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Archive for the ‘chaplains’ tag

Religion In Prison: Pew Forum Releases 50-State Survey Of Prison Chaplains

from Huffington Post

Pew Forum Releases New 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains: Study Provides Rare Window into Religion Behind Bars

Washington, D.C. — From the perspective of the nation’s professional prison chaplains, America’s state penitentiaries are a bustle of religious activity. According to “Religion in Prisons: A 50-State Survey of Prison Chaplains,” a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, more than seven-in-10 state prison chaplains (73 percent) say that efforts by inmates to proselytize or convert other inmates are either very common (31 percent) or somewhat common (43 percent). About three-quarters of the chaplains say that a lot (26 percent) or some (51 percent) religious switching occurs among inmates in the prisons where they work. Many chaplains report growth from religious switching in the numbers of Muslims and Protestant Christians, in particular.

Overwhelmingly, state prison chaplains consider religious counseling and other religion-based programming an important aspect of rehabilitating prisoners. Nearly three-quarters of the chaplains (73 percent), for example, say they consider access to religion-related programs in prison to be “absolutely critical” to successful rehabilitation of inmates. Among chaplains working in prisons that have religion-related rehabilitation or re-entry programs, more than half (57 percent) say the quality of such programs has improved over the last three years and six-in-10 (61 percent) say participation in such programs has gone up.

Click here to read the full article

March 25th, 2012 at 7:09 am

Why This Atheist Still Needs His Former Pastor

by Chris Stedman
from Relevant Magazine

“It’s been a long time, Tiffer,” he said through one of his characteristically gigantic grins. It had been nearly as long since anyone outside my family called me that name.

“It sure has, Doogie,” I said, returning his grin, imagining he hadn’t heard that nickname in a while, either. As an espresso machine rattled and steamed from across the room, Matthew informed me that he had recently left a call in parish ministry and was now in Massachusetts working for an organization called Outreach Inc. – Kids Care, which organizes meal-packaging events for churches and conferences that want to give back. In addition to coordinating these events, he donated his Sunday mornings to traveling around New England and preaching at churches, hoping to inspire them to get involved in the fight against hunger. I asked if he’d be interested in expanding his partnerships beyond churches and Christian conferences and working with an atheist organization on an interfaith program. He didn’t even hesitate.

It’s funny because, when he first asked me to get coffee, I hesitated. “What will he think of the work I do now?” I asked myself. “Will he feel like he failed me as a pastor? Will he want to debate theology? Will he try to bring me back into the church?”

Such hesitance was unmerited; he sat and listened as I updated him on my life, smiling and nodding as I described how I’ve come into my own as an atheist, an interfaith activist and a young man. Now, Matthew and I have a better and more honest relationship than we ever did in my youth.

It’s been a more productive one, too: in less than six months, we’ve mobilized hundreds of people to come together in interfaith coalition and donate their time and money to package over 30,000 meals for food-insecure children in Boston. Most recently we held an event (planned with Boston University’s Interfaith Council) called HUNGERally, where over a hundred student representatives from eight Boston-area colleges and universities spent a Saturday night learning about the problem of hunger and pledging to work together across lines of religious difference to address it.

All of this is the direct result of a partnership between an atheist and his former pastor. In light of this, I cannot help but wonder what the world would look like if we were more willing to forge unconventional alliances. What would happen if we were more radical about whom we saw as our collaborators? What would happen if we took the risk of reaching out to the unfamiliar? If atheists and Christians started seeing one another as necessary partners in making the world a better place, what might we come to understand about each other? What might we come to better understand about ourselves? What might we accomplish together?

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A Muslim Chaplain who Matters for Non-Muslims, Too

by Noah J. Silverman
from Common Ground News Service

New York, New York – In 1924, Norman De Nosaquo, a Jewish student at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a letter to the editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in which he observed, “It is only through organised groups [that one can] accomplish anything of good for the advancement of the knowledge of the Jewish people.” The occasion of the letter was the recent establishment of a new institution at the University of Illinois – the first of its kind – dedicated to proactively helping Jewish students maintain and strengthen their Jewish identity.

De Nosaquo called for Jewish leaders in Wisconsin to “launch a state-wide campaign for a community house for the Jewish students” at the University of Wisconsin as well. The name of this nascent Jewish student organisation was Hillel. The word “Hillel” derives from the name of a rabbinic sage from the first century, now famous for the ethic of reciprocity: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” A few months later, Hillel expanded to the University of Wisconsin. Nearly 100 years later, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life serves students at over 500 college and university campuses across North America.

The story of Hillel’s creation, growth and success is not only one of the major accomplishments of the Jewish community in America in the 20th century, it is also a distinctly American story of which citizens of all religious backgrounds should be proud. As President Obama noted in his inaugural address, “We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers.”

It is also a story that is now repeating itself with the American Muslim community.

Earlier this year, the University of Michigan welcomed the first endowed Muslim chaplain at a public university. Mohammed Tayysir Safi, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan and a University of Michigan alumnus, reflected that without institutionalised leadership, “There’s not a solid environment where a Muslim feels . . . safe – as in they feel safe and at home in being able to express themselves and who they are.” Safi is looking forward to serving both the Muslim and non-Muslim population as a counsellor, advocate and general resource on Islam on campus.

As an American and as a Jew, I was thrilled to hear this news, not least because I know first-hand the importance of strong religious leadership and institutions for college-aged youth. The establishment of organised Jewish campus life over the course of the 20th century had a profound and existential impact on my life: my parents met on the steps of the Hillel building at the University of Pennsylvania. When I attended Connecticut College, I served as president of our local Hillel chapter.

Click here to read the full article

What People Talk about Before They Die

By Kerry Egan
From CNN

As a divinity school student, I had just started working as a student chaplain at a cancer hospital when my professor asked me about my work. I was 26 years old and still learning what a chaplain did.

“I talk to the patients,” I told him.

“You talk to patients? And tell me, what do people who are sick and dying talk to the student chaplain about?” he asked.

I had never considered the question before. “Well,” I responded slowly, “Mostly we talk about their families.”

“Do you talk about God?

“Umm, not usually.”

“Or their religion?”

“Not so much.”

“The meaning of their lives?”


“And prayer? Do you lead them in prayer? Or ritual?”

“Well,” I hesitated. “Sometimes. But not usually, not really.”

I felt derision creeping into the professor’s voice. “So you just visit people and talk about their families?”

“Well, they talk. I mostly listen.”

“Huh.” He leaned back in his chair.

A week later, in the middle of a lecture in this professor’s packed class, he started to tell a story about a student he once met who was a chaplain intern at a hospital.

“And I asked her, ‘What exactly do you do as a chaplain?’ And she replied, ‘Well, I talk to people about their families.’” He paused for effect. “And that was this student’s understanding of faith! That was as deep as this person’s spiritual life went! Talking about other people’s families!”

The students laughed at the shallowness of the silly student. The professor was on a roll.

“And I thought to myself,” he continued, “that if I was ever sick in the hospital, if I was ever dying, that the last person I would ever want to see is some Harvard Divinity School student chaplain wanting to talk to me about my family.”

My body went numb with shame. At the time I thought that maybe, if I was a better chaplain, I would know how to talk to people about big spiritual questions. Maybe if dying people met with a good, experienced chaplain they would talk about God, I thought.

Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain. I visit people who are dying – in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes. And if you were to ask me the same question – What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain? – I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.

They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.

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February 13th, 2012 at 10:48 am

Faith Occupies Wall Street

from Huffington Post

People and groups of faith inspired by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City are organizing events in NYC’s “Liberty Plaza” and around the country. We’ve compiled a list of some of these upcoming protests. We would love to add other cities! Please leave all faith-related happenings in the comments, or tweet us @HuffPostRelig so we can add to the list.

In many of the Occupy cities, there are “protest chaplains.” In New York they identify themselves with blue ribbons. In Boston they have white cloaks or are in the Inter/No/Faith tent. Check out theOccupy Boston Faith and Spirituality page.

Click here to read more

November 21st, 2011 at 12:49 pm