Spiritual Learning

Learning is central to spiritual care. At the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre (SCLC), learning helps us build empathy through discovering different perspectives, worldviews and values. Additionally, learning about different religious, secular and spiritual identities and ideas helps us realize that there are common values that all humans share, regardless of their social, cultural and economic background.

What is spiritual care?

Spiritual care is the practice of caring for a person’s spirit. In this practice, we don’t view our spirit as separate from our body or sense of self. Rather, it’s the full representation of ourselves. To put it simply, practicing spiritual care is acknowledging and caring for a person and their entire identity, sense of purpose and meaning in life.

It’s about viewing our humanity as meaningful and acknowledging that we all share commonalities that span social, cultural and economic backgrounds, whether we identify as religious, secular, spiritual or otherwise.

At the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre (SCLC), we can connect you with spiritual guidance from qualified spiritual leaders and help you get involved with various religious, secular and spiritual (RSS) communities. We work collaboratively with specific RSS communities to promote shared learning and mutual support for everyone at McMaster and in the larger community.

All Spiritual Care and Learning Centre leaders share the values of human dignity, diversity and respect. If you’re in need of guidance, support or community related to spiritual care, the SCLC leaders are here to help!

  • Andy Crowell, Director, Spiritual Care and Learning Centre; Ecumenical Chaplain, McMaster University (crowella@mcmaster.ca)
  • Dr. Raj Balkaran, Indian Spirituality Chaplain; Director, School of Indian Wisdom; Instructor, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies (raj@rajbalkaran.com)
  • Jeff Druery, Coordinator, Spiritual Director, Open Circle (jdruery@mcmaster.ca)
  • Marybeth Leis Druery, Coordinator, Spiritual Director, Open Circle (leismb@mcmaster.ca)
  • Dr. Michael Fallon, Director and Chaplain, Christian Reformed Campus Ministry, McMaster University (fallonm@mcmaster.ca)
  • Imam Hosam Helal, Program Coordinator, Islamic Society of North America; Religious Affairs Director, Islamic Society of St. Catherines; Associate Chaplain, Brock University; (hosam@isnacanada.com)
  • Father Bradley Marcus, Roman Catholic Chaplain, McMaster University; Priest, Canadian Martyrs Church (bmarkus@hamiltondiocese.com)
  • Andrew Nussey, Psychotherapist & Clinical Supervisor; Bishop, Pro-Cathedral of St. Luke (andrew@realanglican.ca)
  • Paul O’Hagan, Roman Catholic Campus Coordinator, McMaster University (pohagan@hamiltondiocese.com)
  • Rabbi Chanoch Rosenfeld, Director, Pastor of Beit Menachem Jewish Student Centre, Hamilton (rabbi@chabadhamilton.com)
  • Rabbi Ben Shefter, Senior Jewish Educator, McMaster Hillel (rabbiben@hillelontario.org)
  • Rory Tasker, Ordained Buddhist Monk, Interpreter/Translator for Teachers of the Sera Monastery (taskerr@mcmaster.ca)

Getting involved

If you want to join the SCLC as a spiritual care leader at McMaster, contact Andy Crowell (crowella@mcmaster.ca).

Understanding religious, secular and spiritual (RSS) identities

Spiritual care spans religious, secular and spiritual identities. These concepts have extensive meanings that are hard to capture in just one page. Consider this section our attempt to summarize these identities so you can expand your perspective and grow to find meaning in your experiences.

Religious identities are as diverse as any other type of identity, and no singular feature defines what a religion is. However, religions generally believe in some notion of the divine, whether through one God (monotheism), multiple gods (polytheism) or human beings (non-theism). Some examples include Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. However, there are thousands of religions practiced across the globe!

Secular identities are distinct from religious identities, but they’re not totally contrary to religion. Identifying as secular is another way to express yourself and experience life. For example, secularity views and celebrates the natural world as sacred. Some examples include Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, Egalitarianism and Environmentalism.

Spiritual identities pursue and practice the deepest expressions of one’s self and share it with the world. These identities may take on the appearance of religion while also embracing secular philosophies. However, spiritual identities offer unique perspectives on humanity and everyday life. Some examples include spiritual but not religious (SBNR) groups, new age movements, Wiccan, Paganism and Eco-Spirituality.

Spiritual learning FAQ

Do religious, secular and spiritual identities have anything in common?

When it comes to how we view the world and express ourselves, not everyone identifies the same way. Many variables make up what we believe and how we identify, whether religious, secular, spiritual or a combination of all three.

Remember…

  • Having a religious identity doesn’t mean you’re opposed to secular identities and ideas.
  • Being secular doesn’t prevent you from being spiritual.
  • And spirituality doesn’t belong to religion exclusively.

Regardless of whether you identify as religious, secular or spiritual, each identity contributes to our common values as humans.

How does spiritual care apply to being secular?

Not everyone identifies as religious or spiritual, but everyone can identify with being human. Spiritual care is about viewing our humanity as meaningful and acknowledging that we all share commonalities that span social, cultural and economic backgrounds, whether we identify as religious, secular, spiritual or otherwise.

What is the relationship of Indigenous life to being religious, secular or spiritual?

The rich mosaic of Indigenous culture and ceremony is integral to the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre (SCLC). Indigenous life predates all other religious, secular and spiritual (RSS) communities. As a result, Indigeneity both contributes to and exists independently from various RSS communities.

We recognize that Western religious, secular and spiritual life has contributed to, remained complicit in and benefited from colonization’s devastating impacts on Indigenous life. Despite the legacy of injustice imposed on Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples, Indigenous culture continues to thrive and demonstrate resilience.

We encourage all non-Indigenous religious, secular and spiritual communities to go beyond acknowledging settler privilege and work alongside Indigenous communities as active allies. This includes identifying past wrongs and current policies in our country and addressing how they continue to traumatize Indigenous communities today.

How does the Spiritual Care and Learning Centre (SCLC) work with the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) at McMaster?

Spiritual care contributes to our wellness. The Student Wellness Centre model is designed to care about the body and mind, requiring clinical precision. The Spiritual Care and Learning Centre model is designed to care for the spirit, inviting spiritual direction. Clinical and spiritual elements of these models are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re inextricably connected.

We work collaboratively with the Student Wellness Centre to support every aspect of your wellness so you can thrive at McMaster.