BALTIMORE—The Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) is inaugurating a program to provide support to chaplains and spiritual caregivers in Maryland, especially for smaller organizations with fewer resources.
The ICJS Chaplaincy Initiative will provide interreligious education and networking opportunities to those ministering in diverse communities and institutions, including hospitals and hospices, educational campuses, the military, and fire and public safety departments. Currently, there is no organization in Maryland providing these opportunities to a multi-sector community of chaplains. ICJS, with its expertise and experience in convening interreligious networks, is well positioned to fill this gap.
“Most chaplains are interreligious leaders by default, given they regularly provide spiritual care to people from diverse religious backgrounds,” said Alisha Tatem, ICJS program director for religious leaders. “Therefore, chaplaincy is an inherently interreligious arena that ICJS can uniquely support.”
In preparation for launching the Chaplaincy Initiative, ICJS worked with the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL) at Brandeis University to conduct a survey to map and assess the needs of chaplains in Maryland.
ICJS and CIL will report on the survey’s findings at a March 1 online event, The Ministry of Presence: A portrait of chaplains in Maryland.
The study found that most paid chaplains were concentrated in the healthcare sector, while most volunteer chaplains worked with state and local police. The chaplains surveyed reported that approximately 40 percent of their time is devoted to serving people from religious traditions other than their own.
The survey revealed that although chaplains in Maryland have rich resources and support to navigate the field, they still encounter challenges that may hinder chaplaincy work:
- Chaplains already work frequently in interreligious spaces, but those in smaller institutions, with a staff of just one or two, say they need more resources and training. Chaplains at larger organizations, such as hospitals, have colleagues of various faith backgrounds they can turn to and have access to more resources.
- Chaplains working in rural settings often feel more isolated and have less access to educational and support resources.
- Chaplains say they receive the highest-quality support from other chaplains, and welcome the opportunity to connect with others in the field both formally and informally.
- Chaplains expressed the need for continuing professional development in dealing with trauma, interreligious issues and interpersonal skills.
Organizations like ICJS can work at the local level to connect chaplains to available resources and existing chaplain networks, because many chaplains are unaware of existing programs and do not have the time or knowledge to become connected.
In the coming months, the ICJS Chaplaincy Initiative will carry out a number of new programs to meet those needs.
To read the results of the Maryland Chaplain survey, visit www.icjs.org/chaplains.
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The Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies (ICJS) works to dismantle religious bias and bigotry to foster an interreligious society in which dialogue replaces division, friendship overcomes fear, and education eradicates ignorance. Through courses, fellowships, online events, and scholarship initiatives, ICJS builds learning communities where religious difference becomes a powerful force for good. ICJS is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. More information is at www.icjs.org.