Since 1985, the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (“COMISS”) has observed the last week of October as Spiritual Care Week – a time when we celebrate the sacred work of chaplains and pastoral counselors. This year’s Spiritual Care Week theme is “Collaborative Healthcare: Chaplains Complete the Picture.” Sometimes a picture is more informative and revealing than words. Often the ministry of chaplains and pastoral counselors extends beyond words alone as they provide emotional support and spiritual care to persons in need, an essential part of the holistic interdisciplinary care that is offered within a variety of settings. Their ministry is an extension of our missional work as a Fellowship, to embody the love of God and hope through Christ, as we work together to complete the picture of putting our faith into action, to renew our world.
Take a moment this week to celebrate and thank our CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors for the good and sacred work that they do every day.
It Is The Best of Times…It Is the Worst of Times
By Shay Greene
“Let’s be done with 2020!”
I’ve seen this phrase posted on several social media platforms, the topic of conversations around the dinner table, spoken in various Zoom or WebEx meetings, etched deep within my own psyche and whispered and screamed in my personal prayer life. The year of a global pandemic, racial atrocities and dourest, natural disasters, physical isolation, and personal loss is enough to send any person, even a chaplain into a state of spiritual distress.
“Oh God, let’s be done with 2020!”
If we are truly honest with ourselves, I imagine many chaplains can identify with moments of deep spiritual distress steeped in eschatological questions, pained hearts, weary bodies, and a deep desires to bridge the Holy with the broken.
As the reality of a pandemic ushered into the level 1 trauma center, the shear reality of how the ministry of a chaplain would change was never before imagined. I’ve done extensive training for mass casualty ministry, and have worked in high stress situations for much of my chaplaincy ministry. But, never have I ever imagined the impact a global pandemic would have on hospital ministry.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was conserved for medically trained personnel. Chaplains were not permitted to enter patients’ rooms which required PPE. We had to conserve. In a matter of hours, the freedom to sit at the bedside of every patient, to hold the hand of the dying, and to wipe the tears of the bereaved were no longer permissible in all hospital rooms, especially for the COVID-19 patients and their loved ones. It was the worst of times!
As chaplains adjusted to long hours, swing shifts, unprecedented restrictions, personal fears, extreme anxiety of patients isolated from their loved ones, collaboration and innovation became key factors in ministering in the midst of a pandemic. Spiritual care of the patients, family members, and staff undoubtedly looked different. In rooms of COVID-19 patients, chaplains were present through Facetime, Zoom calls, WebEx, and phone calls. Nurses held patients’ hands as the chaplain prayed via Facetime while the family listened from their homes. An anointing ritual was offered as a tele-chaplain from his home thirty miles away spoke the words, the bedside nurse poured the oil and the family watched on their iPhone as oil touched the forehead of their loved one, and the chaplain prayed.
Collaboration was the key element in providing spiritual care with unprecedented restrictions. Not everyone involved in the rituals held the same meaning in the sacred rituals. As we know, God’s power transcended disbelief and the power of the ritual was greater than the hands which poured the oil, the voice that spoke the words, or the iPad which connected the distant loved ones to their beloved COVID-positive patient. Through collaboration with other healthcare team members and the use of technology, bridges were built. Collaboration in the worst of times birthed the best of times through God’s transcendent power.
Shay Montgomery Greene is a CBF-endorsed chaplain serving as the Director of the Department of Pastoral Care for UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, N.C.
We have more than 800 active professional CBF Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, serving throughout our country and worldwide, in a variety of specialized settings – all branches of the United States Armed Forces; the Civil Air Patrol; the Department of Veterans Affairs, hospitals and hospices, correctional institutions, fire, police, and rescue departments, colleges and universities, businesses and industries, retirement communities, counseling centers, private counseling practices, church staffs, and many other interdisciplinary settings.
To learn more about the work of CBF Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, please visit our webpage at https://cbf.net/chaplaincy-pastoral-counseling.