The ACPE Research Network

Back to the Newsletter Index Page ]


Fall 2004 Newsletter

Special "Web Finds" Issue

On-Line Newsletter Volume 3, Number 1
Published September 14, 2004.

Edited by Chaplain John Ehman, Network Convener

Network members are encouraged to submit articles for upcoming issues
of the Newsletter, which is published three times a year: Fall, Winter, and Spring.
The Winter 2005 issue is scheduled to be posted on the site in January.

[Editor's Note: When the Research Network decided to develop this web site--now in its third year--in place of our old printed Newsletter mailings, the primary purpose was to enhance communication both among our members and with the general membership of the ACPE. However, our web site initiative also brought with it the potential to provide quick and convenient links to the many resources of the Internet, and so we have periodically featured various "web finds." This special issue of the on-line Newsletter considers a variety of resources for pastoral care researchers that are made easily available through the world wide web.]

Table of Contents

  1. Browsing the Internet: A CPE Supervisor's Exploration of Research and Resources on Religion in Rural America, by Margot Hover, DMin, ACPE/NACC Supervisor, St. Louis Cluster/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Community-based Program
  2. Hartford Institute for Religion Research
  3. Duke's Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health
  4. Update on Larson Presentations On-Line
  5. Article on Internet Resources for Spirituality and Health
  6. National Institutes of Health
  7. Convener's Report: Workshop at the Fall 2004 National ACPE Conference and Agenda for the Annual Network Meeting


1.     Browsing the Internet: A CPE Supervisor's Exploration of Research and Resources on Religion in Rural America, by Margot Hover, DMin, ACPE/NACC Supervisor, St. Louis Cluster/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Community-based Program

Several years ago, while I was living in New York City, I received a phone call from a chaplain in a much smaller city, and she talked about not being able to do research because there was "no adequate library close by." Now even though I lived near some of the finest libraries in the world, I'd come to experience library trips as often frustrating and time-wasting without a preliminary search of a subject on the Internet; and I suggested to my caller that she think about the research resources available right through her personal computer. After I left New York for my current position supervising the St. Louis Cluster/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Community-based CPE program, I found my own "world" suddenly rural, with my program sites all beyond fifty miles from urban areas. I needed to learn more about this setting--sociologically and religiously--and, wanting to develop a research component into my CPE program, I also needed to see what had already been researched, what questions had been raised in the literature, and who might serve me as resources and/or research partners. I took my own advice and turned to the Internet to get started. I enjoy the serendipity of "browsing" the Internet, and the following is a bit of what I discovered there about research and resources on religion in rural America.

One of Garrison Keillor's best Lake Wobegone stories features Pastor Inkvist's hosting of a Conference on Rural Ministry, attended by "tweed-garbed, Hushpuppy-shoed" pastors. We smile at his affectionate stereotype of small town church culture, and many of us from urban areas might assume that he portrays a disappearing, rather eccentric slice of American life. Not so. Denominations are discovering the numbers, vitality, and impact of small "Town and Country" congregations. For instance, the 2004 General Conference of the United Methodist Church announced recently that half of their congregations have fifty-two or fewer people in worship each week, that seventy-five percent of their churches have fewer than 108 in average attendance and/or have memberships of fewer than 250. This is consistent with the 1999-2001 FACT (Faith Communities Today, Hartford Institute for Religion Research) study findings that half of the congregations in the United States have fewer than one hundred regularly participating adults, and less than ten percent have more than one thousand. These numbers for rural and small-town congregations are consistent across faith groups (though many newer suburban congregations may be of a large size). All of this information was quickly available to me on-line.

And while news magazine features tend to focus on the growth of urban/suburban mega-churches, a search of the Internet reveals the amount and scope of research centers and projects dealing with rural congregational life in the United States. For example, the Missouri Rural Churches Project (information on which may be found through the Hartford Institute for Religion Research [, reviewed in detail in Section 2 of this Newsletter] and the Missouri School of Religion Center for Rural Ministry) replicated in 1999/2000 a study done by the Department of Rural Sociology of the University of Missouri in 1952, 1967, and 1982. The Missouri project studied the same congregations in the same ninety-nine rural townships, resulting in a sizeable bank of longitudinal data about a significant slice of American life and a number of interesting papers on their relevance for church planning and ministry. The HIRR site is particularly rich, with articles, project findings, a great bibliography, and the phone numbers and addresses of its dedicated expert staff who were generous and enthusiastic in responding to my phone calls in order to network with them.

The mushrooming interest in rural religious systems has been paralleled by healthcare providers' curiosity about their connection with rural health. Nurses, for instance, have been looking at general rural health care needs and have discovered from their vantage point the importance of spirituality. Congdon and Magilvy ["Themes of rural health and aging from a program of research," Geriatric Nursing 22, no. 5 (September-October 2001): 234-8] analyzed three ethnographic studies set in rural Colorado to arrive at these themes: circles of formal and informal care; integration of faith, spirituality and family with health status; crisis nature of health care transitions; nursing homes as a housing option; and changing spirit of traditional rural nursing. They recommend that healthcare providers make their practices congruent with the culture of those they serve, be fully informed about local resources, assist in exploring acceptable options and making decisions, and integrating the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of elder care.

In an excellent article aimed at the medical profession ["Religious professionals and institutions: untapped resources for clinical care," Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 13 (2004): 85-110], Mary Lynn Dell, MD, MTS, ThM, summarizes surveys describing the effectiveness of clergy in monitoring and maintaining community mental health, particularly in rural areas. In an effort to encourage psychiatric professionals to utilize clergy resources, she recounts the history of the pastoral care movement and lists a number of factors supporting clergy availability and attractiveness to rural populations. [See the August 2004 Article-of-the-Month for more on Dell's article.]

In my Internet search, I discovered that PubMed [], the free on-line library service of the National Library of Medicine, has produced a number of abstracts, summaries, and some full-text versions of articles of interest--twenty-two found with a key word search using rural clergy, and seventy-three found using rural/spiritual. I skimmed and eliminated many of those from other countries, but many useful articles turned up, such as a report of thought-provoking research on "Clergy perspectives and practices regarding intimate violence: a rural view" [Strickland, G. A., Welshimer , K. J. and Sarvela, P. D., Journal of Rural Health 14, no. 4 (Fall 1998): 305-11], that suggests that clergy knowledge and attitudes about family violence doesn't necessarily translate into actual prevention practices, although rural churches remain promising sources for disseminating information and influencing values. The data also suggests that liberal clergy employ prevention practices more often than conservative clergy. --Lots of food for thought here.

While pastors can often easily point to "problem people" in their pews, another article available through PubMed (using the search phrase: psychosocial rural health issues in US) describes important underlying issues that are, in their nature, appropriately pastoral needs. "Gender-related concerns of rural women with severe and persistent mental illnesses" [Lyon, D. and Parker, B., Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 17, no. 1 (February 2003): 27-32] used focus groups with women with severe and persistent mental illness to explore their gender-related concerns. Those included unresolved grief over loss of children, isolation from family members, lack of sexual partners, diminished sexuality, and bodily changes secondary to medication side effects. As a group, they felt that their identity as women faded as they became identified as mentally ill.

On the search process itself, my image of this stage of Internet serendipity is that of following bread crumbs through a forest. I can't always figure out how I happened on a particular site, but I've made some great finds. An intriguing site is, which offers a number of Christian congregational resources. Of particular interest to me is their Almond Springs interactive simulation that includes profiles, encounter verbatims, tutorials, and "Experienced Voices" articles on the ethical, pastoral, and administrative dilemmas faced by Rev. Charlotte Robinson in her first solo pastorate. There is also the Journal of Religious Leadership, appearing periodically with full text articles and reviews, and a number of other services and resources.

Breadcrumb-following takes time, of course, but I find it much more rewarding than spending a day wending my way through library access policies, cost codes, new stack arrangements, and parking difficulties. I've found that large libraries even prefer that journal searches for full texts be done on-line. So now I first go on-line from my office or home for general subject searches or to locate specific citations that I may have seen elsewhere. Finally, as a Myers-Briggs INFP, I find that browsing the Internet rekindles my enthusiasm and creativity by organizing and displaying in easy reach a supermarket of possibilities.


2.     Hartford Institute for Religion Research [--a "web find" by Margot Hover]

While its focus is on congregational life, this excellent site ( merits browsing for all sorts of reasons. Their study instruments and approaches are valuable guides to studies in any setting. For example, their eight-page Congregational Observational Guide outlines questions on the ecology, culture, resources, and authority of a group that could be adapted to a variety of institutions and departments. Further, their descriptions of studies like the National Congregations Study highlight innovative research methodology that could be employed in other studies. Finally, I found the staff very welcoming of my telephoned questions about their work in areas of my interest.

The Hartford Institute was established at Hartford Seminary in 1981 to explore the relationships among American religious institutions and their cultural and social contexts. It has initiated more than 75 projects supported by more than $10 million in external funding. The HIRR site includes links with numerous organizations and other resources, ranging from the study of new religions and political/theological issues to directories of the major denominations.


3.     Duke's Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health

One of the finest sites on the Internet for research on spirituality and health is that of the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health [], which is based in the Center for Aging at Duke University. It is co-directed by Harold G. Koenig, MD, MHSc, Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and Keith G. Meador, MD, ThM, MPH, Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Medicine at Duke Divinity School and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. The Center emphasizes interdisciplinary research and tends to focus on traditional religious activity, such as prayer and congregational involvement. (It was formerly known as The Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health, and its web pages still contain that name in their HTML title lines.)

The web site offers an extensive list of abstracts of studies according to a variety of topics:

  • Prayer and Mortality
  • Religious Coping and Blood Pressure
  • Religious Struggle and Mortality
  • Intercessory Prayer and Cardiac Outcomes
  • Prayer and Optimism
  • Religion and Congestive Heart Failure
  • Religious Attendance and Survival
  • Religion and Blood Pressure
  • Religion and Recovery From Depression
  • Religion and Healthy Living
  • Religion and Use of Health Services
  • Religion in Hospitalized Patients
  • Religious Coping and Health
  • Religion and Depression in the Community
  • Religion and Immune Function
  • Measuring the Religious Variable
  • Religion and Depressive Symptom Type
  • Religion and Prison
  • Mental Health of Pentecostal Baby-Boomers
  • Religion and Alcoholism
  • Religion and Anxiety
  • Religious Coping and Depression
  • Religious Perspectives of Doctors, Nurses, and Patients
  • Religious Coping and Personality
  • Doctors' Perspectives on Religion
  • Religious Coping in the Community
  • Religion and Well-Being
  • Religion and Death Anxiety

The site further lists studies conducted at Duke and in collaboration with other institutions, offers a selection of books on spirituality and health (with links to publishers or retailers from whom they may be purchased), and gives information on research consultation services and speaker services by experts associated with the Center. The work that has come out of Duke on spirituality and health has been a powerful influence in the overall development of this field of inquiry, and the Center's web site should be on every pastoral care researcher's "favorites" list.


4.     Update on Larson Presentations On-Line

The work of the late David B. Larson, MD, has been highlighted on our web site before, particularly in the December 2003 Article-of-the-Month. He was a psychiatrist and epidemiologist who was a pioneer of the present-day study of spirituality and health and a catalyst for the surge of publications in this field in the medical literature in the last decade. His systematic reviews of studies of spirituality and health pointed up the importance of the subject for clinicians and challenged researchers to bring good quantitative, empirical methodology to bear. He was the founder and president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research, which became the International Center for the Integration of Health and Spirituality, and several of his lectures (with Powerpoint slides) have been available on the ICIHS web site ( However, as the ICIHS web site is expected to cease operation in the near future. Though the presentations are becoming a little dated, Dr. Larson's ability to analyze and discuss trends in a field that he did much to shape makes them still wonderful resources for pastoral care researchers. Topics include overviews of spirituality and health as a research field and specific slide presentations on spirituality and cardiac issues, suicide, and substance abuse. The site also offers material by Harold Koenig and provides many fruitful links.


5.     Article on Internet Resources for Spirituality and Health

A recent article in Medical Reference Services Quarterly [23, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 57-71], "Spirituality and health care: Internet resources," by Mona Stevermer, deserves mention in this "web finds" issue of the Newsletter, though only a handful of the web sites that she notes are research oriented. The author (, who is the Librarian-Supervisor at St. Mary's Hospital-Mayo Foundation in Rochester, MN, lists 48 web sites under the headings of Academic Institutions and Medical Centers (14), Institutes and Organizations (7), Other Sites (2), Parish Nursing Sites (8), Associations (7, including the ACPE), and General Resources (10). In selecting sites, her sense of the concept of spirituality seems to have been broad, and a number of sites revolve around Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Among the research-oriented sites listed, most have already received attention on our Research Network web site in either past Article-of-the-Month or Newsletter pages [i.e., The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health (, The Fetzer Institute (, and The Healthcare Chaplaincy (] or in the present Newsletter [i.e., The Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University, now known as the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health ( and The Hartford Institute for Religion Research (]. However, one particular "web find" from the article is the site for the American Religion Data Archive ( --[Note (added 9/2/06): The organization is now the Association of Religion Data Archives]-- which offers a wealth of quantitative data on American religion. Stevermer comments about this site: "Specific data, along with details on sources cited, may be viewed and downloaded in a variety of formats, such as state maps, county graphs, or ranking tables" [p. 69].


6.     National Institutes of Health

The funding potential of the National Institutes of Health [] should itself interest pastoral care researchers. Various NIH sites list, for instance, recent awards: e.g., for last year, "Spirituality and Will to Live in Patients with HIV/AIDS" (by Joel Tsevat at the University of Cincinnati) and "Spirituality, Religiosity, and Immune Functioning" (by Colleen S. McClain at Fordham University) received funding, according to a page within the site for the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Such award announcements of course foreshadow studies to be published in the near future.

Pastoral care researchers should further be aware of how spirituality may play into the mission of NIH-related offices and centers. For instance, the description of the CAM Research Center for Cardiovascular Diseases notes: "the influence of spirituality upon outcomes in patients having coronary artery bypass surgery will be examined," and the description of the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation notes that their research, revolving around the theme of stressors and aging, includes a exploration of spirituality. A recent search from the NIH home page, using the term spirituality, produced 460 results, though most of these dealt with spirituality in a very broad sense.


7.     Convener's Report: Workshop at the Fall 2004 National ACPE Conference and Agenda for the Annual Network Meeting

Our workshop for this Fall's National ACPE Conference in Portland ME--Adding Research to a CPE Curriculum: Challenging Students to Think Critically--has been planned by Margot Hover, Supervisor, St. Louis CPE Cluster/Barnes Jewish Hospital Community-based Program; Ralph C. Ciampa, Supervisor, University of Pennsylvania Health System; John B. Pumphrey, Supervisor, Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Pennsylvania; and myself. It is scheduled for Friday, November 12th, 1:30-3:00 PM . The description for the conference announcement is as follows:

Familiarity with research methodology can help CPE students think critically about pastoral care, about what knowledge or assumptions form the bases of their practice of chaplaincy, and about how to assess the value of the growing body of literature on the relationship between spirituality and health. The discipline of research can add much to the CPE educational process, and this workshop will focus on various ways to incorporate a research component into the curriculum. Members of the ACPE Research Network will not only address strategies for student "research projects" but discuss program options for non-researchers. Curriculum materials will be offered.
If other Network members are interested in contributing to the content and/or leadership of the workshop, please contact immediately. Everyone is, of course, invited to attend.

Our Network meeting at the conference will be 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM on Friday, November 12th (just prior to our workshop). Members wishing to place items on the agenda should e-mail The topics tentatively on the agenda are:

  • Membership and Finances
  • Plans for the Web Site
  • Need for More Research Pertinent to CPE Educational Issues
  • Network Research Awards / Plans to Encourage Applications
  • Initiatives to Establish Research Competencies for Chaplains

I look forward to seeing you there. --JE

If you have suggestions about the form and/or content of the site, e-mail Chaplain John Ehman (Network Convener) at .
Copyright 2004
The ACPE Research Network. All rights reserved.