About a quarter of new students in the Master of Divinity programs at Boston University and Union Theological Seminary in the fall of 2022 were in a chaplaincy track.
And their numbers are growing. Attention must be paid.
This comes from Wendy Cadge at Brandeis University:
I have spent the past 15 years interviewing, shadowing and writing about chaplains: religious professionals who work outside of congregations in health care, the military, prisons, higher education and other institutions. My latest book, “Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains,” describes who they are, what they do and how it connects to broader aspects of American religious life. In a recent survey that colleagues and I conducted at Brandeis University in partnership with the polling firm Gallup, we found that a quarter of people in the U.S. have been assisted, counseled or visited by a chaplain at some point in their lives.
Today, there are campus chaplains from a broad range of religious and spiritual backgrounds, including humanists who see and emphasize the goodness in all people. They are often able to quickly connect with young people, one-third of whom are not religiously affiliated…
… Today chaplains work in a variety of settings. Beyond the military, federal prisons and veterans’ centers, they are also present in most health care organizations, and places as surprising as the Olympics, research stations in Antarctica, airports and some polling places.
In interviews I conducted with chaplains in greater Boston, all said they work around end of life care, and almost all engage with people’s big-picture life questions – what one chaplain described to me as people’s peripheral vision, the questions hovering just out of sight until a crisis forces them into view. Rather than offering answers, chaplains offer a listening ear. Describing her work in a hospital, one explained her role as creating “a bit of a holding space” and to “validate what a person is feeling and give them some sense of hope or stability in the midst of chaotic times.”
And there’s this:
In many churchyards across the U.S., “for sale” signs have been hammered into the ground as places of worship fail to keep afloat. Attendance and membership have been declining for years, and many congregants who switched to virtual attendance during the pandemic are not coming back in person.
As membership in formal religious groups continues to decline, enrollment in theological schools is shifting, with growing numbers of new students and programs focused on chaplaincy as opposed to more traditional work in a congregation. About a quarter of new students in the Master of Divinity programs at Boston University and Union Theological Seminary in fall 2022 were in a chaplaincy track. That number is closer to three-quarters at Iliff School of Theology and at Emmanuel College in Canada.