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 5.
By Scott Lee
Have you watched a group of kindergartners gather around a table for snacks?
There is some initial pulling back and forth for seating near friends, but once everyone has a spot and sits, the back and forth shuffle for a place eventually fades away. “This is my seat or I want that seat” becomes “Want some of my Goldfish?” We as chaplains can be the same way. Trying to find our place can be a back and forth attempt to cultivate something beyond ourselves not knowing what the result might be.
I have the honor of serving as the Staff Support Chaplain at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). When I started this role almost two years ago, I was welcomed by a team of clinical chaplains, many of whom had been with CHOA for more than five years together. Though we did not know much about each other beyond my initial interviews, they graciously opened the door for me to have a place at the table.
Thinking about our theme this year, “Hospitality: Cultivating Inclusion,” my chaplain colleagues provided me with instant hospitality, but inclusion, like in any new relationship, took some time to cultivate.
Much can be established with people being together for many years: ways of sharing work, traditions, responsibilities and so forth. When a new person comes into the mix, such as when I joined the chaplains, “ways” can feel challenged for those who helped to established them and those who might be new to them. It was no different for us.
While we were all chaplains with differing responsibilities, there was some overlap and a lot of questions. How would we respond to calls for staff support in particular areas?How could we help the staff understand it would be all of us supporting the staff and patients together? How should we use our experiences to grow staff support?
There were a lot of “How” questions within the first six to nine months, and still some today we have not considered.
Like the beginning of any relationship, we sought to learn each other. Assumptions were not the final answer. We desired continuing conversations. We wanted to know what each person was thinking and feeling. As our perspectives were shared, we developed a deeper understanding on which to build who we are and will become as a team. Cultivating inclusion can be messy and hard, but the end result can be a beautiful expression. For our team, it has been this: sometimes messy and hard while continuing to grow into a thing of beauty.
One of the greatest lessons I continue to learn from our team about hospitality and cultivating inclusion is the balance of inviting others to my table while accepting the invitation to join others at their table. I have to remind myself when I think “I prepared my table especially for you and it is good” those around me who I invite are thinking, “I prepared my table especially for you and it is good”. There is nothing wrong with two, three or more good tables prepared by us and for us. This is how cultivating inclusion happens. It is not about one good table, but many. We have to be open to accept the invitation with the same passion we give an invitation.
Hospitality and inclusion are a two way street. We learn from hosting and being hosted. Like kindergartners, there can be push and pull as we cultivate inclusion, but ultimately it is about, “can I pass you a piece of cake or pie?” By the way, we eat a lot of pie and cake.
Chaplain Scott Lee serves as the Staff Support Chaplain at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.