By Jeff Walton
I first felt called to chaplaincy while studying pastoral care in seminary at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. The summer before my final year of seminary, I took my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and had a transformative experience offering care to diverse groups of people, learning about myself, overcoming fears and seeing God use me in very tangible ways in an acute care setting.
Four units of CPE and three hospitals later, I’ve come to see chaplaincy as taking a journey as a caregiver and spiritual friend for people going through a variety of crossroads, crises, changes, transitions and traumas. I’ve been honored to travel alongside people on various points in their journey, in the trauma bay, at their home and at the end of their lives. I’ve seen God’s encouraging spirit through people who have a deep and abiding faith that gives them courage and dignity in the face of difficult life circumstances.
I’m learning to see God’s hand at work in the moments where the loss is too deep for words, where the brokenness seems too much to bear. I’m learning that I’m not the only companion on the journey with my patients either—God walks with them as well.
Chaplaincy endorsement through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship supports me as I take these care journeys through fellowship, continued learning opportunities, and support from friends and peers. I feel affirmed, like I’m receiving a blessing, like this community of faith sees my call as a chaplain and wants to encourage me in listening to and following God’s call.
Chaplaincy, like many other unique callings, is a difficult calling that requires community to support and sustain those who answer it.
Through CBF endorsement, I know that I will be taking this journey with others who are committed to following God’s call on their own lives, who are committed to seeing me grow. I know that I will be journeying with other chaplains who work day in and day out (and night in and night out), ensuring that people who have need have the opportunity to receive the embodied presence of the Gospel.
My hope for the future is that I’ll continue to learn and grow as a chaplain with the support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the local congregation which my wife and I are a part of, the chaplains I work alongside daily at Bon Secours Health System of Richmond and the network of CBF endorsed chaplains.
I’m committed to being a lifelong learner and continuing my education, both as a chaplain and as a person, finding new ways to support and care for others in these holy moments of their lives.
We read in Romans 12:4-5, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” I’m thankful that this body of many diverse members has given me affirmation, acknowledging God’s call on my life to go out and do the ministry that God is calling me to in my work as a chaplain, as a Cooperative Baptist and as a Christ-follower in my community and in the world.
Jeff Walton is a chaplain with Bon Secour Health System of Richmond, Va., and will be commissioned as a CBF-endorsed chaplain at the upcoming General Assembly in Dallas. Walton received his CPE training at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond after graduating with his B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech and his M.Div. from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.