Lab receives $500,000 from Henry Luce Foundation to support chaplains on frontline of COVID-19 pandemic

Brandeis University

July 1, 2020


Chaplaincy Innovation Lab awarded grant to support frontline spiritual care providers

The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support frontline spiritual care providers through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lab will partner with trauma-informed counselors to offer small, somatic-focused groups where chaplains can process their experiences of serving those impacted by the pandemic and receive support that will renew them for their continued work.

“We’re excited to partner with the Luce Foundation on this important work,” said Wendy Cadge, Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives, the Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanistic Social Sciences, and founder of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. “From day one of the pandemic, we’ve seen chaplains exhausted, worried, and traumatized by the work of providing spiritual care to those impacted by COVID. This project is a first step in addressing those issues in a systematic, collaborative way.”

Half of the funds will be made available to frontline chaplains collaborating with administrators in their institutions to expand the spiritual care offered to staff. Six to eight projects will be funded to enable chaplains to do additional staff care, partner with human resources or employee assistance programs to streamline response, test new spiritual care interventions, and more. A researcher from the lab will be connected to each project to evaluate impact, enhance networking across projects, and scale the most successful for future crises.

The lab will also produce 6-8 free webinars, with parallel educational materials, focused on issues of resilience and trauma-informed recovery for chaplains. Cadge’s team includes Brandeis undergraduates Simona Shuman ’22 and Zoë Pringle ’22, who are assisting with research and public engagement, along with Aja Antoine ’17 who works as a Research Associate with the Lab.

By the end of this ambitious project, the lab will produce a white paper focused on lessons learned from the lab’s response to COVID in this project and that will enable chaplains to be better prepared for future crises and the lab to continue to learn and respond moving forward. The Board of Directors of the Henry Luce Foundation approved the grant in June.

“We are grateful to Brandeis University and its Chaplaincy Innovation Lab for their willingness to partner with the Henry Luce Foundation’s Theology Program in an initiative that involves rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic across a range of contexts and regions,” said Luce Foundation Program Director Jonathan VanAntwerpen. “Driven by the ideas and creativity of our partners, these efforts are taking multiple forms, including support for community-based responses, efforts to give voice to the experiences of underrepresented communities, and funding for research on the pandemic and its effects, seeking to increase public understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on religious communities and vulnerable populations.”

Lab Executive Director Michael Skaggs, who is also a visiting scholar in the Department of Sociology, said he was grateful that the Luce Foundation shares the Lab’s vision of care and development for chaplains.

“This grant not only helps the lab address these issues directly, but also to build a collaborative network of others who are engaged in this vital work,” Skaggs said.

About the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab
The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab brings chaplaincy leaders, theological educators, clinical educators, and social scientists into a research-based conversation about the state of chaplaincy and spiritual care. The lab aims to improve how chaplains are trained, how they work with diverse individuals – including those with no religious or spiritual backgrounds – and how chaplaincy and spiritual care coheres as a professional field.

About the Henry Luce Foundation
The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.