Monday, February 22, 2010
Master of Chaplaincy Studies
Rev. Nick Federspiel
You Have Only Just Begun… from lesson 20. No truer words; no matter when and where one is in a project, as the old saying goes this is the first day of the rest of your life, This day a new chapter in the project has just begun. Except that with Chaplaincy it is not just your life but others as well and "us" chaplain's, ministers, pastors, reverends and evangelists have volunteered for this responsibility and duty. In my opinion this course was full of simple practical information. Did it take?
About Lesson 5 – The Chapel – Where One Ministers: Hospitals, Hospice, Nursing Homes – Part II; I decided to call the local hospital and inquire about volunteering as a chaplain. The door was slammed shut, not interest, barriers, rules, etc. "They" said that ministers were only allowed in the hospital by INVITATION of the PATIENT – IF - the patient specifically requested of the staff to see their minister AND the patient was a REGISTERED member of the ESTABLISHED church's congregation! I kid you not. WOW! Was I deflated! I felt like I had just read a lesson and took a step towards becoming a public enemy. "They" said the rules were made by the legal department. The hospital's lawyers are now their patients' spiritual gate keepers and the patients and doctors answer to them. Generally speaking, it has been my observation that few professions are as void of training in spiritual inspiration and moral discipline as are lawyers and law schools. The local hospital is a tangible case in point.
Later, on Christmas Eve, I attended a special holiday Anglican service held at the college chapel that I pastor services at on Sunday Mornings. The priest has a very active and long standing mission chaplaincy program at "correctional institutions." His staff were all "corrected and enlightened." A Long story short; he invited me to accompany him on his mission to observe and become aware of the how his program operates. He felt that in the correctional facility one meets many types of personalities, some salvageable and some not, but all were once NOT YET incarcerated and some will be repatriated and those are certainly people any chaplain or minster might meet along the path of life and mission service any time any place. There it was; the chaplaincy door slammed shut and locked tight earlier was suddenly wide open. You Have Only Just Begun.
Chapter 9 – The Listener - My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak… (James 1:19, NIV). This is the hard one for me. I want to jump right in and help right now, impatient am I, and I have to restrain my offer until I fully understand the issue. THINKING one understands the issue is simply unprofessional and inadequate. One has to be very certain one understands the issue or the person being administered to might feel even more left out and not accept any offer of assistance from the chaplain, lord, or anyone else.
Lesson 13 – Traps to Avoid - When I am asked about an area that I have no training or experience in, I will be honest and say, "I'm sorry, I have no experience there. I can give you some ideas or tips from scripture that you can study but if your problem is serious like you say it is, I can refer you to a professional better equipped to…
I could not help but think of our local lawyer run hospital making care decisions by rule for the patients in an area in which they have no training or experience and worse yet appreciation for another's profession. Worse yet, spiritual assistance and the Holy Grace have produced spiritual medical miracles time and time again – look what they are denying their patients! It is tantamount to torture. In our small chapel I minister prayer requests between the reverent prayer and worship service and the sermon. No private prayer requests is my policy as the power of the congregation in prayer exceeds that of only me. Last November a new attendee with a long standing and diagnosed inoperable thus lethal brain tumor submitted to God and prayer. Today he is up and around and feeling fine and the doctors call it a miracle. Is that chaplaincy or ministry? I am not sure if there is a difference really, but it shows how the Lord listens and he provides "professional" Godly services to the worthy and open minded.
Appreciating the gifts other devoted and competent people can deliver to help one's spiritual patient is part of our duty as is bringing God closer to the bedside by bringing the patient closer to God.
Lesson 14 – Ceremonies - An application meeting: This is where you meet with both persons. Ask them why they want a "religious" wedding ceremony. I find this to be a wonderful time to learn more about what the couple believes and why. Often this leads to friendships long after the wedding where I mentor them spiritually. I explain my policies for weddings. If the institution has any policies (use of chapel and grounds) also provide them as well. I would also give the couple a "data collection" form that I use to review in preparation for pre-marital counseling. …
I performed my first wedding of mixed faith partners in December. Neither was really committed to 'their religion' but the parents demanded a "church wedding." So the question was to decline a church wedding or make it into an opportunity? Opportunity knocks is my business. When the lesson 14 like process above was undertaken, and the congregation chipped in to make it a better wedding than the budget allowed for, and the wedding completed – AFTERWARDS – in a chance encounter the couple was exuberant in praise and gracious and generous with appreciation. A light had been lit - I pray it stays so.
From lesson 1: The Need is Great - There are hurting people everywhere. … A chaplain can help come along side those who are hurting. This unique minister is still viewed as the "keeper of the sacred" by those who are unattached to a religious congregation. A prayer, a word of advice, a simple ritual, and a touch of a caring hand does much for people who seem alone, detached, or afraid. I am reminded of the teaching of Jesus Christ who taught the parable of the sheep and goats: (Matthew 25:34-40, New King James Version).
Matthew 10:1-18 NKJV "Jesus the Good Shepherd" Chaplains and ministers many times stand at the gate with the responsibility of inviting many in need IN and explaining to them, ministering to them, as to why IN is better and for them. The Mansions of God per John 14:1-5 ( … many mansions … and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.) The mansions have some fine doors (gates) and it is "our" duty to help as many as we can to have a place PREPARED ready and waiting and an Inviting Light On in the window for when that time comes.
My point is chapter by chapter this ULC Seminary Chaplaincy course is an excellent summary and brings forth real issues. Congratulations firstname.lastname@example.org.
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