Forest Finds
At The Intersection

As care providers, we know that spirituality, religion, and philosophy are all closely related in the popular language of many careseekers. Sometimes we need to remember these distinctions are important in care encounters, because they are not interchangeable. Spirituality is primarily concerned with a personal relationship with the divine or the transcendent. It is often experienced as a deeply interior journey and can take many different forms. Religion is more focused on the social aspects associated with a belief system and includes rituals, traditions, and a community of believers. Philosophy is primarily concerned with understanding the nature of reality and the human experience, relying primarily on reason and logic. Those we care for may use any one, or all three, of these words to describe their understanding of the world and their personal narratives.

Spirituality, religion, and philosophy: related yet distinctive.

Delve into the role of narratives in chaplaincy, revealing how they navigate the spiritual landscapes of Black careseekers, the transformation narratives within the prison system, and the interfaith dialogues in academic settings.

When meeting Black careseekers, it is critical not to assume they are “some kind of” Christian. Candace R.M. Gorham says, “Once I separated from religion and fully embraced the humanist ideal that people must take care of each other because we’re all we have, the urge to engage in social justice activism became too strong to ignore.”

Five Fierce Humanists: Unapologetically Black Women Beyond Belief

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, which means chaplains working here will inevitably meet careseekers and their families for whom incarceration is part of their narrative. Understanding how incarcerated people understand their process of transformation – particularly within the context of a carceral system that emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation – is key to unlocking deeper engagement with these careseekers and their families. 

“Prison didn’t change me, I have changed”: Narratives of change, self, and prison timeCriminology and Criminal Justice

This collection explores the use of narratives in the social construction of wellness and illness. It emphasizes what the process of narration accomplishes – how it serves in the health communication process in which people define themselves and present their social and relational identities. 

Vital Problematics of Narrative Theorizing about Health and HealingNarrative, Health and Healing: Communication, Theory, Research and Practice

“Charles Scalise’s Bridging the Gap: Connecting What You Learned in Seminary with What You Find in the Congregation, lifts up narrative theology and posits that it has the promise of healing the rift between history and theology. He argues that narrative provides a natural connection for linking an individual’s story with the master stories of the Christian faith.” This article dives into this quandary and showcases practical tools. 

Storying Spiritual Narratives – Fortress Press

This author proposes that contemplative study, active reinterpretation, and creative expression of the narrative strains call us to an intimate process that can be practiced in solitude or readily shared with others, focusing on strengths, connectedness, and wholeness.

Awakening Through Story: Buddhist Chaplaincy and the Power of Narrative – The Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program

Listen to a few snapshot narratives that students bring to pizza night with the chaplain at a university. 

Interfaith Chaplains Revitalize An Old Role On College Campuses – NPR: All Things Considered

This paper explores the faith journeys of a Pentecostal, a Pagan, and a Rosicrucian. Each share their understanding of self and change through the act of storytelling. 

Spirituality and Narrative Three Case Studies – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


How do these spiritual/religious/philosophical narratives land with you/? What parts of these narrative case studies might guide you to specific care concerns? Is there a particular insight you gained that might cause you to dive a little deeper into a topic?