Mourning a death. Coping with grief. Healing the heartsick and soothing the sufferers. For much of human history, people addressed loss and trauma through rituals drawn from faith traditions, performed in spaces we called sacred — churches, temples, shrines, mosques — and led by ministers and rabbis, imams and priests. But in New England, where the influence of Puritan piety has yielded to unceremonious secularism, something more malleable is emerging. To meet spiritual needs when and where they arise, we’re turning to chaplains, people trained to work outside the structure of religious institutions. As church attendance nationally also declines, “the need for chaplains will only increase,” says Shelly Rambo, an associate professor at Boston University School of Theology.
March 9, 2021