Each year the COMISS Network promotes Pastoral Care Week. It is an occasion to recognize the different disciplines who offer spiritual care to persons. The theme for 2017 is Hospitality: Cultivating Inclusion. Throughout this week you will hear from CBF endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors as they focus on this theme. Below is Part 3.
By Biju K. Chacko
I serve in a hospital.
Patients and families come to receive medical or surgical interventions for their ailments. They come from a wide range of cultures, faiths, ethnicities and worldviews. Their illnesses, how their bodies respond to treatment, how they approach illness, and the type of treatment all look different.
The hospital makes every attempt to ensure that all who come for care receive what they need for their particular illness. As a chaplain and clinical pastoral educator, my role is to provide and teach chaplaincy care that meets the spiritual needs of persons, irrespective of their differences. Respecting and including all persons in all aspects of their health is one way of showing hospitality.
We are different in many ways and it is a beautiful thing. Working with those who are different from us seems to present some challenges. When faced with these challenges, the normal tendency is to withdraw to the familiar. Such withdrawal excludes those around us and we miss many opportunities to relate and learn.
God created us with a desire to relate to each other. We live in times where our desire to include each other must surpass our desire to exclude. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a role model in him. Jesus included all those whom the religious elite excluded. One of his great accusations was that he ate with sinners and tax collectors. Yet, the Lamb of God in whom there is no sin included those who were on the margins of society.
Cultivating inclusion requires an attitude of openness.
Individuals are the sum of their experiences and worldviews. Engaging them in a conversation around their unique perspectives and stories helps us understand them better. Once we understand each person’s history and context, we find that they are more similar to us than our initial assessments.
A first step would be to remain curious by inviting them to share who they are. People have unique stories and listening to their stories opens a path for clear communication. Second, suspend our biases and prejudices until we have heard the other person out completely. A quick rush to assess and judge persons often results in excluding them. People tend to be who they are because of certain experiences they have faced. Often, these experiences are beyond their control and they are doing their best to present themselves as loving human beings. Third, engage in theological reflection about inclusion. One scripture story that helps me tremendously in navigating the challenges of inclusion is Peter’s vision and its outcome as recorded in Acts 10:9-16.
Peter refused to eat the different varieties of food God presented to him. God said in the vision “do not call anything impure that God made clean.” Soon after this vision, Peter went into the house of Cornelius, a Gentile and ministered there. There, Peter spoke “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”
Hospitality is an intentional choice made to welcome persons irrespective of their differences. In a world that seems to invest more energy in excluding certain peoples, as followers of Christ, you and I have the opportunity to transform the world around us. Being open to each other and the unique stories we represent, suspending our biases, and engaging in theological reflection positions us to cultivate inclusion. We are strangers and had it not been for Christ who included us, we would have lived in perpetual pain of separation and exclusion.
Biju K. Chacko is a Chaplain and ACPE Certified Educator at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC. Originally from Kerala, India, Biju was endorsed by CBF in 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.