Student Does Innovative Chaplaincy Work

June 5, 2014

Kendall Protzmann, MDiv 15, outside the Holbrook Building

“During a time where we see a lot of mainline denominations closing church doors and giving pastors multiple churches as one appointment, chaplaincy- ministry in unsuspecting places- is becoming more relevant,” says Kendall Protzmann (MDiv ’15) about her field education work with Taylor Street Center, a halfway house in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. 

As a chaplain, Protzmann provides pastoral care to pregnant and incarcerated women through Refuge, a groundbreaking “template” worship service she designed specifically for the residents of Taylor Street Center. The service can be done by any member of the community without the presence of a chaplain, and includes music, Bible study, communal prayer, table fellowship, and above all else, authenticity with each other and with God.

It was in her Christian Education class with Dr. Buyong Lee, and her field education group with Odette Lockwood-Stewart where Protzmann learned to step boldly into the role of a chaplain and discover what it meant theologically and pragmatically.

“I have also discovered along the way what questions I should be asking … in order to create a Christian education curriculum,” Protzmann said. “I have learned that there is ministry in the intentionality of the details of every encounter with someone in ministry, and every handout for the Refuge service.”

Protzmann’s work is not just about Christian education. According to a 2012 Baylor University study* on the effect of religion in helping former prisoners to lead crime-free lives, participants who took part in faith-based programs had significantly lower rates of re-arrest than the participants who did not. With women making up 6.7% of the incarcerated population**, and women who are pregnant and incarcerated having higher recidivism rates when they lack access to services that meet their physical, social, and psychological needs, chaplaincy work like Protzmann’s has the potential to create lasting change.

“There's a way in which how we talk about people defines their identities in society so much so that we lose sight of the sacredness of their humanity,” she says. “Through my work, I do theology as advocacy for the marginalized.... realizing God in them, realizing God in me, and realizing God in the interdependency of doing theology together.”

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