Lab receives grant from Templeton Religion Trust

Cross-posted from Brandeis University

WALTHAM, Mass. (March 1, 2021) – The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab received a $1.5 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for a three-year study and conversation about the demand for the work of chaplaincy and spiritual care across the United States. In partnership with Gallup, Inc, the Lab will conduct a national survey and in-depth interviews to learn who in the general public has engaged with chaplains in recent years and what their experiences have been. This project will also allow the Lab to map how chaplains are trained and where the gaps are between supply and demand.

Wendy Cadge, the project’s principal investigator and Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives at Brandeis, said “We think chaplains and spiritual care providers are going to play increasingly central roles in religious leadership in coming years. The public has become more aware of their work since the COVID-19 pandemic as they cared for patients, staff and family members at a distance in hospitals across the United States.”

Chaplains have long histories in the military, prisons, and other settings and are increasingly found in new places such as community organizations, social movements, and social service organizations.

The project will analyze how members of the public have engaged with chaplains in recent years and use this new knowledge to think about how chaplains can best be trained for their work. Most attention to chaplaincy and spiritual care today focuses not on these demand questions but on the supply of chaplains. Scholars and educators debate how chaplains should be educated, what endorsements or certifications are required, and how to continue to support them over their careers. This project will challenge that conversation by collecting much-needed data about demand. In some settings this is demand for an actual chaplain; in other settings, the demand is for the skills of presence; empathetic listening; improvisation; an awareness of spiritual, religious and broad existential issues of meaning and purpose; knowledge and ability to comfort around death; and the ability to engage deeply across religious difference.

From the start, the project will have an advisory group of close to thirty stakeholders in spiritual care, the institutions where chaplains work, and theological education. They will play particular attention to how chaplains enable people from different backgrounds and belief systems to engage one another, as key facilitators of covenantal pluralism in the United States.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Brandeis, Dr. Cadge and her team to support the work of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab,” commented Dr. W. Christopher Stewart, Vice President of Grant Programs at the Templeton Religion Trust.  “CIL has quickly become an important part of the American landscape in preparing educators and chaplains to facilitate cooperative, constructive engagement across deep differences while enhancing the spiritual welfare of individuals, and society. TRT supports CIL because chaplains embody the freedom of conscience, religious literacy, and humility that our world needs to engage others with empathy and patience, thus improving the overall conditions of societies and strengthening the vitality of religions.”

The Lab is pleased to be joined by postdoctoral fellow Grace Tien in this work. Tien completed her PhD in sociology at Princeton University on an accelerated track with the Dean’s Completion Fellowship and is currently a postdoctoral scholar and a research affiliate of Princeton’s Center on Contemporary China. The American Sociological Association recently awarded Tien the 2020 best student paper prize in economic sociology and entrepreneurship.

By the end of the project, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab will have produced multiple working papers, publicly available and academic articles, and a draft monograph on the future of the field.


About the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab

Founded in 2018, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab supports chaplains in all sectors as they recognize and respond to changes in American religious and spiritual life. The Lab brings chaplaincy leaders, theological educators, clinical educators, and social scientists into a research-based conversation about the state of chaplaincy and spiritual care. Driving its work are questions about how spiritual caregivers can do their best work. 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 spiritual care develops as a professional field


About Brandeis University

Brandeis University was founded in 1948 by the American Jewish community at a time when Jews and other marginalized groups faced discrimination in higher education. Today, Brandeis is a leading research university for anyone, regardless of background, who wants to use their knowledge, skills and experience to improve the world. Nearly 6,000 Brandeis students and 550 faculty members collaborate across disciplines, interests and perspectives on scholarship that has a positive impact throughout society. Learn more at


About the Templeton Religion Trust

Templeton Religion Trust (TRT) is a global charitable trust chartered by Sir John Templeton in 1984 with headquarters in Nassau, The Bahamas. TRT has been active since 2012 and supports projects as well as storytelling related to projects seeking to enrich the conversation about religion. TRT is always seeking more spiritual information, more “benefits of religion,” and more spiritual growth.

Chaplaincy Innovation Lab Contact

Michael Skaggs, PhD
Director of Programs
781 736 4399