Spiritual Care Networks for Unaffiliated Chaplains

Funded by the Fetzer Institute

The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab (CIL) is collaborating with the Fetzer Institute to support and build networks of spiritual care providers who do not identify with a religious tradition or identify as non-religious (sometimes referred to as “spiritual but not religious”).

This work brings together chaplains and scholars from diverse spiritualities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, geographies, and sectors of chaplaincy. It will help identify the needs of this population, which are neither well defined in the literature nor adequately addressed in many settings.

The first phase of this project includes an extensive review of the scholarly literature on religious non-affiliation and spirituality, as well as interviews with chaplains who self-identify as spiritual but not religious. The findings from this first phase will be disseminated through a working paper, an eBook, and a webinar, as well as discussed during an in-person gathering at the Fetzer Institute.

The second phase of this work will directly support chaplains identifying as spiritual but not religious through a series of conversation circles facilitated by experienced chaplains (who themselves identify as spiritual but not religious). These will be modeled on the success of earlier and ongoing conversation circles with chaplains of color.

Advisory Group

This project is advised by a group of leading chaplains who are not affiliated with a majority faith tradition. While this is sometimes referred to as being “spiritual but not religious,” there are a number of ways to describe this status and may vary from person to person.

Photo of Melissa Bennett, advisor for the Spiritual But Not Religious Project

Melissa Bennett (she/her) is a storyteller, storylistener, writer, educator,spirit worker, and chaplain. She is a descendant of the Umatilla, Nez Perce, Sac & Fox, and Anishinaabe Nations. Melissahas been reading tarot cards, building altars, channeling spirit, and chatting with the ancestors for over 25 years. In 2012 she earned a Master of Divinity degree along with graduate certificatesin spiritual counselingand theological studies. The following year she completed her chaplain training in forensic mental health specializing in the care of Indigenous people. Melissa has a decade of experience providing spiritual care in higher education settings and approaches her workfrom atrauma informedhealing justicelens. Melissa is the founder of Nnoshé’s House (aka Auntie’s House) where she provides spiritual care tools and mentorship to a diverse client base. To learn more visit: https://www.nnosheshouse.com/.

Photo of Jason Callahan, advisor for the Spiritual But Not Religious Project

Jason Callahan, MDiv, MS, BCC, is chaplain at the Thomas Palliative Care Unit at VCU Massey Cancer Center​ and Instructor in the VCU Departments of Patient Counseling and Pastoral Care.

Photo of Anthony Cruz Pantojas, advisor for the Spiritual But Not Religious Project

Anthony Cruz Pantojas, MATS, MALS (they/he/elle/él) is a cuir/queer Afro-Boricua who is deeply informed by decolonial humanisms,Cultural Studies, Afro-Caribbean subjectivities, and Spirituality. Cruz Pantojasregularly presents at numerous conferences and facilitates workshops on humanistic orientations and sensibilities within this current sociopolitical climate. As a humanist chaplain at Tufts University, they collaborate with diverse stakeholders to promotehumanism and to encourage more expansive and reparative modes of thought and relationship. Cruz Pantojas earned master’s degrees in Theological Studies, and Leadership Studies from Andover Newton Theological School and Meadville Lombard Theological School, respectively. Additionally, they hold a Certificate in Humanist Studies from the American Humanist Association Center for Education. Anthony has also published in various scholarly and popular outlets.