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Sociologist from Brandeis University to Headline Charleston Interreligious Council’s Third Annual Speaker Series



Press Release

Wendy Cadge, Ph.D., a sociologist at Brandeis University and expert in contemporary American religious demographics, will headline the third annual James Sawers Jr. Speaker Series presented by the Charleston Interreligious Council. Professor Cadge’s research and teaching focuses especially on the intersections of religion and the sites of everyday lived experience, such as healthcare, higher education, and more.

Professor Cadge will lead discussions about the aforementioned topics and more, including “God Around the Edges: Moral Frameworks in Times of Crisis,” which will explore the work of chaplains and what scholars can learn about people and suffering. The series of free lectures and workshops are open to the public and will be held November 7-9, 2019 at various locations around Charleston.

The 2019 speaker series, named for the late Dr. James Sawers Jr., who served as president for the Christian-Jewish Council of Greater Charleston, was created to explore issues in contemporary American religion.

“I am thrilled to honor Dr. Sawers by talking about the many ways religion is a force for cooperation and conflict in the contemporary world,” said professor Cadge. “During this series, we will work together to understand how and where people find meaning and purpose in their lives, especially as membership in traditional religious organizations declines. We will also discuss why there are so many chaplains in so many places, ranging from large institutions like the federal government to more unique settings like workplaces and seaports.”

Cadge has published more than 75 articles as well as three books including God Around the Edges? Moral Frameworks in Times of Crisis and Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine. She has also researched and written about medical studies of intercessory prayer (prayer for others), religion and immigration, immigrants in small cities, conflicts over homosexuality in mainline Protestant churches, same-sex marriage, and religion in the nonprofit sector.

As a researcher who launched the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, Cadge works to bring together chaplains across a broad range of sectors. The Lab is a think tank that supports research, teaching, and the provision of spiritual care in a range of settings while connecting people across the U.S. and around the world.

Cadge has earned bachelor’s degrees in religion, sociology, and anthropology from Swarthmore College, as well as both a master’s degree and doctorate in sociology from Princeton University. Cadge is a member of the American Sociological Association (ASA), the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR), and the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). She currently serves as the co-chair of the Innovations in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Program Unit of the American Academy of Religion (AAR).

The James Sawers Jr. Speaker Series includes four lectures:

“Boston’s Hidden Sacred Places”
Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 4 pm

This presentation will describe what can be learned about spirituality and religion in the contemporary American landscape by looking at sacred places that exist outside of congregations. In this lecture, Cadge will share how her research of more than 60 sacred spaces in and around greater Boston applies to other spaces with a spiritual mission within secular institutions.

“Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine”
Friday, November 8, 2019 at noon

This session explores how spirituality and religion are present in hospitals and how healthcare professionals, including chaplains, navigate the topics with patients and families.

“A Case of Religious Acceptance”
Friday, November 8, 2019 at 3:30 p.m.

A conversation based on the case study that researches the Buddhist and Jewish communities in western Massachusetts, New York and California. A story of a Jewish born mother who became a Buddhist priestess wants her son to have a bar mitzvah at a synagogue in Syracuse, New York. The rabbi will have to or need to decide (source: The Pluralism, Project, Harvard University).

Keynote Lecture: “God Around the Edges: Moral Frameworks in Times of Crisis”
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 7 p.m.

In her latest book with the same title, Cadge examines who chaplains are and what scholars can learn about how people make sense of suffering by analyzing their daily work. In this presentation, attendees will hear the analysis, explanations, and practices that chaplains have developed around suffering, resilience, hope, and other aspects of personal experiences. This research is based on several years of ethnographic and historical research in Boston.

All events are free and open to the public. Those of all faiths and religious backgrounds are welcome to attend to be part of the conversation. Please visit for event locations.

“Dr. Cadge is a wealth of fascinating research. We are looking forward to bringing together chaplains, social scientists, educators and members of the public to improve spiritual care both in Charleston and nationally,” said Elijah Siegler, chair of the religious studies department at the College of Charleston. “This speaker series will provide a wonderful opportunity for members of Charleston’s various religious and healthcare communities to come together to discuss broad questions about how American religion is changing.”

For questions about the speaker series, contact Ken Fox at 843-763-3150 or

About Charleston Interreligious Council

Charleston Interreligious Council seeks to build bridges of understanding to promote sensitivity, tolerance, respect and fellowship among religious groups. It fulfills this mission by developing, presenting and/or sponsoring educational programs to promote intra- and inter-religious dialogue; conducting, sponsoring and/or supporting inter-religious events, service-oriented projects and activities; increasing public awareness of inter-religious issues and shared concerns. Formerly known as Christian-Jewish Council of Greater Charleston, Charleston Interreligious Council works to provide educational opportunities that reflect its mission and goals. For more information, visit

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  1. Pingback: Third Annual James Sawers Jr. Speaker Series | City of Charleston

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