Who You Gonna Call? Campus Chaplains in Covid-19

Image published on https://news.chapman.edu/2018/01/02/why-mindfulness-is-everywhere-gail-stearns/

Ever felt like you needed someone to talk to, but didn’t know who? That’s exactly what campus chaplains are here for. What you might be surprised to learn is that a chaplain provides emotional, social and spiritual support regardless of a person’s faith or no faith. Chaplains go through training, a master’s and sometimes a doctoral degree, that gives them tools to support students. A chaplain is never there to change a student’s opinion or faith. Their goal is to provide whatever support you need.

Here are 10 reasons a Chaplain might be the best person when you ask: Who you gonna call?

  1. They believe in you.

They see the life in you – call it just Goodness, or Potential, or Buddha nature, or Christ consciousness, or a reflection of the Divine or sacred within you – regardless of your faults or questions. They won’t judge you even if you messed up, and will be there to advocate for you when you need them.

  1. They love the big questions.

Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life and death? Is there something bigger out there than me? Even questions like: what do I believe? what does my roommate believe? How can we possibly get along? They won’t feel uncomfortable with your questions, but can help you navigate them.

  1. They’re comfortable in the in-between.

Overwhelmed? Just experienced a death of someone close to you? Feel like you’ve lost your way? They’ll walk alongside you whether you’re anxious, or unsure, or grieving. They’re comfortable in the in-between – between death and life, between questions and answers, between doubt and hope. It’s ok to just enter that space with them. Your conversation with them is usually confidential, unless they hear you talk about hurting yourself or another person.

  1. They work in the coolest space on campus.

In what students often say is the safest place on campus. When you get back on campus, go in the Chapel or Interfaith Center or wherever the Chaplains are. You’ll likely find it’s a really calm place, and there is usually food! You are welcome and fed and just allowed to be – in groups or in silence.  And where else can you explore by wandering in and out of gatherings where you can learn about other faiths and philosophies, and feel welcome?

  1. They will help you keep the faith or just be a better YOU.

They’ll help you dig deep inside to discover your own truth – or help you be a better (Person, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Baha’i, Buddhist … fill in the blank). They’re not just all about making everything the same – they honor the distinctions between different religions and secular viewpoints. They’ll help you find a community to connect with when you are ready for one.

  1. They’ll give you tools to center yourself.

To awaken your own awareness and to control your anxiety. They study and practice tools that are drawn from thousands of years of wisdom. Mindfulness, meditation, ritual, prayer, reading, writing, community connection, even yoga … they will listen and guide you if and when you ask.

  1. They know their limits.

Chaplains are trained to know when it’s time to refer you to your doctor or your psychological counselor or your student affairs professional or your professor. They won’t try and be all that to you. They’ll connect you with another Chaplain or community if it’s right for you.

  1. They care about social justice.

They can introduce you to other students who may or may not be religious, but who are also working to make the world a better place. They care about diversity and you as a whole person, and about what your passion is.

  1. They care about you being treated fairly.

Ethics matter for Chaplains. If you feel you’ve been treated wrongly or are struggling with a question, they’ll listen and help you discern or help you get justice. They can provide a conscience for the university, and guide larger conversations, so no one forgets you and your particular concerns, or any marginalized student who is affected by a campus decision or conflict.

  1. They are just fun to be around.

I have yet to meet a Chaplain without a great sense of humor – which may come with the territory of not thinking too highly of themselves, or taking themselves too seriously. People tell us the chaplain’s office is the most fun office to hang out in on campus, as it’s filled laughter! Right now, that goes for our Zoom calls, too.

It’s what we do. Before we all left campus because of the Covid-19 epidemic, our Muslim Chaplain discovered a Jewish student in the prayer room needing someone to talk to, and met with her more than once – just to listen. Once we began studying from home, our Jewish Chaplain was the first to respond to an email and helped a Catholic student manage a difficult family situation. Our Interfaith Dean provided grief counseling over Zoom with an Agnostic graduate student whose father recently passed away. Our Protestant Chaplain is just a trusted adult in the lives of various students who contact her regularly for chats.

We’re here for you.

#Interfaith is a self-paced, online learning opportunity designed to equip a new generation of leaders with the awareness and skills to promote interfaith cooperation online. The curriculum is free to Interfaith America readers; please use the scholarship code #Interfaith100. #Interfaith is presented by IFYC in collaboration with ReligionAndPublicLife.org.

 

more from IFYC

A new course on interfaith leadership will help participants rethink how they behave online.
At its core, secularism is an approach to governance, writes Jacques Berlinerblau in his new book ‘Secularism: The Basics.’ And critically, it is one many religious people, not just atheists and agnostics, support.
Join IFYC on February 7 at 10 AM CT for an important conversation with Black thought-leaders, activists, and organizers engaged in on-the-ground efforts to destigmatize HIV and eradicate the virus.
The metaverse has dramatic implications that should make all of us sit up, lean in, and claim our role in shaping the worlds within the world that is being created.  
A chance encounter with an army chaplain put Colonel Khallid Shabazz's military career on a different path.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who survived a hostage-taking at his synagogue last Saturday, gave the closing remarks at an online White House briefing Friday, with an impassioned plea for civility.
Rather than focusing on canonical doctrines, a workshop trains educators to teach “lived religion” -- all the creative things that people do with their traditions.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, described as 'the second most famous Buddhist in the world, after the Dalai Lama,' by one expert, founded a worldwide network of monastic centers. He once said: "My life is my teaching. My life is my message.”
Many content creators use their platforms to build community beyond their brick-and-mortar congregations, to dispel myths, break stereotypes and invite people from diverse faiths to get a glimpse into their lives.
IFYC's innovative online learning experience, #Interfaith: Engaging Religious Diversity Online, offers lessons on how to approach others online in a way that leads to building bridges.
Lessons from Thich Nhat Hanh, the person who nominated Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged King to speak out against the war in Vietnam.
What Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about the power of mindful breathing through art.
A scholar of democratic virtues explains why Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on hope are relevant today.
From covering spirituality in Silicon Valley to writing an online newsletter about her own journey to Judaism, reporter Nellie Bowles keeps finding innovative ways to reflect on religion and technology.
Six ways religious and spiritual leaders can help the internet serve their communities right now.
At the request of his editors at Religion News Service, Omar Suleiman writes about waiting with hostages’ families.
Regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill, the PNBC leaders said they plan to lobby Congress in March and register voters weekly in their congregations and communities.
King’s exasperation at self-satisfied white Christians holds up a mirror that is still painfully accurate today.
A day before the U.S. Senate was expected to take up significant legislation on voting rights that is looking likely to fail, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s eldest son condemned federal lawmakers over their inaction.
The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, is particularly well connected to the larger interfaith community and on good terms with many Muslim leaders.
For Martin Luther King Day, an interfaith panel reflects on the sacredness of the vote and the legacy of Reverend King.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.