Founded by Rev. Craig Rennebohm in 1987, the Mental Health Chaplaincy provides a companion presence in the city for those living in homelessness, mental illness, addictions and trauma.

OUR CONTINUING MISSION:

  • Outreach to our neighbors on the streets who struggle with a major mental illness, trauma and abuse, and chemical dependency.
  • Spiritual care with persons in hospital and outpatient programs where no other chaplain is available, and support to families seeking care and services for a family member facing a serious mental illness.
  • Companionship training for chaplains, health workers, clergy, and laity; working with congregations to develop ministries to welcome, serve, and support individuals and their families facing the journey with serious and persistent mental disorders.
  • Workshops, consulting, and public programs in locations around the U.S. to bring the message of the Chaplaincy and assist others in developing mental illness ministries.
  • Advocacy and education for readily accessible mental health care that attends to the whole person, including one’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual well-being.

The Chaplaincy was founded by Rev. Craig Rennebohm in 1987 and initially sponsored by the Church Council of Greater Seattle. Since 1997, it has been an ecumenical outreach program of Prospect Congregational United Church of Christ, with major support from its downtown base in Plymouth Congregational Church. Under Craig’s leadership, the Chaplaincy grew to serve individuals and families, create mental health ministries in local congregations, and advocate for effective and readily accessible community mental health systems.

Craig’s Work with the Chaplaincy

As Chaplain, Craig walked a regular route through downtown Seattle, seeking out those who are most vulnerable; those whose confusion or fear makes it hard to seek or accept assistance; those whose illness makes them feel isolated, unworthy, and hopeless. Working tenderly, Craig built trust, helped find shelter and care, and continued to walk alongside as each person made their way toward a new and stable life. Craig would also visit the mental health units at Harborview Medical Center, attending to patients who faced profound spiritual issues in the course of their illness.

He worked with the medical teams and social work staff to lay the groundwork for a renewed and healthy faith. Many of us who have experienced mental illness turn to our congregation for crisis help and support in our journey toward health. As Chaplain, Craig worked to link congregations together in neighborhood networks of care, and train volunteers to serve as companions and ministry leaders in their local settings.

About Craig

Craig’s work has been recognized nationally and internationally, and as a result he has shared his wisdom through teaching and presentations in many local, national, and international settings, including serving for ten years with an international, interfaith working group on Spirituality and Social Work active during and after hostilities in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. He has served on the national advisory board of NAMI Faithnetand the Board of Directors of the UCC Disabilities Ministries and has provided consultation for Pathways to Promise, a national interfaith mental health resource.

He received numerous recognitions for his Chaplaincy work, including the Tipper Gore Award of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, a Carleton College Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, and a Seattle Post-Intelligencer Jefferson Award. In 2008, he was honored by the Thomas C. Wales Foundation during its annual celebration of Passionate Citizenship. Most recently, he was honored by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, with its 2009 Richard T. Greer Advocacy Award.

Craig’s acclaimed book, Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, written with David Paul, was published by Beacon Press in 2008, and a paperback edition followed in 2009. The book tells uplifting stories of Chaplaincy experiences, takes readers into the lives of people with mental illness, explores what we can all do to help those in distress, and challenges us to create caring communities. Visit the website for more information about the book, including a study guide, or pick up a copy at one of our Companionship Trainings.

Kae A. Eaton, MACS
Chaplain

Kae earned her MACS Theology, Spirituality and Counseling Psychology from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in 2010.

After receiving a Degree Certification in Spiritual Direction there in 2008, she was commissioned as Spiritual Director through Spiritworks.

About Kae

Kae became Chaplain and Executive Director after the retirement of founder Rev. Craig Rennebohm. Her work with the Companionship Program focuses on training people and groups in the Companionship Model for use in a variety of settings both secular and faith-based. Through outreach programs and pastoral care programs, she works with individuals, families, meal and shelter programs to support those struggling with the isolating issues of mental, emotional or circumstantial difficulties.

In addition to her work at the Mental Health Chaplaincy, Kae is a spiritual director in private practice in Seattle and a member ofSpiritual Directors International.

She serves as Chair of the Commission on Disabilities in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia and is project director for theBraille Project at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. As a member of the vestry at Saint Mark’s, she serves on Governance, Spiritual Formation and Small Group Development committees, the Labyrinth Task Force and Noel House Women’s Shelter.

Kae enjoys living, worshiping, knitting and writing in the beautiful ‘rainforest’ of the Northwest, along with her daughter, Kelli and her super-dog, Flash Gordon, and the beautiful Katya the cat.

When Craig Rennebohm founded the Chaplaincy, there was great need for a street presence in Seattle–for compassionate and empathic neighbors reaching out to those living on the streets in need of connection, housing, healing, or other resources. A primary portion of Craig’s work, initially, was to be that street presence, reaching out to folks who, in many cases, had no one else reaching out to them.

Today, there are several organizations providing for this critical need. The MHC continues maintain a companioning presence on the street, and at meal programs and shelters such as Community Lunch, Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center and Noel House. In addition to direct presence, we  partner with established outreach organizations, outreach organizations in formation, and faith communities, providing support, consultation, and trainings.

Our foundational training is Companionship Training, and we are developing new trainings to expand upon this training, such as Mental Health 101 and Trauma 101.

Our chaplains have been educated in theology and psychology, and our model of Companionship is spiritually grounded.

We are available to provide spiritual support for individuals and families facing mental illness, isolation, trauma and homelessness.

We are available for support and consultation with companions, caregivers, and volunteers, as well as with staff of churches and social service organizations who serve neighbors who live with homelessness, mental illness and other trauma.

We periodically have healing prayer services and open spaces of healing.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss how we may support you!

The Mental Health Chaplaincy supports companionship throughout the city by providing trainings to churches, non-profits, and other organizations.

To see a list of the date and location of upcoming trainings, go to our Events page. If you would like to schedule a training for your group or organization, contact us today.

Companionship Training

Our original training, developed by Rev. Craig Rennebohm, which offers an introduction and discussion of the five practices of Companionship:

  • Hospitality
  • Neighboring
  • Sharing the journey side-by-side
  • Listening
  • Accompaniment

Our goal is that once you have completed this training, you will have the tools to listen consciously, with openness and awareness, to the stories and difficulties of others; to enable at least a momentary reprieve; and to encourage a strengthening for the journey ahead.

Mental Health 101

We are developing a new training that will foster a deeper understanding of mental health. We will discuss common mental illnesses, what they look like, how they develop, and tips for relating to folks who live with them. We will also discuss strategies for companioners and other caregivers to support the mental health of themselves and their neighbors regardless of whether they have a diagnosable mental illness or not.

Other Trainings

If you have need of a specific type of training relating to mental health and spirituality, we may be able to help. Contact us to discuss this possibility.