At Bosses’ Invitation, Chaplains Come Into Workplace and Onto Payroll

December 4, 2006

Author: Neela Banerjee

Source: The New York Times

GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- At the Tyson poultry plant here, Fred L. Mason Jr. hangs live chickens by their feet before they move down a belt toward slaughter. A few months ago, Mr. Mason told his boss that he had a drug problem.

People urged him to see the plant’s chaplain, but he was skeptical. “What could he do? Offer me prayer?” Mr. Mason said. “I was getting that at church. I was getting that from family, when all the while I was going out of my mind.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Mason, 35 and a cocaine user for 20 years, went to the small office of the Rev. Ken Willis, the plant’s chaplain. Over the next few months, Mr. Willis helped him enroll in a drug rehabilitation program, find a counselor and Narcotics Anonymous meetings to attend.

Mr. Mason said he has not used drugs since Aug. 21, and he credits the chaplaincy program. “It’s saved my life,” he said.

From car parts makers to fast food chains to financial service companies, corporations across the country are bringing chaplains into the workplace. At most companies, the chaplaincy resembles the military model, which calls for chaplains to serve the religiously diverse community before them, not to evangelize.