"Compassion Sabbath" Trains Clergy to Help Those at End of Life

Pilot project to provide clergy with tools to engage interfaith congregations on end-of-life issues

From 1998 to 2000, the Midwest Bioethics Center (now called the Center for Practical Bioethics) developed and led Compassion Sabbath, a multi-faith initiative to help clergy and religious leaders develop tools for addressing the spiritual needs of seriously ill and dying persons in Greater Kansas City.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Targeted End-of-Life Projects Initiative national program.

Key Results

  • As reported in Bioethics Forum (15(4), 2001), and to RWJF, the project accomplished the following:

    • The initial survey and focus groups revealed that faith leaders often feel inadequately prepared to provide spiritual care that their parishioners need at the end of life.
    • The Compassion Sabbath Resource Kit produced for the project was distributed to 2,500 clergy in Kansas City and other cities.
    • The day-long leadership conference, "A Matter of Life and Death," held in September 1999, drew more than 400 Kansas City-area clergy.
    • Three Adult Leadership Training sessions held in October 1999 in Kansas City helped prepare lay leaders, parish nurses and other staff who would lead their communities' involvement in the Compassion Sabbath weekend.
    • Nearly 500 faith communities (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Unitarian, Native American and eight Christian denominations), about 900 clergy and about 85,000 congregants participated in Compassion Sabbath weekend February 4–6, 2000.
    • Project staff developed resources and provided consultation to help other communities develop Compassion Sabbath programs.