Representative of the Transcendent
Adapted and paraphrased by Nancy Williams from a paper by
Guy Greenfield, entitled, “Theological Issues in Corrections”
Former Professor of Ethics, Southwestern Theological Seminary
The chaplain is Representative of that which is transcendent, whatever that may mean to the inmate. He or she is a constant reminder of the uniqueness of the human being. He or she conveys that life involves faith, hope, and love; that life calls for meaning, purpose, and direction.
Adapted and paraphrased from a paper by Guy Greenfield, entitled "Theological Issues in Corrections."
The Chaplain is Minister of Pain. He or she is healer of pain that comes with being human and experiencing life. And the healer of pain associated with incarceration -- the pain of loneliness, the pain of separation from family, the pain of living with doubts about the ability to change, the pain of humiliation, the pain of hostility, the pain of failure, and the pain of fearing for one's life.
The Chaplain is Specialist of the Interior. The concern is about what is often called the spiritual part of the person, as well as the mental, emotional, physical, and behavioral. The chaplain tries to save the person from rejecting the self while still facing the wrong one has done. The chaplain must help the individual find meaning in life without imposing his or her personal theology or religious doctrine.
The Chaplain is Facilitator of the Spiritual Community. Acting out of the belief that it is through our interactions with others that we are challenged, find support, and grow, the chaplain provides connection with the external religious community as identified and desired by the inmate.
The Chaplain is a Model of Transformation and Growth. The chaplain shows by example the possibility for change, and that life is a process which calls us to struggle constantly with change. The message to the inmate is "Let me show you what works in my life," rather than the finger-pointing message "Now this is what you are to do, and this is what you are to believe."
The Chaplain is a Communicator and Clarifier of Values. He or she reacquaints the inmate with accepted values, helps the inmate explore them from all angles and depths, and creatively aids in translating those values into behavior.
The Chaplain is Advocate of Humane Treatment. He or she is advisor to administration on how to make the depersonalizing prison environment as humane as possible.