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From codes to compassion: The story of a chaplain working in big tech

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

I'm a chaplain who works at the largest social medial company in the world.

When I tell people within the tech industry about the work I used to do in hospices and hospitals, they frequently say, "That must've been so hard. I don't know how you did it!"

In almost every case, they assume that because I'm no longer employed by an institution that explicitly serves people in immediate distress, I've abdicated my role as a chaplain in exchange for that of content designer, as if the two are mutually exclusive. They don't understand that my job is the specific tasks I do within my career, but my function as a chaplain is how I choose to move through world. While my environment has shifted how I practice chaplaincy, it hasn't changed what I do in this practice.

The last four years have left the world plundered and in paradox as people both expanded and restricted the breadth of their lives. This has led to an increase in suffering, leaving no one unscathed. Perhaps we personally lost a job, health, or a loved one. Perhaps we know someone who lost all those things, and more. Perhaps we experienced a loss of trust in family, community, nation, or spirit.

People primarily recognize spiritual distress when it’s acute and imminent, for example, amidst illness and death. But we are continually encountering suffering, both in the world and within ourselves. This includes distress on the job.

Tech companies have undergone mass layoffs leaving employees feeling tense and insecure. And many companies, tech in particular, have transitioned from in-person to virtual work cultures, resulting in the loss of workplace relationships.

Virtual work often limits the number of people with whom we come into physical contact each day. At the same time, the constant access to everything everywhere all at once has overextended our attention so much that the endless chat pings, emails, and newsfeed scroll have been drained of differentiation and meaning. The screens that replaced company walls reduced relationships from 3D to 2D, and that dimensional loss has left people feeling disconnected. People are searching on a fifteen-inch screen for a reflection of themselves that is only visible when the screen is off.

Suffering isn’t bound by the walls of hospitals or prisons; it’s pervasive, attaching itself to everybody, at any time. So, chaplaincy is needed well beyond the walls of hospitals and prisons, churches and temples.

Titles, ordination, and job tasks do not define a chaplain; chaplains are defined by their intentional awareness of spiritual suffering in every context, allowing us to truly serve all beings. Chaplaincy isn’t something we do. It’s a way of being.


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