American Society of Chaplains
Thank you for visiting the American Society of Chaplains.
We are a professional society of chaplains. Dues are $50.00 annually. Members receive a membership certificate 8 1/2 X 11 suitable for framing. Please complete our membership application. Join today and become a charter member. Enjoy networking, educational opportunities and fellowship with other chaplains.
We invite all ordained ministers serving as chaplains to join the American Society of Chaplains. Dues are $50.00 annually and include a professional membership certificate 8 1/2 X 11 suitable for framing. We offer networking, educational opportunites and fellowship with other chaplains.
Please complete our online application for membership.
We will verify membership and provide endorsement for all members on request. Our members serve as Prison Chaplains, Hospital Chaplains, College Chaplains, University Chaplains, Nursing Home Chaplains, Military Chaplains, Jail Chaplains, Chaplains in Industry, Police Chaplains, Fire Chaplains and all areas of chaplaincy.
The word "chaplain" derives from the Latin "cappella" meaning "cloak." In Christian legend, St. Martin divided his cloak with a beggar -- sometimes thought to be Christ in disguise. That small cloak became a famous relic, guarded by a group of priests who called themselves "cappellani." Later, "cappellani" was used to designate clergy who were not attached to a church, but who had other specified duties. Dictionaries usually define a chaplain as one who offers a religious ministry to a special group, such as a military unit, a ship, a lodge, or a hospital.
Early hospitals had no need for separate chaplaincy services, since the whole approach to treatment (especially mental treatment) was dominated by religiously oriented persons.
Although chaplains had been familiar figures in the military services and in some other institutions, it was not until the early 1900's that the concept was applied to the health field, beginning in mental hospitals. In 1924, the Rev. Anton Boisen became a full-time chaplain at Worcester State Hospital, Worcester, Massachusetts. Boisen was a minister with a troubled history, having been hospitalized himself for mental difficulties. During his hospitalization, he became convinced that he had conceived a breakthrough in the wall between medicine and religion, and dedicated the rest of his life to developing this concept. In so doing, he laid the groundwork for specialized training for chaplains and emphasized the contributions which may be made to medicine by theology (see Boisen, 1936).
Standards for the training of chaplains are not universally accepted, although many institutions which value the services of professionally trained pastoral care givers have adopted similar criteria. These often include certification by such organizations as the International Association of Pastoral Counselors, and others who certify competence in chaplaincy and pastoral care.
Certification standards typically require completion of a masters degree, ordination and a minimum of three or more years of experience in pastoral care. The training itself is offered by such organizations as the International Association of Pastoral Counselors. Thus, a high degree of importance is placed on training over and above education gained in an accredited theological school.
Such clinical education has a double focus: (a) the acquisition of knowledge about illness and treatment, and (b) the growth of understanding of the use of self as a spiritual tool in ministry. These goals are accomplished through experiential means, with much emphasis placed on presenting verbatim accounts of pastoral visits, recording significant learning incidents, preparing pastoral case studies, examining worship and preaching, small group interaction, and individual supervisory sessions. While didactic input and required reading may be utilized, they are of less importance than the exploration of the meanings of experiences of pastoral care.
Chaplains are, first of all, spiritual caregivers. Their primary job is to see that those within their congregations receive spiritual care. In order to accomplish this task, however, chaplains function in a variety of roles.
Ecclesiastical services. Many institutions provide their residents with worship services. Chaplains conduct worship in a chapel or other worship spaces and, where indicated, on wards where there are residents who cannot attend otherwise.
Other religious rituals will also be offered by chaplains, according to the needs of the residents.
Professional services. As staff members, chaplains frequently serve as members of one or more treatment teams, acting as an interpreter to the staff of the religious ideation and spiritual orientation of patients. Specific forms of counseling may also be done with persons who are struggling with religious/spiritual issues. Spiritual assessments may be included in the institution's overall plan of holistic health care, and chaplains provide these for the benefit of the residents and staff.
Chaplains are included on many institutional committees, such as quality assessment, hospital ethics committees, research, professional library, and employee wellness.
Community relations. An important function of the chaplaincy department is to act as a liaison with home congregations and spiritual caregivers. This is always done with professional regard for confidentiality and the wishes of the resident.
Educational services. Some institutions provide educational opportunities for local spiritual care providers through the chaplaincy department, often one-day workshops on specific topics. Sometimes chaplains act as consultants to individual pastors or to small groups, dealing with topics of particular interest.
Accredited by the American Consortium of Theological Seminaries.