By Renée Owen
Spiritual Care Week is celebrated the last week of October as a time when we highlight the sacred work of chaplains and pastoral counselors. It was first designated in 1985 by the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings (“COMISS”). This year’s theme is “Relevant and Responsive in Times of Crisis” and invites us to recognize and uplift our CBF-Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors as they minister in specialized settings, serving as an extension of the ministry of our local congregations.
Chaplains and pastoral counselors have always entered and have often “run” into crises. At times this means being present with an individual experiencing a crisis, other times with families, and still other times with groups of people and communities. Entering into and journeying alongside people during a crisis reminds them that they are not alone and that others are willing and committed to journeying alongside them.
A few years ago when I was actively serving as a hospital chaplain, I entered a Subway restaurant one afternoon wearing a jacket that sported the logo of the local healthcare system where I worked. The young man who rang up my order noticed my jacket and asked if I was a nurse. “Oh no,” I responsed, shaking my head. “I’m a chaplain.” Intrigued by my answer, he inquired further, “What’s a chaplain?” Aware of the line forming behind me of others anxiously waiting to receive their lunch, I gave my best short answer of “who we are and what we do” as chaplains. “Chaplains serve as ministers in specialized settings like hospitals and support people who are experiencing a crisis by helping them to connect to sources of strength and offering a compassionate presence.” The young man’s face lit up as he responded, “Oh! You offer people hope!”
Daily, our CBF-Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors enter into moments of crisis, where they are compassionately present and create safe spaces to attentively listen and humbly experience the stories of people who are hurting, frightened, grieving, and searching for God’s presence. Our chaplains and pastoral counselors discern the appropriate offering of spiritual interventions such as prayer, healing rituals, reflective listening, and words of comfort. Here, in these broken and at times lonely spaces, holy moments of hope, strength, resilience, and the experience of God’s presence are manifested.
In January 2023, we will celebrate 25 years of endorsing chaplains and pastoral counselors. Over these 25 years, CBF has endorsed nearly 1,200 chaplains and pastoral counselors to serve in specialized settings, with 856 currently active in ministries around the United States and in 8 foreign countries, respresenting CBF in an excellent manner and serving to share the hope of Christ and embody the love of God with all persons. During this global celebration of Spiritual Care Week, we invite you to take a moment to celebrate, thank, and pray for our CBF-Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors that they will be refilled, refreshed, and renewed as they continue to live out their calling to enter into holy moments and sacred spaces with people in crisis.
To learn more about the work of CBF Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, please visit our webpage at https://cbf.net/chaplaincy-pastoral-counseling.
To pray for our CBF-Endorsed Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors by name, please access a copy of “Prayers of the People”.
Renée Owen is Director of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Renée oversees the chaplaincy and pastoral counseling ministries endorsement process, including coaching and mentoring seminary students and ministers through the process as well as providing ongoing professional and emotional/spiritual support to our endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors, serving as a “chaplain to the chaplains.” Connect with her at email@example.com.