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2019 Plenary Speakers

Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 7:00 p.m.
Dr. M. Jan Holton MDiv PhD

An Invitation to Belonging and Meaning: Traversing New Boundaries with Faith and Courage

We are beckoned by God’s ever evolving call to venture toward new horizons of growth for self and ministry. Even while inwardly longing for the quiet assuredness of the past, God urges us forward. How do we envision crossing these new boundaries? We can turn to examples from the lives of the world’s displaced to learn much about the challenge. Based on research with these refugees from conflict zones around the world we can find a renewed sense of belonging, meaning, and flourishing that moves us toward God’s hospitable presence of grace and healing. 
Dr. M. Jan Holton is Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Care at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, NC. She previously served on the faculty of Yale University Divinity School from 2006 to 2015. Dr. Holton also served under extension ministry appointment with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, CT. Her work focuses on the psychodynamic implications of trauma and forced displacement, the intercultural dynamics within traditional pastoral care, and pastoral care to marginalized populations. In her latest book, "Longing for Home" (Yale University Press, 2016), Professor Holton examines the psychological, social, and theological impact of forced displacement on communities in the Congo and South Sudan and indigenous persons in Uganda, as well as on homeless U.S. citizens and U.S. soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She is an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.  B.A., Randolph Macon College, M.Div., Union Presbyterian Seminary, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University.
Friday, June 21, 2019 - 9:30 a.m. 
Dr. Christina Puchalski 

Has the Pendulum Swung too far to Reductionist Spiritual Care?  
Spiritual care has made significant advances in clinical care, research, and policy. Chaplains are becoming essential members of the healthcare team.   But some argue that the clinical chaplain functions overlap with others on the team. What is the unique spiritual care expertise of chaplains? Attending to patients’ deepest suffering is most effectively done through presence and contemplative listening. This pastoral approach may be the unique expertise that chaplains bring to the team with patients and with the clinicians on the team. Is this expertise in jeopardy of being lost in the shadows of reductionism?  Or is the need for presence an opportunity for chaplain leadership.

Dr. Christina Puchalski is the founder and Director of the George Washington University’s Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish) and Professor of Medicine at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.  Dr. Puchalski is board certified in palliative care and internal medicine, ‎directs an interdisciplinary outpatient supportive and palliative clinic and is a Medical Hospice Director in Washington, DC. GWish is recognized for fostering alliances globally to further interprofessional spiritual care including the Global Network for Spirituality and Health. Dr. Puchalski has authored numerous book chapters and published a book with Oxford University Press entitled "Time for Listening and Caring: Spirituality and the Care of the Seriously Ill and Dying". She co-authored "Making Health Care Whole" with Dr. Betty Ferrell, ‎ based on consensus work resulting in guidelines for interprofessional spiritual care. She is co-editor of an international textbook on spirituality and health published by Oxford University Press and the "Handbook of Supportive Oncology and Palliative Care: Whole-Person Adult and Pediatric Care".
Her work has been featured on numerous print and television media. Her scholarship focuses on palliative care, ‎spirituality and health and compassionate care as part of whole person health. She is recognized for her work in developing interdisciplinary educational curricula and innovated models of care. ‎ In 2018, Dr. Puchalski was named as one of “30 Visionaries” in the field by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Saturday, June 22, 2019 - 12:00 p.m.
Greg M Epstein and Jason Callahan

The Future of Chaplaincy for the Nonreligious: Restoring our Faith…in Humanity

Chaplaincy itself will need to evolve for a younger generation that is both the most religiously diverse and secular cohort in American history. How can new kinds of chaplains help unaffiliated people find purpose, compassion, and community? How can we offer inspirational pastoral care to those striving to be “good without God”? When and how should we use popular culture as a “sacred text” for meaning making? In this session, humanist chaplains Greg Epstein (Harvard and MIT) and Jason Callahan (BCC, Palliative Care, Virginia Commonwealth University) will hold a public conversation on the evolution of religious, spiritual, and ethical care. 

Greg M. Epstein is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and MIT and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe". He has been described as a “godfather to the [humanist chaplaincy] movement” by the New York Times Magazine and was named “one of the top faith and moral leaders in the United States” by Faithful Internet, a project coordinated by the United Church of Christ with assistance from the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. An ordained humanist rabbi and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Greg has served in an advisory capacity for a diverse range of interfaith and humanist institutions, including Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s Interfaith Advisory Task Force, as chair of the Advisory Board of the Secular Student Alliance, and as a technical advisor to “The Inclusive America Project,” an initiative of the Aspen Institute co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Greg’s work is currently focused on working with students and faculty at Harvard and MIT on the ethics of science, technology and business. 
Jason Callahan is the chaplain for the Thomas Palliative Care Unit at VCU Massey Cancer Center and an instructor for the Departments of Patient Counseling and Pastoral Care at VCU. Jason is a seminary educated secular chaplain, endorsed by the Humanist Society and nationally board certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains. Prior to coming to VCU, Jason worked as an advertising executive and trauma informed professional counselor. He is passionate about increasing the numbers of non-theistic board certified chaplains.
Sunday, June 23, 2019 - 10:00 a.m.
Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Prophetic Presence: Chaplains as Social Healers and Activists
Chaplaincy is often described as a ministry of presence to the suffering. But when it is a society that is suffering, is presence enough? The first two decades of the 21st century have been a period of enormous social upheaval and polarization, especially around issues of gender and sexuality, race and nationality, religion, and politics. What role, if any, do chaplains have in movements such as #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter or even contentious elections? This address challenges chaplains to embody a prophetic presence that leverages our unique giftedness as agents of change and healing in a divided world. 

Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes is a clinical psychologist, public theologian, and minister who serves as Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the Mercer University McAfee School of Theology. A prophetic voice for healing, justice, and reconciliation, her personal mission is to dismantle white supremacist heteropatriarchy while practicing good self-care. She is the author of "Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength" and the forthcoming "I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision of Racial Reconciliation". Dr. Chanequa is an ecumenical minister whose faith has been shaped by Methodist, Baptist, and evangelical social justice communities. She was ordained by an independent fellowship that holds incarnational theology, community engagement, social justice, and prophetic witness as its core values. She lives in Atlanta, the city where she was born and raised, and is a proud “Grady baby.”