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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Opportunity for Krishna Conscious Corporate Chaplaincy
By Candidasa Dasa   |  Dec 10, 2007

"My work is pointless! Problems at home make focusing on work difficult. The boss is an idiot."

These are common complaints that almost every worker in today’s world has, according to the Economist newspaper. Many workers are cut off from their geographic and religious roots and therefore have no one to turn to with their many problems.

Corporate chaplains are the up-and-coming solution, according to the Economist. These chaplains perform the role of traditional village priests in today’s modern world. The newspaper estimates that there are currently about 4,000 corporate chaplains in the USA and expects these numbers to grow rapidly in the future. One chaplaincy organization, Corporate Chaplains of America, currently cares for 100,000 employees and plans to expand to over a million beneficiaries of chaplaincy by the year 2012.

Christianity Today portrays chaplains not as stogy priests, clad in collar and robes, but friendly every-day people in polo-shirts and khaki pants. They care for sick employees, attend weddings and funerals and are always there to lend an ear for any matter, both personal and professional.

According to the Financial Times, most chaplains have some formal training, but it is not essential. The main thing is that they have a caring heart. Their faith should be an instrument for love, not preaching. They are there to help. In spite of (or perhaps because of this), Mark Cress of Corporate Chaplains estimates that in the last year 4,000 of the 47,000 employees his organization cares for have become practicing Christians as a direct result of their "help" and "care".

"They look at the whole person," says Fay Runnion, an employee of HomeBanc corp., who was helped through a difficult struggle with breast cancer by the company’s chaplain. "It’s an accepting environment where it’s OK to say, ‘I’m struggling.’"

Ian Mitroff, author of A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, says: "Many people I spoke with desperately want to acknowledge their spirituality at work but are afraid to do so, because they don’t want accusations of proselytizing." The presence of a corporate chaplain makes embracing spirituality at work permissible or even laudable.

However, the Economist is skeptical of the long-term viability of corporate chaplains. To the paper, they seem to be a major lawsuit from outraged secular employees just waiting to happen. However, Christianity Today reports that there have been no complaints, as long as employees of other faiths are not discriminated against for not taking advantage of the chaplaincy service. Indeed, Dan Truit, vice-president of international ministries at Marketplace Chaplains says: "We’re careful never to push religion. That’s not good business, and it’s not good religion."

Forbes Magazine worries that the predominance of Christian chaplains will marginalize minorities and people with no religion. Douglas A. Hicks, associate professor of leadership studies and religion and director of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond, agrees. He says that companies must welcome "spirituality" into the workplace, but should not endorse specific religious content.

To establish a chaplaincy in an organization where there is none, Daily Encouragement, a christian newsletter, suggests speaking to the HR department or owner of the company. They found most directors of HR to be very receptive of the idea.

Most corporate chaplaincy services are outsourced, but some companies also hire full-time chaplains for their organization. In any case, regardless of whether they are in-house or on-call, the chaplains are usually very well appreciated after a short time. Quotes like: "This was the best business decision I ever made", "turnover rates have dropped by a third" and "this is the only benefit that employees have ever thanked me for" are common, according to Christianity Today.


Candidasa Dasa is studying towards a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Manchester’s Bio-Health Informatics Group. You can visit his blog here:


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