Healthcare chaplaincy involves an initial assessment of the patient’s and/or family’s needs. Through conversation and an awareness of surroundings, social needs, psychological coping, medical landscape, support systems, and non-verbal cues, the chaplain initiates questions and observations that draw on the patient's or family member’s own faith traditions or that which gives meaning to life. The chaplain sees each person as a whole whose spirituality underlies all of his/her life and can help integrate meaning into life’s circumstances.
Chaplaincy has been one of my ministries that leaves me energized after a long day. A dear friend once said to me, "That means you’re in the right place!" I have watched as the threads of my life have been woven together throughout this calling. The roles of hospice chaplain, spiritual director, psychologist, church elder and co-owner of a medical billing company have given me a unique background--one that helps me understand what I am seeing!
However, it is not only what I bring to the ministry but equally important what this ministry has given to me. I continue to learn how to love each patient and family member unconditionally without judgment or preconceived notions of what is needed. I also continue to listen and to be attentive to the work of God in each person whether or not that person shares my beliefs. When I fail to be attentive or nonjudgmental, something in my spirit disturbs me, and the Spirit of God leads me into a deeper place within myself where I am challenged to examine the dynamic of what is occurring. What might it be in my past or present that is blocking my ability to give this person what is needed? And then God does God’s work--that which I cannot do on my own, and the ensuing freedom opens up my life more fully to others.
Not only does this work free me to walk alongside patients more meaningfully, it carries over into my relationships with family, friends, parishioners, and neighbors--not seamlessly, of course, because most of these are long term relationships and, because of our history together, there is more to unravel, more to forgive and more opportunities to fail in being attentive and nonjudgmental. But the same dynamic exists. When I recognize that something or someone is troubling me, I am invited to go deeper within myself and allow God to work in and through me. This dynamic helps both of us on our life’s journey.
It is an honor to share with you some of the encounters and stories that have been meaningful to me. Please read my blog. When we share the joys and sorrows of life with one another, we realize that we are part of the same human family. My hope is that one of these stories will resonate with you and provide growth and freedom in your journey toward wholeness.