Stay tuned
By Amy Greene, Board Chair | July 1, 2019

I just got back from the Association of Professional Chaplains meeting in Orlando and I could not be more excited about our future as colleagues in spiritual care and education. There were great speakers such as:

  • Jan Holton of Duke Divinity School (look for her book “Longing for Home” from her work with refugees)
  • Stalwart friend of our profession, Christina Pulchalski, MD, of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health
  • Humanist chaplains Greg Epstein of Harvard University and Jason Callahan of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center
There was an amazing array of good workshop sessions, which reinforced my long-held belief that ACPE alone cannot possibly cover all the curriculum content for preparing folks to be Board Certified Chaplains. We need to do a great deal more, to be sure, but we are also educating people other than clergy and clergy who may not specialize in chaplaincy. We cannot forsake our role in education and formation on a broader scale for the sake of focusing exclusively on the proficiencies of professional chaplaincy. (If you detect a note of persuasion in this paragraph, you are right). Several people pointed out that if we all adopted the Common Standards, we would prepare people for service in any setting. I agree. But the range of proficiencies needed for modern chaplaincy and leadership in spiritual health is only growing. We need all hands-on deck. The days when we could afford to be territorial and internally competitive are decidedly over.

The research presence was strong and lively, thanks largely to Transforming Chaplaincy. The opening reception with research posters was buzzing! A frequent-flyer at these events told me that was unusual for “opening night.” A few of the poster teasers:
  • Religiously unaffiliated patients want support from chaplains, but aren’t getting it in the way they would like (Marta Dabis, BCC)
  • Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) reduced chaplain anxiety and burnout (Maureen Shelton ACPE, et. al.)
  • Stressor Prevalence, Grouping, Distribution and Associations with Anxiety Among Patients: A Precursor Study for Developing Targeted Chaplain Interventions (J. Mascaro, PhD, et. al.)
  • Drawing Attention to the Sacred in the Ordinary: Using Nature Photographs for Spiritual Care with Veterans (Shelley Varner Perez, BCC, et. al.)
Some of the topics (and ALL of the conversations) made me more hopeful and excited than ever about the work we have been doing as “Strategic Partners” with their CEO Pat Appelhans and their current President Ron Oliver – as well as our colleagues from NAJC (Neshama Association of Jewish Chaplains), CASC (Canadian Association for Spiritual Care) and NACC (National Association of Catholic Chaplains). Our “clinical trial” with the (formerly known as) American Association of Pastoral Counselors is off to a great start and enthusiasm for the mutual decision of the organizations has not slacked one bit.

In fact, in that department, Russell Siler Jones’s book “Spirit in Session” (Templeton Press 2019) is hot off the press. It provides an exciting road map for the now-ACPE psychotherapists and others who have always wanted to be more explicit about integrating their clients’ spirituality into their work, as well as their own spirituality. I think it’s a fabulous model for us as Certified Educators to look at down the road for developing a similar Spiritually-Integrated Healthcare curriculum and certificate for healthcare workers who don’t have the time or inclination to spend 400 hours for a unit of CPE that is designed mostly for clergy but who would love to know how they can incorporate spirituality into their care as well. I’m telling you – these are exciting times.

So, we will be having a series of Town Halls over the next few months to keep the membership informed about the progress of these Strategic Partner talks, as well as to hear from you about questions, hopes, concerns. But here’s my ask as your Board Chair:

When the video of Ron Oliver’s speech to the APC conference is available (hopefully by the first week in August), we will post it as soon as possible on our website. PLEASE TAKE JUST 30 MINUTES of your time to watch it – we will make it easy – you’ll just click the link. You will get such a great amount of information, context and, I believe, inspiration for this subject – the when, the why, the who, and most importantly, the why now? Ron did an amazing job of boiling down many complex issues – market forces, changing demographics and more – to make a case for why we would all be stronger together than apart. I want to be clear. We are talking merger – not just being pals or continuing to “date.”

Please take the time to watch this speech when it comes out. Then we’ll see you on a Town Hall meeting coming soon after that. There have been several attempts at coming together in the past. In fact, the last time a spiritual care joint conference was held, it was exactly 10 years ago and also in Orlando. I remember at the time running into George Grant of Emory and saying “George! This is great! It’s just like Horton Hears a Who! If we all just get together and shout loud enough, the world will know we’re here!”

So it’s clear we’ve tried before and it hasn’t happened. Someone was quoted saying it failed at least a couple of times in the past because of “egos and logos.” Though I’m sure that was part of it, given that we are still human after all, I really don’t think that’s the main reason. Good people worked hard at it – and for all the right reasons. I hope if you were part of those efforts, you know that we stand on your shoulders and I hope that you help move this forward. I don’t think it was just egos and logos. I think every good idea needs multiple iterations to come to fruition. Call it evolution, or “trusting the process” or just the way life is. Great relationships need time to mature. Becoming infatuated is easy; but committing for the long haul takes time – and recommitting over and over.

It is also great work. Please stay tuned. As I said in my first speech last year in Atlanta, I think our “finest hour” may be very close at hand. We want to be, as Churchill said, “prepared and qualified” when it comes.
Follow Us