilian Secular Chaplaincy will no doubt take a new shape in Brazil than in North America. Finding others who think about these things can help create some support and maybe form a “community” of some kind. Yet, perhaps the best thing is simply to be yourself and practice secular chaplaincy as you think it best fits your life and your location.
      I hear you about the missionaries. A terrible, destructive legacy. Religion has left much wreckage, yet here we are with the pieces to pick up, and the people to assist in the daily struggle to be human and be treated as full human beings.
      I truly wish you well in your desire to be a Secular Chaplain. Maybe you already are, and you only need some agency or non-profit or school to live that life of service?

  4. Actually, I need more information about how I prepare for the practices of secular humanist chaplaincy. Handouts, for example. There are obviously general, ethical criteria for this exercise. I had 12 years of religious life. Of course that will serve nothing for me. But, for example, professional conduct, ethical, writing, beyond what was mentioned in your blog, will make illustrative difference to my training.

    I thank you once again for helping me.



    1. I hear you, Carlos, and I’ll try to be helpful if I can. Your 12 years of religious life must have had some value? Listening to others, living simply with compassion, helping when appropriate, having a sense of justice and such? There are some basic practices of chaplaincy that have to be adapted to specific contexts, whether that be a hospital or hospice, school or prison, the streets or a business. Where do you feel an interest? What are your strengths (we used to say “gifts”)? Where do you see a need for a Chaplain? Could you be a Chaplain without the title, for instance working as a social worker, counselor or member of a non-profit agency? Are there “Interfaith” groups nearby, or even Ecumenical, that may (they may not) be willing to include you and your skills?
      I understand you are looking for specific information and guidelines. I’ll see what I can pass to you, but I’m not sure I can help very much in your “training.” Maybe just some encouraging conversation will be helpful?

  5. Obviously I would appreciate your kind words and a large experienced Secular Humanist Chaplain! They are always welcome!

    I thank you immensely, Chris Friend, for what you can do for me so I can pursue chaplaincy (unnamed?) With humanist ethics and dignity.

    I’m also always careful to identify/locate someone here who tennha the same ideal.

    And I will always be aware of your blog and your words!

    With all my heart,


  6. Chris,

    I will be starting the Master of Divinity program at Pacific School of Religion this Fall. After perusing your websites and bio, I am hoping to enter into conversation with you to further discuss the potential of (spiritual?, secular?) nature chaplaincy. What worthwhile field-education opportunities exploring this concern are available in the Bay Area?


    1. Great question, Peter, and best of luck with the PSR program (I took many good courses there). I think you’ll have to explore and perhaps invent such an animal. Determine what will be “natural” for you and your skills. As with many innovative chaplaincies, the most natural have to be grown from the ground up. What are you most drawn to? Environmental organizations, congregations, businesses, national parks? Once you’ve identified the venue that seems ripe for planting something, I would recommend conversations with the decision makers, potential funders, possible board/advisory persons, and lots of collaboration. I would recommend some kind of interfaith (including secular) approach, perhaps through an existing group. You may find some kindred interest through the Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley. Happy to keep discussing this with you as you grapple with grad school distractions (like Theology. . .smile). The trails are open! And, read lots of the two Johns: Muir and Burroughs.

      1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Chris. Right now I am interested in both hospice/bereavement work and campus ministry. Disparate groups to be sure, but I would argue that they are united by profound existential upheaval and critical self-examination. Perhaps the nature/wilderness chaplaincy occurs within these more traditional contexts of service. And thanks for the John Burroughs recommendation; he has eluded me until now.

  7. Excellent path, Peter, we need naturalistic chaplains in those “edge” places. See my review of Rabbi Kaplan’s hospice book on this site and you may get some hints in my book, My address is a river. Whether you are secular or not, I assume you are drawn to the common ground of Nature. I’d be open to meeting sometime.

    1. Thanks for the book suggestions, Chris. I have also found Scott Eberle’s The Final Crossing to be suggestive of a wilderness chaplaincy. Nature would appear to be an interfaith/secular ideal: a shared physical and metaphorical context for community.

      My goal is to head for Berkeley at the end of June or early July. I will let you know when I get to town.

  8. Hi Chris,

    I left a comment on one of your posts, but see this might be a better way to make contact with you. I am seeking out any information I can find on interfaith/humanist/secular chaplaincy, as I feel inexplicably drawn towards this as part of my next path in life. Unfortunately, I am not finding a great deal of information for a beginner like myself. Would you be willing to share any resources you feel might be helpful for someone taking their first steps on this journey? My ultimate goal is to work within a hospice framework, if that helps. I’ll continue reading through your blog; I’m really enjoying your posts!



    1. I responded at the other post, Cassie, but I’ll just say here that hospice could sure use more secular chaplains. Assisting people through the death transition without pious platitudes should be more standard, in my opinion. American Humanists seem a good resource for being certified (ordained), but I would suggest, depending on your educational background, seeking out a chaplain program such as Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley or even Cherry Hill Seminary (online, and Pagan, though open to “naturalistic” viewpoints–this may also be true of the larger grad schools such as Pacific School of Religion).
      First and foremost, I would connect with your local hospice agencies and see if there is a way to get involved. Sometimes an interfaith group may be doing work in the area and might be open to a secular.
      Hope this helps a little.

      1. I didn’t see your other reply, sorry if you had to repeat yourself! Thank you so much for the information. I’ve reached out to two different local hospices for information on volunteer opportunities. I’ve actually decided to pursue a more interfaith route, since that will be likely to open more doors in my area (I live in the Southern US), and it will allow me access to those of no faith as well. I unfortunately do not hold a college degree, and am currently trying to access how much that will hold me back in terms of eventual employment — if financial aid can be obtained, I may seek out a Bachelor’s in LA with a focus on Religious Studies, and see where I can go from there. Because I have both young children and an elderly grandparent, I cannot relocate to attend an in-person program, but I will certainly check out the online programs you have mentioned!

        You have definitely given me something to go forward with, and I am grateful to you for that. 🙂

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