Clergy and Theological Education

Spirituality, Care and Wellbeing in Education

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Late 2009, Springer Publishing House released a huge two volume collection of essays on spirituality, care and wellbeing in education. The volume is timely as schools and other institutions increasingly find themselves grappling with issues of mental health and wellbeing. Despite the Australian government’s focus on Naplan and elementary measures of literacy and numeracy, psychological issues and issues of meaning and relationships continue to occupy teachers’ attention.
There is a need in every society to deal with the deeper issues of what life is about and how, as humans, we relate to others, the environment and the divine. The first volume of essays focusses mainly on the psychology of religion and spirituality. The second volume is primarily about educational programs and environments in promoting holistic learning and wellbeing. This review will focus on the second volume.

What is evident from the various essays is the multitude of ways authors are thinking about spirituality. Indeed, some of the authors note that this diversity in thinking is one of the major problems in tackling spirituality in the educational context. Several essays tackle spirituality in an esoteric way. Jennifer Gidley, for example, talks in quasi-Hegelian terms about the evolving of human consciousness in which new modes of thinking emerge. She suggests that four values emerge from the literature as foci for the developing forms of education: love, life, wisdom and voice.

Zehavit Goss sees spirituality primarily as the human search for meaning, which for some can take place in the religious approach of ‘a supreme power or entity situated beyond human control’, but which can also take secular forms (p.564).

In terms of content, Gidley sees great value in the study of inspirational teachings and wisdom literature, in artistic classes in painting, drama, movement and voice exploring imagination, inspiration and group spirit. She wants subject material to be studied in relation to its broad contexts, and children to be led to contemplate it and be inspired by it. She sees great importance in developing ecological awareness by practising the care for plants, small animals and other sentient beings (p.542). She argues that one of the most effective ways of cultivating wisdom in education is through ‘utilising complex thinking and creativity to represent knowledge from multiple perspectives while showing their integral interconnectedness through our creative artfulness’ (p.548).

‘Spiritual education’ can also occur in the context of counselling. One of the chapters in this book explores the issues of ‘self-injury’ among adolescents. It notes the increasing prevalence in many Western societies of self-injury through such methods as cutting or burning the skin and sticking needles or pins into oneself (p.963). It notes that such activities often occur when there is a state of emotional turmoil when the person is overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness. At other times, young people engage in such activities when they feel an emotional deadness. Some people experience the self-injury as soothing their agitations, or jolting them out of numbness and helping them to feel alive (p.967).

There are many resources for spiritual development within our religious traditions, but they are not the only source. Spirituality can be explored through art and music, through engagement with nature, and through many kinds of literature, for example.

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 21, No. 1, Pages 11-14

Catholic Religious Institutes in Australia

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

In 2008, the National Council of Catholic Religious Australia commissioned the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Pastoral Research Office to survey all Catholic Institutes of Clerical Religious, Religious Brothers and Religious Sisters in Australia. The work was commissioned to get an up-to-date picture of the membership, to consider trends for the future, and to understand more fully the important role that Catholic religious play in the Australian Church and society. Not since 1976 had there been a comprehensive study of religious institutes or personnel. The 1976 study asked major superiors to complete a ‘Religious Personnel Record Card’ for each member of the order. The 2009 study was based on a survey of religious institutes, not of the individual members of the orders or congregations.

At the start of 2009, there were around 160 Catholic religious congregations, orders, societies and associations in Australia, with a total membership of around 8,400. Religious sisters made up 70 per cent of the total, with clerical religious (religious priests) making up 19 per cent, and religious brothers 10.5 per cent. By comparison, the previous study conducted in 1976 showed there were 17,029 religious, although membership numbers had already peaked in 1966 at 19,413.

The report indicates that the decline in membership will continue. Congregations have struggled to attract new members. Significantly, most new members have come from overseas or from migrant communities in Australia.

Although many religious people consider that one never really retires from religious work, just over one-quarter (26.1%) were described as ‘fully retired’. Given that 26.6 per cent were 80 years or over that is remarkably low. The reality for many religious people is that retirement means reducing the workload, never giving it up completely. Indeed, many “retired” religious people are still actively and energetically involved in their congregation and local communities.

As a consequence of declining numbers, the last decade saw much change in arrangements for the ownership, governance and operation of institutions owned by Catholic religious congregations. Between 1999 and 2009, more than 50 institutions previously owned by religious congregations were sold or closed. Ownership or governance was transferred to another congregation or Church agency in a further 60 cases. The report indicates that there will continue to be much change in the years ahead. Some of the congregations have lay partner associations

The reality that the report shows is an ageing and decreasing population of religious people, declining numbers entering religious life, and a future that looks bleak.

What will be the shape of religious life in years to come? Will it continue to evolve and adapt as the need arises, as it has over the last few decades, or will the decline become more rapid leading to eventual extinction?

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 21, No. 1, Pages 6-7

Profile of Australian Christian Clergy

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classifies ‘ministers of religion’ within the broader social and welfare professional occupation, and defines the occupation as people who perform: “spiritual functions associated with beliefs and practices of religious faiths, and provide motivation, guidance and training in religious life for the people of congregations and parishes, and the wider community” (ABS 2006, p327). This article uses ‘clergy’ to describe these people, although in many denominations, this will not correspond with official usage of the term.

Between 2006 and 2011, according to the Censuses, the number of clergy identifying with a Christian denomination increased by nine per cent, from 14,386 to 15,702. Clergy numbers in most denominations either increased or remained stable during that period, with the exception of the Catholics who decreased by around six per cent. The largest increase in clergy numbers between 2006 and 2011 was in the ‘Other Christian’ category, increasing by 41 per cent, from 1,333 to 1,878. This group includes some small denominations and independent churches. However, the largest group of ‘Other Christians’ were people who simply wrote in ‘Christian’ – a total of 1,233 people. (Interestingly, the number of Australians who simply wrote in ‘Christian’ on the Census also increased by 41 per cent during the same period). It is quite possible that many clergy who identified themselves simply as ‘Christian’ were working in non-denoninational situations such as government school chaplaincy.

A study by Edith Cowan University into government school chaplains found an increase in numbers from 653 in March 2007 to 1874 in August 2009 (Hughes and Sims 2009, p.9).

The age of clergy provides further insight into the present clergy profile within each denomination as well as giving an indication of what the future needs for the denomination may look like. Overall, the 2011 Census showed that 10.4 per cent of Christian clergy were aged 65 years and over. By comparison, in 2006, nine per cent of Christian clergy were in that age group. Not surprisingly, denominations with the oldest clergy age profile also had very low proportions of young clergy. Just five per cent of Uniting Church clergy and seven per cent of Catholic clergy were under 35 years.

While some denominations do not allow women to be ordained into church ministry roles, the reality is that more and more women are employed to serve church communities in Australia, either in a lay capacity or ordained in a denomination which does allow female ordination. The Census showed there was a considerable increase in the number of women in ministry between 2006 and 2011 in every denominational group except one (the Eastern Orthodox). Some of the women in ministry are school chaplains: the Edith Cowan university study found that in 2009, 60 per cent of school chaplains were female.

The number of Christian clergy in Australia continues to increase, and at a faster rate than the rate of Christian identification within the general population. A higher proportion of the clergy have university degrees than ever before. Much of the growth in numbers of clergy in the last decade or so has occurred as a result of women entering into ministry roles. There has also been an increase in the proportion of overseas born clergy. The challenge for churches and denominations is developing ministry roles which bridge the gap between the churches and the wider community.

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 23, No. 2, Pages 1-7

Ministry in Anglican Schools: Issues and Principles

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

While congregations are dwindling, church schools are growing. The proportion of Australians sending their children to schools associated with a Christian denomination has continued to grow for many years. Close to one-third of all students now attend a Christian school. Catholic schools are by far the largest part of this with more than 1,700 schools across Australia. The second largest group is the 147 Anglican schools. In many denominations, however, questions are being asked about why the denomination should sponsor schools, what their aims should be, and what forms of ministry are appropriate in schools where few students are committed to the Christian faith. A new book from Anglican Schools Australia, Ministry in Anglican Schools: Principles and Practicalities, explores some of these issues.

While all dioceses desire that their schools be ‘educational centres of excellence’, there are some differences in the way the dioceses are expressing their vision for their schools in relation to faith. Dioceses must proceed sensitively, Smith says. While recognising the various stakeholders, they should take an inclusive and affirmative stance, and offer relevant assistance in the achievement of the vision through providing trained and capable people, such as chaplains and board members, and in providing resources and directions for religious education.

It is stated in many parts of the book that the principal should be a spiritual leader in the school and the school leadership team should take responsibility for the spiritual ethos of the school. Nevertheless, in practice, much of the responsibility for Christian ministry falls into the hands of the chaplain. Several chapters in the book explore the ministry of the chaplain. In various ways, these chapters draw attention to the complexity of that ministry and the tensions inherent in some of the roles.

Another tension in the role of chaplain is explored in a chapter on the relationship between chaplains and counsellors. The chapter notes that schools often see chaplains and counsellors as interchangeable. Some schools have reduced the hours of chaplaincy when a counsellor was appointed. In other schools, the chaplain is seen as the sole counsellor. Pastoral care takes a variety of forms through teaching in class, preaching in the chapel, yard duty, and leading in sacraments and liturgies.

Religious education is a component of the curriculum in most Anglican schools. Surprisingly, there is little in this book about this component of ministry in schools. One chapter describes the attempt to develop a subject called ‘Christian Development’. The intention was to develop a course which would develop students’ critical thinking skills and challenge them to explore what it means to practise the Christian faith in contemporary Australia (p.294). It involved studies in Biblical theology, Christian mission, Christian apologetics, the history of Christian thought as well as New and Old Testaments. Some units were developed at Moore College, Sydney. It is hoped that such a course will contribute to ‘society-changing and kingdom building transformational renewing of minds’ (p.303).

The ministry of education is one in which young people are transformed for living in and contributing to the world. Every part of the life of the schools contributes to this ministry.

For more information see: Pointers, Volume 22, No. 4, Pages 18-20

Hospital Chaplaincy

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Over the last ten years, ‘health care’ chaplaincy within both public and private facilities has become an important field of research.

Indeed, given the post-modern focus upon health and well being, and the emphasis upon medical casemix funding and economic rationalism, the specialist ministry of ‘health care chaplaincy’ has commenced to move to the forefront of chaplaincy research in the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Through the use of empirical research, quantitative and qualitative, health care chaplaincy has started to seek to improve the quality measures of its pastoral care services so as to demonstrate its efficiency and effectiveness amidst competing professionalism and funding.

Religion, Health and Role of Chaplains

It should be noted at the outset, that while some literature from overseas (Hartung, 1971; Jost & Haase, 1989; Barrows, 1993) and in Australia (Carey, Aroni, Edwards, 1997) has raised criticisms about the services of hospital chaplains, most research has indicated that patients and their families seem very favourable towards the involvement of chaplains (Milne, 1988) and that, for some clinical staff, ‘…the role of the chaplain seems predominantly to be very much accepted and professionally appreciated’ (Carey, 1991; Carey, 1995; Ireland, Carey, et al, 1999).

Recent literature (Carey, 1998), based upon the ‘sacralization of identity’ theory of Emeritus Professor Hans Mol (1976), has suggested that chaplains can be valued within the health care environment because they are considered important in helping patients, who may be in crisis, to use various religious and non-religious ‘mechanisms’, that can assist people to gain a new sense of identity and meaning. This can consequently help to promote positive psycho-social and behavioural outcomes which may ‘…enhance a patient’s own well being and thus (also) assist clinical staff in their work’ (Carey, 1998).

Over 300 clinical staff from the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, who were involved in the Australian Chaplaincy Utility Research (‘AUS.CUR’: 1992 – 1994), identified several reasons why they valued having resident chaplains. These reasons included that chaplaincy provides assistance with:
(a) teamwork, for example in helping to improve staff time management;
(b) religious and psycho-social support to patients and staff through support in religious faith and connection with church communities;
(c) specialist support to families and staff, particularly at times of death and grieving, and
(d) also providing input in terms of (i) ethical decision making, (ii) being a community link, (iii) providing a non-diagnostic communication role within the hospital and (iv) alleviating emotional discomfort for staff and patients within a complex and sometimes frightening institution (Carey, Aroni, Edwards, 1997).

Further a comprehensive review of all available scientific and clinical pastoral research literature concerning the inter-relationships between religiosity and health indicated that religious factors may benefit the health of patients and assist staff in four main psycho-social ways:
(i) by promoting healthy behaviour; (ii) providing social contact;          (iii) encouraging coherent thinking and
(iv) encouraging positive theological understandings (Carey, 1993). This review suggested that:

‘…while the links between religion and health are still tenuous, the links are nevertheless substantial enough to warrant further investigation and significant enough for health care practitioners to encourage a holistic practice that includes the spiritual / religious dimensions of a patient’s / client’s healing needs’ (Carey, 1993).

Chaplaincy Research in the US and UK

Within the United States, one of the earliest and largest single case studies on hospital chaplaincy that gained limited but international attention was titled, ‘Hospital Chaplains: Who needs them?’ based upon the results of the ‘Pastoral Care’ survey (Carey, 1972). This research involved over 200 clinical staff (nurses and doctors) plus patients. The answer to the research title was that both patients and staff valued all the various roles of chaplains as needed within the hospital (ie, sacramental, prayer, teamworker, educator, counsellor, thanotonic and witness role) but the majority particularly favoured the thanotonic role in which the chaplain ministered to the dying. From the 1970’s to the present day, the growth of the ‘Clinical Pastoral Education’ movement within the United States and internationally (including in Australia and New Zealand) has concurrently led to the substantial professionalism of ‘clinical pastoral care’ and a greater utility of health care chaplaincy roles – a development which is still on going today.

Over the last decade the New York based ‘Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy’ (JHCC, Haworth Press) has been the first journal to specifically necessitate the ‘need and appropriateness of measurement and research in chaplaincy’ (McSherry, 1987). VandeCreek’s ‘Health Care Chaplaincy Organization’ has taken this empirical thrust seriously becoming engaged in quantitative and qualitative research much of it being published in the JHCC with an initial focus upon a ‘patient satisfaction instrument’ (VandeCreek, 1997) to more recently upon the national effects of Chaplaincy ‘downsizing’ across the United States (VandeCreek, 1999).

Within Great Britain, while substantial informative material in regard to health care chaplaincy and pastoral care has been published within journals such as the Cambridge based ‘Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy’, (eg., Law, 1998), very little empirical research has been published assessing the actual role of health care chaplains within the UK. However the National Health Service has recently appointed its first post doctoral research fellow with the specific mandate of researching the role of hospital chaplains within public hospitals. This research will more than likely conclude in 2001.

Australia and New Zealand

Within Australia and New Zealand some small case studies have been conducted on the role and work of hospital chaplains. Some basic descriptive research exploring the ‘sources of satisfaction and stress’ among New Zealand (NZ) Hospital chaplains noted that the main source of stress for chaplains was that of ‘carrying a heavy load of too many patients’ (Tisch, 1997). Other research has explored the involvement of NZ chaplaincy personnel in helping patients, families and staff to make bioethical decisions (Carey, Aroni, Gronlund, 1998). This research is still on going. Thus far however there has been no empirical research published in NZ to cross evaluate and assess chaplaincy roles with the type of institution or type of pastoral care to particular patients (eg, aged care patients). The NZ ‘Inter-Church Council on Hospital Chaplaincy’ is currently exploring the possibility of conducting empirical research among its contracted chaplaincy personnel.

The ‘AUS.CUR’ research conducted at the RCH Melbourne (mentioned earlier) explored the role of chaplains similar to that of US ‘Pastoral Care Survey’ (Carey, 1972). The ‘AUS.CUR’ research however included not only nurses and doctors but all allied health professionals totalling some 390 respondents (Carey, Aroni, Edwards, 1997). This research found that the majority of clinical staff affirmed all the roles of hospital chaplains as being appropriate within a medical setting but emphasized that there needed to be extensions to the chaplains’ role in terms:
(i) increasing their public profile beyond the traditional stereotypes, (ii) to assist staff with more productive teamwork,
(iii) to have a greater input on ethics committees and ethical decision making,
(iv) to be more forthright in personal presentation and
(v) to increase the number of chaplains to patient/staff ratio.
An additional issue arising from data derived from staff indepth interviews, was the need for ‘outpatient chaplaincy’ and home visits by chaplains – thus enabling follow-up pastoral care for recent or early discharged patients. The concept of ‘parish nurses’ and chaplains working together is also currently being explored to consider such a ministry (Van Loon, Carey & Newell, In Press 2000).

Other Australian research has also started to note the important input of chaplains. Preliminary findings from the ‘Liver Transplant And Pastoral Care’ research, conducted within three Australian Hospitals in different states (Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria), suggested that where chaplains are liaising and drawing patients, relatives and staff members together, the patients are more content and are being discharged at a faster rate than otherwise (Elliot & Carey, 1996). This research has not yet been completed. If the findings are fully substantiated the cost saving of having effective chaplaincy and pastoral care services could be very advantageous to all concerned and would clearly help to prove the cost efficiency of hospital chaplaincy (Carey & Newell, 1999).

The Westmead Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit and Pastoral Care Department pilot research (Ireland, Carey, et al, 1999) which surveyed patients, relatives and visitors over a 12 month period indicated that ‘irrespective of gender, age, category status, or religious belief the majority of respondents believed the chaplaincy services provided were ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (96.3%)’. Also pilot research conducted at the ‘OLOC’ Aged Care Facility in New South Wales, likewise suggests that the majority of patients were very affirming of the provision of pastoral care services (Mulder & Carey, 1999). However, as indicated by such pilot research, there is a long way for health care chaplaincy research to progress in terms of research protocols, method, construction and testing of measurable instruments both descriptive and experimental.

Currently a national research project is being conducted under the auspices of the School of Public Health, La Trobe University, on the involvement of chaplains in bioethical decision making. This descriptive research, involving over 400 chaplains across Australia and New Zealand, will explore issues affecting both acute patients and aged care personnel such as the ‘withdrawal of life support’ (WLS), ‘not for resuscitation’ or ‘do not resuscitate orders’ (NFR / DNR) and ‘euthanasia’. The project is due for completion in 2000 or 2001. Like other chaplaincy research, progress is hampered by a lack of funding.

Future Health Care Chaplaincy Research

It has only been possible in this brief article to present a ‘snapshot’ of health care chaplaincy research known to the author. In general, and in comparison to other areas of research, very little empirical research has been undertaken within Australia upon health care chaplaincy. This is a research area sorely lacking which the government, health care institutions and, in particular, the church need to address.

Rev. Lindsay B. Carey, MAppSc, is the National Research Officer for the Australian Health & Welfare Chaplains Association and Parish Minister of the Yarra Vale Uniting Church Parish, Victoria: 
References listed at


Barrows, D. (1993) ‘A whole different thing: The Hospital Chaplain – the emergence of the occupation and work of the chaplain’, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of California.

Carey, L.B., Newell, C. (1999) Economic rationalism and the cost efficiency of hospital chaplaincy in Australia. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 8. No. 1/2 (In press).

Carey, L.B., Aroni, R.A., Gronlund, M. (1998) ‘Bio-Medical Ethics, clinical decision making and hospital chaplaincy in New Zealand’: A Research Progress Report, Ministry, Society & Theology, (Melbourne), p. 136 – 155.

Carey, L.B. (1998) The sacralization of identity: A cross cultural and inter-religious paradigm for hospital chaplaincy. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy (Cambridge), February, p. 15 – 24.

Carey, L.B., Aroni, R.A., Edwards, A. (1997) ‘Health Policy and Well Being: Hospital Chaplaincy’, In: Gardner, H. [ed] Health Policy in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p. 190 – 210.

Carey, L.B. (1995) The role of hospital Chaplains: A research overview, Ministry, Society & Theology, (Melbourne), November, 9, 2, p. 41 – 53.

Carey, L.B. (1993) ‘Religiosity and health: A review and synthesis’. New Doctor, (Sydney) Summer.

Carey, L.B. (1991) ‘Clergy under the knife: A review of literature on hospital chaplains. Ministry: Journal of Continuing Education, (Sydney), Summer, p. 7-9.

Carey, R. (1972) Hospital Chaplains: Who needs them ? St. Louis, Missouri, The Catholic Hospital Association.
Elliot, H., Carey, L.B. (1996) The hospital chaplain’s role in an organ transplant unit. Ministry, Society and Theology (Melbourne) Vol. 1 No. 1, p. 66 – 77.

Hartung, B.M. (1971) ‘Requests of hospitalised patients for a religious ministry’, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Northwestern University, Illinios.

Ireland, B., Carey, L.B., Baguley, I., Maurizi, R., Crooks, J., Gronlund, M. (1999) The Westmead Hospital Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit & Pastoral Care Department pilot research project: A joint research endeavour. Ministry, Society & Theology, Vol. 13, No. 1, p. 46 – 61.

Jost, K., Haase, J. (1989) ‘At time of death: Help for the Child’s parents’. Children’s Health Care, 18, 3, p. 146 – 182.

Knight, B. (1999) Assuring professional pastoral care for every nursing home resident. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 8, No. 1/2, pp. 89 – 108.

Law, M. (1998) The right to die: Euthanasia, Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, (Cambridge) June 1998.

McSherry, E. (1987) The need and appropriateness of measurement and research in chaplaincy. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 3 – 42).

Milne, J. (1988) ‘Patients and their families reflect on pastoral care in their cancer experience – report of a survey. Cancer Forum, 12, 3, p.115 – 123.

Mol, H. (1976) Identity and the sacred: A sketch for a new social scientific theory of religion. Oxford: Blackwell.

Mulder, C., Carey, L.B. (1999) Our Lady of Consolation Aged Care Services – Results and Critique of a pilot pastoral care residents’ survey. Ministry, Society & Theology, Vol. 13, No. 2 (In press).

Newell, C., Carey, L.B. (1998) The euthanasia debate and hospital chaplaincy in Australia, Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Cambridge, June 1998, p. 8 – 16.

Tisch, G. (1997) Sources of satisfaction and stress in Inter-Church Council on Hospital Chaplaincy (I.C.H.C.) Chaplains in public hospitals in New Zealand, Unpublished Dip.Ment.Hlth, Research Project Psychology Department, Otago University, New Zealand.
VandeCreek, L. (1997) Ministry of Hospital Chaplains: Patient Satisfaction, Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 1 – 59.

VandeCreek, L. (1999) Chaplaincy Downsizing: A National Survey, Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 9, No. 1 (In press).

VanLoon, A., Carey, L.B., Newell, C. (2000) Parish Nursing and Health Care Chaplaincy, Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, Vol. 10, No.2 (In press).

By Lindsay B. Carey, M.Appsc.