The Society for Spirituality and Social Work began in 1989 when Dr. Ed Canda, the Society's founder and first Director (1989-1994), saw the need to create a network among the small number of social work scholars across the country who were studying the integration of social work, religion, and spirituality. In 1990 Dr. Canda served as the inaugural editor of the Spirituality and Social Work Communicator, a twice-yearly newsletter "dedicated to promoting dialogue and mutual understanding among social work scholars, students, and practitioners who strive to provide spiritually-sensitive service." In 1991, the informal network became a formal Society and began a refereed journal. This journal later merged with the Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought.
Nearly 30 years later, the Society continues to advance this worthy goal. After the founding director, Ed Canda, directors have been Robin Russel (1994-2004), Ann Weaver Nichols (2004-2010), Helen Land (2010-2018), and now Kimberly Hardy (2017-present).
The Society hosted several annual conferences over the years. In 2006 the Society co-sponsored the first annual North American Conference on Spirituality and Social Work in partnership with our colleagues in the Canadian Society for Spirituality and Social Work. That conference marked the beginning of an international partnership that would last many years as the conferences continued their joint sponsorship and were held in Canada and the United States in most alternating years.
Today the need for the Society is as critical as ever. Canda's words from the inaugural issue of the Communicator 28 years ago resonate even more poignantly and urgently today:
"The human spiritual quest for a sense of meaning, purpose and morally fulfilling relationship is integral to our own professional and personal attempts to understand and alleviate suffering and injustice. ... I believe that the magnitude of suffering and the significance of spirituality in dealing with it are so great that social workers of all diverse spiritual views need to work together in cooperation and common purpose."
Check out the archival documents that ushered in the Society including the first issues of the Communicator and the first issues of the Spirituality and Social Work Journal published between 1991 and 1992.