Six chaplains serve Creedmoor, a state hospital with 400 residents and 10,000 outpatients. The majority of those patients have received diagnoses of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. The chaplains represent Judaism, Islam, Catholicism and both mainline and evangelical Protestantism. They lead worship services, text study groups, spirituality discussions. They will soon hold a 9/11 memorial event. And up and down the corridors and through the wards they offer pastoral counseling.
A black spiritual, drawing on the prophet Jeremiah, has a refrain for this work: “There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole.” Rabbi Benjamin A. Samson, the chief chaplain at the hospital, has his own description: chicken soup.
“We provide a sense of almost refuge,” said the Rev. Jeff C. Williams, an evangelical Protestant minister. “It’s nonjudgmental, nonconfrontational. In all the other parts of their lives, there are limitations based on their diagnoses.”