Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to be religious to receive spiritual support?
No. Spiritual support is a human right and is not connected to a specific religious tradition or practice. According to Dr. Christina Pulchalski, from the George Washington University Institute on Spirituality and Health: "Spirituality is the dimension of a person that seeks to find meaning in his or her life. It is also the quality that supports connection to and relationship with the sacred, as well as with each other."
What is spiritual support?
Spiritual support is any group, activity, resource or service that facilitates spiritual exploration or the achievement of a spiritual goal. Spiritual supports can include but are not limited to: life-stage celebrations, regular contact with family and friends, meaningful employment or volunteer roles, romantic relationships, holiday observances, access to ethnic food and music, voting, participation in neighborhood and community events, outdoor recreation, fitness, personal space décor, personal care, video and photo preservation, genealogical research, end-of-life planning, and grief support, INCLUDING all necessary transportation, communication and material supports.
How is a Spiritual Support Plan or goal created?
Individuals and their caregivers have the right to participate in an annual spiritual support planning process through which a personalized spiritual support plan and goals are designed, implemented and evaluated. The process typically includes but is not limited to:
1) Initial Spiritual Interest Assessment
2) Spiritual History Assessment
3) Draft Spiritual Support Plan with 1-3 spiritual support goals
4) Discussion and revision of the Draft Spiritual Support Plan
5) Team meeting to accept, revise or reject Draft Spiritual Support Plan
6) Implementation of spiritual supports and goals
7) Annual Spiritual Support Plan Re-Evaluation
To initiate the spiritual support planning process or update an existing spiritual support plan or goal, individuals or caregivers should contact their service provider or use the "Contact Us" form on this website to contact the Soul Food Project.
Rev. Melissa Tustin is the director of the Soul Food Project, a pilot program in interfaith spiritual support for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Melissa earned her Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School in 2001 and her BA in Christian Studies and French Cultural Studies from Emory University in 1997. As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church since 2007, Melissa has extensive experience in spiritual care and formation. Since 2014, she has been the director of Sunday Fellowship, an ecumenical ministry of worship and friendship for people of all abilities at West Concord Union Church, UCC. She and her husband are raising three children in a neuro-divergent household and are passionate believers in the healing power of inclusive communities.