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Resource Reviews for Continuing Education and Reference, Feb. 2016

APC™ Forum, February 2016, Vol. 18 No. 1

Books, films, recorded webinars, journal articles and other media provide continuing education opportunities and reference material. To help you use your time most efficiently, our review section will evaluate media for professional or personal usefulness. If you would like to join our resource review panel, please contact our Resource Reviews editor, Tamara R. Flinchum BCC. Reviewers may select from a list of potential resources, receive a free copy of the publication or media to review, prepare the review according to guidelines, and submit reviews for editing and inclusion in APCTM Forum. Serving as a reviewer provides you with continuing education hours and the satisfaction of serving APCTM. Feedback, questions and suggestions are welcome.

Tamara R. Flinchum BCC serves as the APCTM Forum Resource Reviews editor. She is a chaplain at AnMed Health in Anderson, SC and may be contacted at

Being Called Chaplain:  How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith
Stacy Sergent

(Columbia:  Harrelson Press, 2015, 216 pages, softcover, Kindle)

Countless professional chaplains have experienced the quandary of trying to help our communities understand the unique role we play in the lives of the suffering. More than a few persons have come to us wanting to follow in our footsteps and wondering what life as a professional chaplain must be like. ACPE Supervisors are expected to guide new chaplains into their calling. Enter Stacy Sergent's new book, Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith. In this striking memoir, Sergent gives an insider's view not only into the profession itself but, more importantly, into the inner world of a compassionate professional who successively struggles to find hope even as she is providing hope.

In this refreshingly authentic account, each chapter tells another vignette in her quest to work through her own grief and near burnout after multiple losses in succession of cherished friends and pediatric patients. Only two weeks after her first infant loss, Sergent faces the loss of a deeply-loved friend and mentor that leaves her asking the same questions anyone would ask both personally and professionally: “If things this horrible can happen to people as good as Patsy and Eli and Dr. Goodman, how do you know God is really listening and really cares or even exists?” (Sergent, 2015, "Clinging to Pitons," para.16). In a religious world where she often feels she “should have figured all of this out in divinity school,” Sergent lays bare her own wrestling with theodicy, doubt and anger that is reflected and healed in the stories and conversations with her patients – conversations that Sergent weaves one by one into a new and unfolding path for personal healing (Sergent, 2015, "Clinging to Pitons," para. 11).

Sergent opens up her soul as she persistently struggles with coping skills and self-images that leave her raw and tender, perceived inadequacies that get triggered as she faces religious sexism in health care institutions, and the impact of her mother's mental illness on her own sense of security. She readily reveals the internal voices that all good chaplains have asked in the face of such immense suffering: “What if you can't do it?  What if you screw this up?” (Sergent, 2015, "God on Tiptoe," para. 29). All of these struggles weave together in a narrative as she grows more confident in herself, her skills and her pastoral authority as a vibrantly, new and effective chaplain on her units and floors. Throughout, as she engages in theological reflection with the “God of Gethsemane” guided by her spiritual director and her pilgrimage in Israel, she “senses God's nearness as certainly as in any majestic sanctuary” in the very “bloody mess of trauma bays, where a dozen human beings give their best to save another” (Sergent, 2015, "Clinging to Pitons," para. 36).

As many of us are trying to step up our game in the face of increasing of performance initiatives in our institutions, Sergent's genuine openness allows the reader to breathe as she lets us “get close enough” to “see the cracks of [our] ministerial facade” (Sergent, 2015, "This Can't Be Real," para. 31). As such, this short book calls us back to the reason and purpose for our calling.

Reviewed by David B. Gladson MDiv BCC, clinical care manager of Psycho-Social-Spiritual Care, Interim HealthCare Hospice, Greenville, SC.

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The Territories of Science and Religion
Peter Harrison

(Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2015, 300 pages, Kindle, hardcover)

Are there innate, eternal and impossible conflicts between science and religion? Some would say yes. Peter Harrison says, “It’s complicated.” He spends 198 pages of this 300-page book deconstructing the illusions and myths related to the relationship between these multifaceted fields. The last 197 pages are notes backing up his ideas. He reviews the historical relationship between the two monoliths, which began as complementary and have evolved to be developed as antithetical. Complexity and controversy are central to the history of the constructs now labeled “science” and “religion.”  

For chaplains, this book can help us to deconstruct the myth of the innate and eternal superiority of science over religion. We can uncover some of the historical and societal forces that drive the divide and, I believe, recover some of our own authority. Harrison’s thought assists us to be aware of how religion and the leaders of religion came to assume a relegated position of less importance and authority in some cultural conversations. Some of the powerful purveyors of the myth of science, in its journey to the center of medical care, have created a straw horse of religion and proceeded to shoot it down. Some of the purveyors of the myth of unified religion have proposed a corner on the ability to define what religion is. The narrow self-definitions and polarized conversation do not lead to wisdom in either field. Harrison’s measured and thorough review of history questions these unified, universal eternal myths, allowing us to question the hierarchies that often define and undermine us.

Here is one long passage near the very end of the book that is paradigmatic and encapsulates one of Harrison’s powerful insights:

Finally, . . .the conflict myth continues to serve the role for which it was originally fashioned in the late nineteenth century, of establishing and maintaining boundaries of the modern conception “science.”  . . . In the present case, however, atheism assumes the role once occupied by natural theology. This accounts for the conjunction of atheism and science that one encounters in at least some recent works of popular science. While the ostensible focus in high-profile science-religion disputes is factual claims about the natural world, such debates are often proxies for more deep-seated ideological or, in its broadest sense, “theological” battles. For their part, what religiously motivated antievolutionists’ fear is not the “science” as such, but the secularist package of values concealed in what they perceive to be the Trojan horse of evolutionary theory. Perhaps these skirmishes should be thought of . . . as theological controversies waged by means of science. . . . In other words, ideological atheism is parasitic on the modern construct “religion,” understood as constituted by propositional beliefs that require rational justification. (196-197)

Harrison goes on in the following paragraph to explain how the “advocates of constructive dialogue” between science and religion get it wrong, too. These voices “concede the cultural authority of the sciences, the propositional nature of religion, and the idea of a neutral, rational space in which dialogue can take place.” The book comes to an end, with hope hinted only in how things “might yet to be, rather different“ (198).

Reviewed by Cathy Hasty MDiv BCC, ACPE Supervisor, AAPC Diplomate, LPCS, director of Health Ministry, Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Charlotte, NC.

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First on the Scene, Crisis Intervention in Spiritual Care
Donald Bruce Stouder

(San Bernardino, CA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015, 113 pages, softcover, Kindle)

The author’s purpose for this book was to provide a training resource with materials for new health care chaplains that deal with crisis intervention in spiritual care, an objective he reached.

The book has a number of strengths. One strength is the wealth of information on the various theories of crisis intervention, including the Spiritual Care and Counseling theory, the Crisis Intervention theory, and the Bioethics and Integral theory. The author presents a scholarly and yet practical rendering of how these interventions are defined and how they work from the perspective of the founding father of the particular theory. However, the sections on theories would be more useful in a counseling or group-oriented context, where the chaplain leads interactions with a specific target group, not in a fast-paced acute-care setting.

Another strength is chapters four, five, and six, which are great for the acute-care chaplain working to provide spiritual and emotional support to individual patients and their families. This section includes a practical presentation of useful and adaptive ideals that a new chaplain can apply in his or her particular context, called “Letters to a Young Chaplain.”

One limitation of the book is the way it is presented. Stouder remarks in his introduction, “I should comment briefly about the structure of this project. In some ways, it is a compilation of several different subjects that I have always wanted to write about, but might be confusing when first grouped together” (2). Readers must be patient in walking in the tall grass of difficult reading about various crisis intervention theories in spiritual care before they encounter the wells of living water in the practical information found in the middle and ending chapters of the book.

Reviewed by Earl Lee Howard MDiv BCC, staff chaplain, Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix, AZ.

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