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Corporate and personal chaplains – their time has come

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Bill Gates had it right for a growing number of Americans. “There’s a lot more I can be doing with my Sunday morning,” he said, referring to traditional worship.

Increasingly, millions agree evidenced, in part, by the ongoing closings of many venues of worship. Not surprisingly, long-established schools of theology once used to train religious leaders also are shutting their doors.

Although 90 percent of those polled believe in a higher authority, attendance in formal, traditional settings whether the faith is conservative or liberal continues to drop. Yet independent of the choices to forgo traditional means of worship, spirituality remains constant for them.

As several experts have noted, faith is in transition. It is not, however, dying no matter how many physical places of worship are closed.

Enter the corporate chaplain as part of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and the personal chaplain/spiritual adviser retained privately for tailored spirituality by individuals.

They approach spirituality with a secular, ecumenical mindset finding truths in all great religions while judging none of them. They meet with employees in the workplace or counsel degreed professionals and senior executives who find the spoils of success leaving an inner void regarding purpose in a world that is cold, mean and complicated. The “good life” doesn’t equal happiness.

Business chaplaincy or using a personal chaplain/spiritual adviser is not about religion or proselytizing. It’s about spiritual wellness – exercise for the soul. These spiritual professionals provide an array of services and are a confidential resource.

Even atheists, agnostics or humanists have spiritual needs and the right chaplain or spiritual adviser can play a part in helping them craft the right questions in finding meaning and direction in their life.

Business chaplains or spiritual directors don’t give false hope. Nor do they pretend to have answers to the unanswerable whether the death of a child in a traffic accident or premature loss of a parent with a young family. Bad things happen to good people and bad people get away with bad things. A chaplain is a presence during a time of tragedy and a guide and confidant in an intense business or professional setting.

Modern chaplains best able to help someone without belief or those with faith must possess spiritual neutrality and come with an appreciation for the complexities of life and workplace politics and pressures.

Individuals, no matter their income, education, or social status in the community often require some connection to something that transcends what sometimes seems the futility of life.

Belief in something bigger than our selves called God, higher power or simply faith in an afterlife is not declining, no matter how technologically advanced society becomes. It is, however, changing. Belief in something bigger and better can give perspective, provide opportunities for inner stillness, or offer a needed grounding in daily living that defines our humanness.

Today, there are new, unconventional options, though traditional in some ways, for families, businesses and executives – personal and corporate chaplains. These spiritual professionals combine a realistic, practical understanding of the workplace drawing from their own life and careers and connecting the client to something potentially transcendental, going beyond the temporal. As part of an EAP they are expanding wellness of mind and body to include the spirit.

Paul P. Jesep is an attorney, personal and corporate chaplain and author of Lost “Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”. He is founder of Corporate Chaplaincy and consults on ethics and compliance issues.

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