Indiana State University Newsroom

Fall conference to focus on the importance of spirituality and its effects on individual and societal health

August 2, 2013

Spirituality's broad impact on people and society as a whole will be the focus of a national interdisciplinary conference this fall at Indiana State University.

The Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality (CSHRS) at Indiana State will host the Conference on Health, Religion and Spirituality Nov. 7-9 at the Landsbaum Center in Terre Haute. The conference theme is "Why study spirituality?" and will feature speakers, presentations and other educational sessions focused on the ways that spirituality plays a unique and important role in how we function and make meaning in our lives.

"A lot of people are searching for meaning, particularly given our current state of affairs in which we often find ourselves bombarded by events and transition," said Christine Kennedy, director of the ISU Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality. "In times of uncertainty, and when bad things happen, people begin to ask questions of meaning, for example, ‘Why am I here? What is my purpose?' Very often adversity propels us into a crisis of meaning when we revisit our spiritual and religious beliefs. The good news is that this struggle or reconfiguration of belief is often accompanied by renewed faith. There is hope even in the midst of uncertainty."

Educational sessions will appeal to people from a variety of professional backgrounds, including clergy members, doctors and allied health professionals, Kennedy said. She added that psychologists have long been fascinated in the study of spirituality "because it has a significant connection to so many of the outcomes that psychologists and scientists are interested in, such as well-being, life satisfaction, purpose and meaning."

"Spirituality has a played a major role in the human experience since the beginning of time," Kennedy said. "We've always been asking questions of meaning. It's connected to many qualities of the human experience."

The keynote speakers include: Robert A. Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California, Davis; Rev. Katherine Klemstine, director of chaplaincy at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Annapolis, Maryland; Ralph Piedmont, professor of pastoral counseling and spiritual care at Loyola University Maryland; and Dr. Chandra Reddy, director of the Hope Cancer Center in Terre Haute.

Emmons is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology and is considered to be a prominent leader in the study of positive psychology.

Klemstine a nationally recognized leader in spiritual care assessment and interventions with the dying.She is also a certified Reiki Master.

Piedmont is the founding editor of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, an American Psychological Association journal. He is also a member of the American Counseling Association and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

Reddy has been practicing cancer medicine in the Wabash Valley for more than 17 years. He also serves as Terre Haute Regional Hospital Trustee and Indiana State Medical Association Trustee.

"There is a prevailing assumption that spirituality lives in one domain and science lives in another," Kennedy said. "Frankly, they live in the same household, but in many people's minds they aren't allowed to speak to one another, let alone exist under the same roof. Consequently, we are faced with many significant and worthwhile challenges. "

Registration is open for the conference, which is also accepting submissions for presentations. College students also can submit proposals, including ongoing research.

The goal of the conference is to facilitate the discussion of spirituality as it translates across disciplines, cultures and belief systems as well as the "translation of knowledge into programs and services of tangible benefit."

"What makes this center special is our connection to and passion for this community, and we embrace that responsibility," Kennedy said. "We need to be able to offer something of benefit to this community. Otherwise, we're not doing our job."

Kennedy wants the Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality to promote dialogue and understanding of some of the challenges that occur when opposing points of view give rise to conflict.

"I hope to provide a forum that answers some of the substantial questions in people's lives," Kennedy said. "What do we do in situations when opposing viewpoints give rise to conflict? What can spiritual and religious beliefs and practices teach us about how to create dialogue in the midst of our differences? How can we address difficulties in ways that are spiritually informed and compassionate?"

For more information about the conference, visit and click on the conference tab. Christine Kennedy can be reached at 812-237-2464 or 

Contact: Christine Kennedy, director, Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality, Indiana State University, 812-237-2464 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

The Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality (CSHRS) will host the Conference on Health, Religion and Spirituality Nov. 7-9 at the Landsbaum Center in Terre Haute. The conference theme is "Why study spirituality?"

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