Sunday, December 03, 2017

Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Welcome

Regular followers of this blog would know that at the end of August I commenced a year-long chaplain residency at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) in Minneapolis. In the photo above I'm pictured with my fellow resident chaplains Katie, Hae and Chandler, and our supervisor Mark (center).

My chaplaincy work at ANW continues to be both a challenging and rewarding experience, and one through which I continue to learn what it means to embody the presence of the Sacred and thus be a listening and healing presence for others. What is meant by this term "healing presence"? James Miller and Susan Cutshall describe it well in their book The Art of Being a Healing Presence.

Healing presence is the condition of being consciously and compassionately in the present moment with another or with others, believing in and affirming their potential for wholeness, wherever they are in life.

Early last month in the chapel at ANW, my fellow resident chaplain Hae was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. It was a very beautiful and powerful ceremony, one to which I had the honor of being invited.

The Rev. Elona Street-Stewart (right) gave the sermon at Hae's ordination service, and in it she shared her perspective on what chaplaincy is all about.

I must say it's interesting to read her words now as in the interval between Hae's ordination and today, I had the honor of accompanying a family as they experienced a sudden and tragic loss. At one point the mother in this family told me I was a "rock" for her and the other members of the family in the midst of the terrible ordeal they were experiencing. At the time I didn't think much of her comment; perhaps I even dismissed it in my mind. Surely what I'm doing, or rather being for this family isn't that significant?

But now in light of the Rev. Street-Stewart insightful words, perhaps it was.

[As a chaplain] you are being called to protect and nourish the space for people who want to live; social, emotional, political, spiritual beings who want to be loved.

Where will it take you when you face those shared experiences of life or death, joy or depression? The Spirit will take you to God, the Rock. Remember God is always the Rock beneath your feet, but God is also the Rock in that space ahead of you . . .

To guide the way

To lean against when you need strength

To stand on to see what is beyond your sight

To lay under when you need to rest

To connect you to the earth, over and over again

To embrace for love

Chaplaincy is a ministry of perseverance, generosity, struggle, service, resistance, hospitality, openness, and above all, welcome. The Spirit will fill your imagination so you can minister to people, those who believe and many that don’t, far beyond the four walls of a church or organization. The KIN-dom of God is as real as that Rock. Jesus said it is at hand and he meant it.

Following are some more images of my friend and fellow resident chaplain Hae's ordination.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At
Spirituality and the Healthcare Setting
The Prayer Tree
St. Michael, "Wave Maker"
Christianity and the Question of God's Presence in the Midst of Hardships and Heartache

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

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