Innovating Chaplaincy Education: Redesigning the Syllabus

Beginning with the redesign of courses within theological schools, chaplaincy educators can start to think on a pedagogical level about transforming the ways in which chaplains are trained and spiritual care is provided.

This webinar reported on the results of a project funded by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning to approach the chaplaincy syllabus and receive feedback from educational design specialists, researchers, and practitioners working in the field of spiritual care.

Project participants designed individual courses for their institutions, all with an eye to the wider field, to serve as models for theological educators around the world offering courses in spiritual care. Through this, they introduced teaching faculty to current research on the needs of chaplains and innovative models for training them, as well as facilitated conversations between faculty teaching in diverse institutions and regions of the United States.

Shelly Rambo, PhD
Shelly Rambo has taught at Boston University School of Theology since 2004. Trained as both a systematic and constructive theologian, she is particularly attentive to the transmission of Christian theologies of suffering, from history to the present. She locates her work at the intersections of Christian theology, literature, and postmodern thought.

Her work at the intersection of trauma and religion has led to partnerships with chaplains and international educators in post-conflict areas. Inspired by the work of military chaplains, she was instrumental in designing Boston University School of Theology’s MDiv track in Chaplaincy. She also serves as a faculty leader in Boston University’s Religion and Conflict Transformation program. Her current projects focus on theologies of spiritual care that inform the work of chaplains.

She teaches courses in contemporary theology, feminist and womanist theologies, trauma and theology, postmodern theology, and theopoetics.

Celene Ibrahim, PhD
Dr. Celene Ibrahim is the author of Women and Gender in the Qur’an from Oxford University Press (2020) and the editor of One Nation, Indivisible: Seeking Liberty and Justice from the Pulpit to the Streets from Wipf & Stock Publishers (2019). Her current book project on the concept of monotheism in the Qur’an and Islamic intellectual history is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.​

Ibrahim holds a doctorate in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations and a master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, a Masters of Divinity from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s degree with the highest honors from Princeton University.

As a trusted public voice on issues of religion and civic engagement, Dr. Ibrahim is deeply committed to counteracting bigotry and fostering values of pluralism, integrity, and civic responsibility. She offers lectures, workshops, and educational seminars around the world and is a graduate of the United World College of the American West.

Rev. Julie Taylor is a Unitarian Universalist (UU) community minister specializing in critical incident response, community crisis and pastoral care. Rev. Julie is the Senior Director of Contextual Ministry and an affiliated professor at Meadville Lombard. Rev. Julie serves as a chaplain (Capt) with the New York Air National Guard and on the board of the UU Trauma Response Ministry.

An ordained minister since 2001, Rev. Julie has served UU congregations in New York City and St. Louis and volunteered with multiple crisis and disaster response organizations. A sought-after speaker and teacher, Rev. Julie has contributed chapters to several books on the subject of spiritual care and crisis. Agitating, preaching, and working towards dismantling systems of white supremacy are key in Rev. Julie’s theology and work.

Rabbi Elisa Goldberg directed Chaplaincy Services at Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS) for fourteen years where she dedicated herself to creating an inclusive Jewish community that provided for the spiritual needs of the underserved; including the poor, ill and institutionalized. Rabbi Elisa conceptualized and developed JFCS’ LGBTQ Initiative and chaired several community-wide conferences on Jewish Women. Currently, She teaches Pastoral Counseling at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and serves as the part-time Spiritual Leader of Temple Micah in Lawrenceville, NJ.

For Rabbi Elisa, the most sacred moments occur in the encounter with another person – teaching Torah, building sacred community, and bringing healing to the world. She has honed the art of pastoral presence through 1600 hours of Clinical Pastoral Education, twenty years as a Spiritual Director and hundreds of holy moments at the side of another. As she moves through the world encountering both the magnificence of creation and the human ability to emerge from darkness, Rabbi Elisa often finds herself echoing the words of the Torah: “Ma Nora Ha Makom Hazeh (How wondrous is this place).”

Joel Nightingale Berning is a chaplain at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He is a Board Certified Chaplain in the Association of Professional Chaplains and serves on its Board of Directors and its Commission on Certification. He supervises Clinical Pastoral Education, as a Certified Educator Candidate of ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education. His research focuses on overcoming communication barriers to spiritual care.

He graduated from Union Theological Seminary and Pomona College, is endorsed by the Religious Naturalist Association, and was born and raised in Portland, Oregon.

Nazila Isgandarova has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling, marriage and family studies from Wilfred Laurier University, and a Master of Social Work from the University of Windsor. She is a Registered Psychotherapist at the College for Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario and Registered Social Worker at the Ontario Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

She is also a certified American Board of Forensic Professionals for the CMCC AMA Guides to Impairment Rating. She also attended the training in Catastrophic Impairment at Canadian Academy of Psychologists in Disability Assessment. Also, Nazila has been trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, EMDR, Motivational Interviewing, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and clinical hypnosis. Nazila is the recipient of the prestigious Forum for Theological Exploration research award for her study on domestic violence against Muslim women, Canadian Association for Spiritual Care Senior Research Award and Society for Pastoral Counseling Research Award.

Currently, Nazila is a faculty member at Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto teaching mental health and psychopathology and psychotherapy courses. Her book, titled Muslim Women, Domestic Violence, and Psychotherapy: Theological and Clinical Issues, was published by Routledge in 2018 and Islamic Spiritual Care by Pandora Press in 2019.


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