Chapter 1 of Spiritual Care available in full

Courtesy of Oxford University Press, Chapter 1 of Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains is now available in full at no charge. You can read the chapter, “Introductions,” at the OUP website here.


The book begins with a description of the central role played by Catholic prison chaplain Edward Hartigan in a hostage situation at the Charlestown State Prison in 1955 and the work of chaplains during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. This topic is then more recently situated in media descriptions of chaplains during the COVID-19 pandemic and names the questions central to the book. It outlines the conceptual approach the study adopted to answer these questions, addresses the vagueness of the term chaplain and the book’s approach to it, explains Boston as the choice of the case study, and then briefly frames the research questions in relevant scholarly conversations about American religious life. The chapter includes relevant national data and addresses questions about generalizations from Boston as a case before concluding with outlines of the chapters to come.

In a recent blog post, Cadge wrote “It was in early interviews with the leaders of professional chaplaincy organizations across sectors that I realized many were facing the same problems and challenges and most of them didn’t know one another. This didn’t make sense to my efficiency-oriented brain. I wondered how to bring them together to talk and learn from each other. As the world has continued to change, questions about chaplaincy have become more urgent. COVID, local congregational closures, more and more people who are not religiously affiliated, and broad societal polarization prove this. In the book’s conclusion, I describe two very different paths for the future of chaplaincy – one of growth and one of decline. What happens may depend on how quickly and in what ways religious organizations are willing to change. This includes congregations, national religious bodies, and theological institutions. Organizational leaders should think broadly and boldly; to take the risks and make the changes needed now to fulfill their missions not today but ten years from now.”

Read Chapter 1 here.

Wendy Cadge, PhD is Director of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab as well as Barbara Mandel Professor of Humanistic Social Sciences and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Brandeis University. Her book Spiritual Care: The Everyday Work of Chaplains is now available from Oxford University Press. The book was launched with a Chaplaincy Innovation Lab webinar, which can be viewed here.