Birth of Chaplaincy?

Speaking with some new chaplain friends in England (for a podcast soon to be posted) I mentioned how much my minister wife and I enjoy “Call the Midwife.”  I think we agreed the program encapsulates, in many ways, the essence of effective, relevant, contemporary, progressive chaplaincy.

Since my wife Carol and I both served as chaplains, we have a sense for the essential qualities of a chaplaincy (at least the inclusive kind).  These are exemplified in the lives of many of the characters in “Call the Midwife”:

Cooperation:  nurses, nuns, doctors, other patients work together to care for people in poverty, childbirth and illness.  Nurses never emphasize religious beliefs and several have come out as atheists or simply unconcerned with faith, yet are happy to work beside the nuns and accepted by the sisters

Focus on service rather than spirituality:  even though the main house is operated by nuns, the emphasis is never on religion but serving the community.  And each sister has struggles too, sometimes with their faith, their calling and with one another

Deep Listening:  everyone learns from each other, gaining important life lessons from parents, patients and silence

Inclusion and Diversity: a young man with Down syndrome, brings his smile, thoughtfulness and compassion to each person he meets.  One nurse and her husband are immigrants from Jamaica, very loving people who are supported by the house when facing pain and prejudice.  Many characters including families, struggle with disabilities and other challenges, often finding a welcoming spirit in the helpers

Presence:  nearly everyone, including the doctor and his wife (a former nun), show deep empathy in their presence with people in need and pain.  They take and make the time to be with people where they are

Good balance of Reason and Emotion:  the stories address major human issues, medical challenges, religious dilemmas and even political tensions, while revealing the human heart and the goodness of humanity without being too sugary sweet (though some of the babies are incredibly cute!)


If you watch the show, do you notice these elements?

What have I missed?

If you haven’t watched it, give yourself a gift.  I guarantee you’ll learn a great deal about chaplaincy, though there are no chaplains in the show!

Categories: chaplaincyTags: , , , , ,


  1. Hello again Chris. You have prompted me to now watch a television show I have always looked past. To bad their are no chaplains to show this same type of care philosophy which is central to our Multifaith perspective. I wonder if the writers of the show would think chaplains as not capable or interested in this type of care. I’ll have a look.

    • See what you think, Marty. You have to have the stomach for many births, but I find it interesting that nuns and nurses, the faithful and freethinkers, can all be involved in assisting people in crisis. I’m glad there are no professional “chaplains” in the show. As I say, there are many who fit the role perfectly.

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