TWU Nursing Dean and Professor Reimer-Kirkham’s new book on prayer in healthcare launches virtually

TWU School of Nursing Dean and Professor, Dr. Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, along with her colleagues have released their book, Prayer as Transgression? The Social Relations of Prayer in Healthcare Settings. 

An initial book launch was hosted on October 1, 2020 by University of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (directed by co-author Paul Bramadat, University of Victoria) during their Weekly Lecture Series. Co-authors Sonya Sharma and Melania Calestani sent greetings from London, with a video clip on the book's highlights. The virtual format allowed guests from around the world to join in to hear about and discuss the project. 

A Nursing Café event to launch the book will be hosted by the TWU School of Nursing on November 17, 2020 at 7 PM. This event is entitled, "Prayer, Healthcare, and Pandemic: Spiritual Support for and by Nurses," and it will feature Dr. Reimer-Kirkham, Dr. Elizabeth Johnston Taylor from Loma Linda University, and Charlene Neufeld, a spiritual health practitioner. Please register here to attend.

About the book

Reimer-Kirkham, S., Sharma, S., Brown, R., and Calestani, M., with Beardsley, C., Beaman, L., Bramadat, P., Collins-Mayo, S., Corcoran Smith, B., Quinn, B., & Todd, A. (2020). Prayer as transgression? The social relations of prayer in healthcare. McGill-Queens University Press.

The book, published by McGill-Queens University Press, is based on a 3-year project by the same title, conducted in Vancouver and London, and has been recognized with the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP).

For more information about the project and the book, please visit the project blog:

Dr. Melania Calestani (Kingston University London, UK) and Dr. Sonya Sharma (Kingston University London, UK) sending greetings from London during the first book launch.

Dr. Reimer-Kirkham shares about the book:

"As signaled by the book cover – our idea was to use prayer as a window – to look through, to understand how religion and nonreligion are expressed in public spaces. Thus, the book is not a book about psychology or theology of prayer. Neither is it about the health effects of prayer, which have had a fair amount of study. Rather, the book is in a small niche of sociology of prayer, featuring the social and organisational aspects of prayer.

Healthcare settings are complex social systems and microcosms of broader society where agreement, ambivalence, and conflict coincide. They offer insights into how majoritarian religions keep a foothold while declining, how new spaces are opened up for diasporic religions and Indigenous spiritualities, how nonreligion can be both dominant (for example, through biomedical technologies) and marginalized (when patients might request unfamiliar spiritual practices).

The book with 9 chapters and 2 appendices examines the social relations of prayer through different angles:

  • descriptions of the everyday expressions of prayer (written by researchers Sharma and Reimer-Kirkham);
  • analyses of how prayer can contribute to an inclusive public sphere (written by sociologist of religion Beaman and health researcher Reimer-Kirkham);
  • a mapping of how prayer travels about the spaces in which it occurs (written by anthropologist Calestani, sociologist Sharma, and chaplain Beardsley);
  • accounts of organizational practices that manage prayer (written by healthcare leaders De Bono and Quinn and health researcher Reimer-Kirkham)
  • a comparison of the dynamics of spiritual care in Canada and the UK (by chaplains Beardsley and Todd, and health researcher Reimer-Kirkham)
  • an exposition on the relational aspects of prayer in critical care, palliative care, long-term care, mental health, and street clinics (by health researcher Reimer-Kirkham, chaplain Beardsley, and religious studies scholar Brown)
  • a study of how religious identities are made visible through prayer (by religious studies scholars Brown, Bramadat, and Collins-Mayo)
  • analyses of the material and embodied practices of prayer (by religious studies scholar Brown and anthropologist Calestani)
  • a portrayal of prayer through arts and nature (by sociologist Sharma and anthropologist Calestani).

The first appendix describes how we conducted the project (project methods) and a second appendix offers recommendations for healthcare. 

Writing the book as a team makes for a coherent narrative, with the voices of our different disciplines and locations. Most of the chapters, for example, have a Canadian and a British writer co-authoring, and often a practitioner and an academic. Long conversations, a deep dwelling with the data, and multiple drafts have resulted in what we think is an engaging read! Most importantly, the book is chock-full of stories, images, and excerpts from our 109 participants who were chaplains, former patients and their families, nurses, social workers, doctors, allied health professionals, community faith leaders, and healthcare administrators."

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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