The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

FilmScene hosts panel of chaplains for screening of ‘A Still Small Voice’

Director Luke Lorentzen’s critically acclaimed documentary, “A Still Small Voice,” looks at the hospital chaplaincy industry.
Cody Blissett
A projector runs during the premiere of The Daily Iowan Documentary Workshop’s feature film, Lost In The In-between: Graduating Into 2020, at the Chauncey at FilmScene in Iowa City on Thursday, May 4, 2023. The film follows five Iowa graduates as they find their place in the world post graduation during a global pandemic.

FilmScene screened the newest segment in its “Community Collaborations” series on Tuesday with the documentary “A Still Small Voice.” The screening series is dedicated to engaging with nonprofit and advocacy groups through film.

Directed by Luke Lorentzen, “A Still Small Voice” follows Margaret “Mati” Engel, a hospital chaplain completing a year-long residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Chaplains are certified clergy members who offer spiritual care outside religious organizations.

The documentary focuses on Engel’s various experiences with her patients and the tribulations of working in an emotionally taxing job. The film looks at themes of spirituality, death and illness, and professional burnout.

“The thing [“A Still Small Voice”] got right the most was that chaplain training teaches us to be self-aware, to understand our own emotional baggage and reactions, and be in touch with that so we can separate it from what the patient brings,” Laurel Crusinberry, an interfaith chaplain at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said.

One of the main focuses throughout the documentary is Engel’s rocky relationship with her supervisor Rev. David. There is an underlying tension and sense of disagreement between Engel and her supervisor throughout the film.

This all leads to a sudden and explosive disagreement between the two that leads to Mati being transferred to a new supervisor for the short remainder of the film.

“I was a little sad that this [the documentary] brought up the disagreement with the supervisor because I think that the clinical training that we do as chaplains is a wonderful experience and a chance to learn and grow,” Crusinberry said. “I wouldn’t want that to scare off other people from going into chaplaincy, because it’s not always like that.”

After the screening of the documentary, FilmScene hosted a brief Q&A section with a few individuals who were, at one time or another, involved in the industry themselves.

One subject that provoked a lot of thoughts and emotions from the panel was Engel’s suffering through professional burnout from a difficult work schedule and emotional burden.

“I was shocked,” Mary Kay Kusner, a former interfaith University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics chaplain and member of the panel, said. “Having been in [clinical pastoral education], you would never see a supervisor respond that way. The fact that the public got to see that was really upsetting.”

One of the main topics of the discussion between panelists and audience members was the uncertainty of the future of what is a relatively unknown industry to most.

“I think chaplains are becoming more and more needed because people are becoming less involved with churches … so chaplains are becoming the spiritual support persons for people who don’t have that,” Kusner said.

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About the Contributor
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.