Allison Delaney opened her workshop with that provocative question, and answered, “I think so.” Delaney is currently pursuing a master’s of public health degree under the auspices of the Transforming Chaplaincy program, and although she said candidly that the work has been harder than she expected, “it’s a waste unless I can help you.”
Her first research project has been asking chaplains what questions they want research to solve for them. The top response has been outcomes, whether issues such as certification or number of patient visits make a difference in the outcome of treatment. Another response was how to avoid burnout. But, she cautioned, “Just like praying is different from talking about prayer, talking about research is different from doing research.
Other workshops covered topics as diverse as storytelling, ministry to the “nones,” and diversity itself. In “Diversity, Social Justice, and Pastoral Competence,” Thomas Chirdo, BCC, an ACPE supervisor, said, “We are not just individuals interacting. There are multiple group identities, each with a particular history that bears on our relationships.”
Race and gender are obvious categories, but Chirdo asked participants to recognize Jesus himself as a person in the margins, outside the power structure of the Roman Empire. “How is power used?” he asked. “As a supervisor, I know a lot of information about my students that they don’t know about me. That’s a power difference.”
Another session dealt with alcoholism and other addictions as spiritual problems. J. Randle Adair, an Albuquerque internist, said that families that include an addict “don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel.” And treating those spiritual problems is much more difficult — and requires more focused and sustained intervention — than would be required for an emotionally healthy family.