Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Chaplaincy Debate: A Voice of Reason!

Over at PlainViews, the volunteer-chaplaincy debate continues. The Rickety-Contrivances-of-Doing-Good Gold Star Award goes to Mark Grace (how's that for an appropriate name?), the Director of Pastoral Care & Counseling for Baylor Health Care System, who says:
"I'm the director of pastoral care in a large, faith-based health care system in which spiritual care volunteers have increased the reach AND the quality of pastoral care that our chaplains provide to the patients and family members served by the 16 hospitals in our health care system. Furthermore, repeated research in a wide variety of helping disciplines that offer services MOST like those which chaplains offer has demonstrated conclusively that, for about 80% of individuals in need of care, nonprofessional helpers are as effective as professional helpers.

"I cite this statistic to every new group of volunteers who train in our system –- as I did when I developed a large volunteer program in a regional public hospital in the East.

"I do so for two reasons –- one is to affirm their capacity to successfully carry out the divine call we share with them –- to offer themselves in compassionate service to the spiritual needs of others. The second is to stress to them how MUCH they assist our chaplains to increase the effectiveness of their ministry by focusing on the approximately 20% of individuals who desperately need the services of a professional chaplain."
Hurrah! You go, Mark Grace!

While other professionals in the debate have spoken in favor of volunteers, this is one of the most straightforward and least defensive responses I've seen. Grace also says quite bluntly that the anti-volunteer contingent is driven by fear.

You can read his full response, and others, here.


  1. Hi Susan,
    The argument you quoted makes very good sense to me. As a social work student, it makes sense in that volunteers who could visit patients and be a friendly face could help me as a social worker know if any huge disasters are happening that I need to be aware of. And from a faith standpoint, I think some people would feel more comfortable talking to a volunteer than a paid chaplain, simply because they may feel less judged by a volunteer. It's a sad fact of life that many people have been hurt by professionals in faith arenas.

    I'm not sure if this makes sense, but I'm glad to see the well-formed quote you cited. And, yes, that's a very fitting last name!

  2. Wow! And you got to this before I did! That's neat. I gotta go look!

  3. Nickie: Yes, as a volunteer I'm less threatening to many patients (although some dismiss me because I'm not clergy, and specifically not a Catholic priest, which of course I'll never be). Your comment about social work is interesting; unfortunately, we no longer have SWs in our ED, but when we did, they had varying responses to chaplains (or to me personally: hard to say which!). Some were very happy to see patients I thought might need them, and to refer me to patients; one, though, became very hostile after a while, and told me that she'd no longer accept referrals from me; she'd only talk to patients the doctors asked her to see. (Right. Because the ER docs have so much time to discuss psycho-social issues with patients. Grrrr!) But some of the paid staff had trouble getting along with her, too, so I think maybe that was just her.

    I think you're going to be a good social worker!

    Marshall: Yes, I bopped over to your blog a few times today and didn't see anything about this! I'll be curious to read your take on the new comments. (Do you get the PlainViews newsletter? That's how I found out about it.)


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