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September 2023-June 2025

Project Leadership

BARNES Marilyn 400sq

Marilyn JD Barnes
VCU Health

Photo of Wendy Cadge, who will address the World Health Organization conference on October 2021

Wendy Cadge
Brandeis University

Ralph Clark, Hospital Admin

Ron Clark
VCU Health

A recent article, “Spirituality in Serious Illness and Health” in the Journal of the American Medical Association clearly demonstrates the value of religion and spirituality in providing patient-centered care (Balboni et al., 2022). Chaplains are key to this work yet do not have clear and consistent ways of doing the work from one institution to another based on empirically documented best practices. A new generation of leaders and research literate chaplains, trained through the Transforming Chaplaincy Project and Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, are ready to partner with other health care professionals to advance the spiritual care that surveys continue to show is in demand. The COVID-19 pandemic also thrust chaplains – over and over again – into the spotlight, giving them a type of public recognition not seen before and better positioning them as partners in this work.

This planning grant allows a professionally diverse group of leaders to lay the groundwork and develop the strategy required to mainstream spiritual care in health care organizations. Rather than only talking about the effectiveness of spiritual care and ways to mainstream it in health care, we propose a project in three parts that will demonstrate as much through the actions at right.

First, eight leading chaplains and health care administrators will join an Advisory Committee for this project and broader strategic conversation about the steps needed to mainstream spiritual care in health care organizations.

Second, we will gather the best empirical research about chaplaincy and spiritual care interventions in health care – including those piloted during the pandemic – and put those interventions in conversation with the literature about successful institutional reforms in health care.

Third, based on the working paper drafted from the empirical research and conversations with the Advisory Committee, we will draft a request for proposals for teams of chaplains, clinical leaders and health care administrators looking to mainstream aspects of spiritual care in their institutions.

Alongside this work, we will host a series of webinars, eBooks, and other educational programs/materials for health care administrators, clinicians, chaplains, and interdisciplinary teams. These will focus on interventions described in the working paper (for teams), basics of spiritual care (for health care administrators) and ways to work more effectively with administrators (for health care chaplains).


Press release, “Mainstreaming Spiritual Care: A Groundbreaking Project Pioneering Holistic Well-being in Healthcare,” Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, August 21, 2023.

This project was made possible through the support of grant #62759 from the John Templeton Foundation. Founded in 1987, the John Templeton Foundation supports research and catalyzes conversations that inspire people with awe and wonder. We fund work on subjects ranging from black holes and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, and free will. We also encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the public at large. Our aspiration is to help people create lives of meaning and purpose and to become a global catalyst for discoveries that contribute to human flourishing.

With an endowment of $3.9 billion and annual giving of approximately $140 million, the Foundation ranks among the 25 largest grantmaking foundations in the United States. Headquartered outside Philadelphia, our philanthropic activities have engaged all major faith traditions and extended to more than 58 countries around the world.

You may also be interested in webinar hosted by the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab with support from The BTS Center on spiritual care and the environment.