At times I am angry and other times overflowing with joy. Sometimes I'm confused and sometimes I have absolute clarity. This blog will explore our human condition through an investigation of spiritual pain and how to transcend our pain to find peace.

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David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

Rev. David Oliver Kling is a faculty member at Cherry Hill Seminary and a graduate of Wright State University holding a B.A. degree in Religious Studies and a B.A. degree in Philosophy. He has a Master of Divinity from Methodist Theological School in Ohio with a specialization in Black Church and African Diaspora Studies. While in college he worked as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Yellow Springs and while in seminary he served the Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as consulting minister. He recently finished a chaplain residency at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, WV resulting in four units of clinical pastoral education. In addition to teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary he currently works as a hospice chaplain in Northeast Ohio. He is ordained by Sacred Well Congregation and his religious background includes esoteric Christianity, Wicca, Druidry, Gnosticism, and Roman Paganism. His academic interests include Black Church studies, comparative theology, and spiritual/pastoral care.
The Pagan as Professional Chaplain

Imagine the following scenarios…  

  • You have recently finished your education at Cherry Hill Seminary and you’ve been hired as a healthcare chaplain at a local hospital.  The Director of Pastoral Care turns to you and says, “Well, since you’re the newest chaplain you get to preach at our bi-annual memorial service for all who have passed away at the hospital since our last service.” 
  • You are sitting at an interview for a position as a staff chaplain at a prison.  The warden who is interviewing you says, “I expect my chaplain to be the pastor of the whole prison community.”
  • You get a call in the middle of the night.  A Catholic patient of yours is near death and the family can't find a priest to anoint the patient.  You've been asked by the nurse at their bedside to attend to them. 

Good advice for anyone interested in chaplaincy would be to suspend your sectarianism.  Institutional settings that have chaplains need their chaplains dedicated to interfaith ministry.   Chaplains need to be of service to all of those within their institutional setting. Suspending your sectarianism doesn’t mean sacrificing who you are as a minister, priest, or cleric.  It means being open to diversity and being able to embrace that diversity to be of service to others where you find them.  This means being strong in your own religious conviction.  Your identity as a Chaplain should flow from your theology and that theology should be expansive enough to embrace the needs of others both within and outside of your tradition.  Suspending your sectarianism means your agenda is one of service and compassion; and the person with whom the Chaplain serves sets the agenda. 

Does being a Chaplain mean I’ll have to do things I don’t want to do?  If you have no tolerance for the spiritual beliefs of others then you might be out of your comfort zone as a Chaplain; however, being a Chaplain doesn’t mean being someone you are not.  If someone asks you for something you do not feel comfortable doing, you should decline in such a way that protects their dignity as well as your own.  For example, if you’re a hospital Chaplain and a Christian patient asks for communion, you don’t have to hold Mass in their room but you could politely refer the request to another Chaplain or someone in the community.  It is how you handle the request that is important.  A Chaplain should be able to recognize what is going on inside themselves emotionally and spiritually and act in a professional manner. 

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  • Carol Kirk
    Carol Kirk says #
    Valerie Cole is my thesis chair, and David Oringderff is also on my committee. I'll be glad to share the thesis with you when it
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Very interesting topic. Who is your thesis advisor? I'd be interested in reading it. I'm a Gulf War veteran myself.
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Carol... congratulations on your studies! That must have been a lot of hard work. What are you writing your thesis on? I imagin

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Practice What You Preach!

Several years ago I was facilitating a spiritual discussion group at the Yellow Springs Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  I was serving that congregation as their religious education director and one of the duties I took upon myself was leading this discussion group before we gathered for the weekly service.  There was a wonderful gentleman named Chuck who would often attend our discussions and sometimes attend the main service depending on the topic.  One Sunday morning after about a half hour of group discussion Chuck spoke up and addressed the small group of about eight or so at the spiritual discussion group with, “You folks talk about being opened minded and affirming of others yet in the course of this discussion you’ve insulted me several times.  I’m a Christian.  I’m a Fundamentalist.  I teach at a Baptist university, and I regularly attend a Baptist Church.  And I’m a Republican.  Some of you have used these terms like they’re swear words.”  After he spoke his mind there was a lot of back peddling.  Chuck attended these discussion groups because he valued the discussions and he attended the main service when he was able because he valued some of the topics presented.  On those occasions when I was able to preach at the fellowship he would often attend to hear me speak.  He was and is a good man.  He wasn’t the “enemy,” but he was someone who sought to understand others and dialogue for mutual understanding and respect.

But Chuck presented an important dilemma for Unitarian Universalism and also a dilemma that is pertinent to the Pagan community.  How can we advocate tolerance, acceptance and understanding while simultaneously causing alienation and marginalization?

Back in 2010 I attended a conference at Sojourners headquarters in Washington, DC.  Sojourners is an Evangelical Christian organization devoted primarily to social justice causes.  The conference I attended was focused on promoting education for collaborative faith based social justice programs and encouraged people to travel back to their local communities and organize faith based social justice programs.  The point of the training was to get conservative and liberal faith communities to talk to one another and focus on the social justice issues they can agree upon and work together to promote positive change.  When I returned to the Columbus, Ohio area I helped with some Immigration Reform events that were truly interfaith endeavors.  It was Immigration Reform that was a topic that could unite several very diverse faith groups together for common action.   It would have done no one any good to point fingers and shout, “Other.”  But together our small voices became a much louder voice.  I like to think we did some good by working together.  That training at Sojourners was a good opportunity for me and I value that experience.

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Well said, and much needed, David. Thank you.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is excellent, David, and of course it applies to all religious enclaves and all parties in a democracy. I had the same revel

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Theosis

Often, to be free means the ability to deal with the realities of one’s own situation so as not to be overcome by them.” -- Howard Thurman

My personal faith journey has been colorful and has included many joyful and sorrowful memories. At one time in my life, in the early 1990s I was System Operator, or SysOp, for a computer BBS (Bulletin Board System) called Theosis. The BBS was sponsored by the Romanian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy nestled in cozy Canton, Ohio, an I had the sublime honor of maintaining and administering the BBS – albeit for only a short time. The story of my brief sojourn into BBS management seems a fitting story to tell for the first entry of this Blog that holds the same name. You must be reading this blog entry and asking yourself, “What does Byzantine Catholicism have to do with ‘Pagan Studies,’ and why call a blog Theosis?” Both of these are very good questions and worthy of an answer.

In Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian theology the concept of Theosis is very important. Theosis is both a process and an end result of spiritual practice. Another term for Theosis is deification or attaining the “likeness of God.” Within Orthodox Christianity the idea of Theosis is the answer to the question, “What’s the purpose of existence?” But concept didn’t take root in the Western half of the Catholic Church or within Protestantism in part because of the influence of “Scholasticism,” or the emphasis on education and learning; however, the mysticism of the Eastern world relied heavily upon the theological concept of Theosis. The idea of becoming in a sense “God.”

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  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to contributing here and being a part of this community.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Reverend Kling, you have explained and expressed these ideas more clearly than I can ever remember seeing them before. Thank you

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