Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains [Book launch]

Update: Chapter 1 of Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains is now freely available to read in full! Read it at Oxford University Press.

Cover of Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains, on chaplain workJoin us as we launch Professor Wendy Cadge‘s new book Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains, an exploration of the past, present, and future of chaplain work and published by Oxford University Press. Professor Cadge is Founder and Director of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, as well as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Members of the Lab community can use the code AAFLYG6 for a 30% discount on orders.

From the publisher:

Chaplains are America’s hidden religious leaders. Required in the military, federal prisons, and Veterans Administration Medical Centers, chaplains also work in two-thirds of hospitals, most hospices, many institutions of higher education, and a growing range of other settings. The chaplains of the U.S. House and Senate regularly engage with national leaders through public prayer and private conversation.

Chaplains have been present at national protests, including the racial justice protests that took place across the country in 2020. A national survey conducted in the United States in 2019 found that 21% of the Americans public had contact with a chaplain in the prior two years. Contact with chaplains likely increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, which thrust chaplains into the spotlight, as they cared for patients, family members, and exhausted and traumatized medical staff fighting the pandemic in real time.

Wendy Cadge steps back to ask who chaplains are, what they do across the United States, how that work is connected to the settings where they do it, and how they have responded to and helped to shape contemporary shifts in the American religious landscape. She focuses on Boston as a case study to show how chaplains have been, and remain, an important part of institutional religious ecologies, both locally and nationally. She has combed through the archives of major Boston institutions including the city government, police and fire department, hospitals, universities, rest and rehabilitation centers, the Catholic church, and several Protestant denominations, as well as the Boston Globe, to chart the work of chaplains historically.

Cadge also interviewed over one hundred chaplains who work in greater Boston and shadowed them whenever possible, going on board container ships, walking through homeless shelters, and attending religious services at local prisons. The result is a rich study of a little-noticed but essential group of religious leaders.


Wendy Cadge, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Brandeis University

Mychal Springer, Manager of Clinical Pastoral Education, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Barbara Savage, Geraldine R. Segal Professor Emerita of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania

John Schmalzbauer, Blanche Gorman Strong Chair in Protestant Studies, Missouri State University

Support for this webinar and research on chaplain work

Barbara Mandel Professorship in the Humanistic Social Sciences, Brandeis University

Table of Contents for Spiritual Care:

Chapter 1. Introductions
Chapter 2. Chaplaincy in Greater Boston: A Short Historical Overview
Chapter 3. Becoming a Chaplain
Chapter 4. Brokers With(out) Authority? The Improvisational Work of Chaplains
Chapter 5. The Value Added of Holding the Space
Chapter 6. Brokering Deaths: Chaplains as Midwives and Escorts
Chapter 7. Engaging Religious and Spiritual Differences: Organizational and Individual
Chapter 8. Conclusions Can Be Beginnings