Friday, February 26, 2021

Chaplains to the front. . .

Some years ago when our hospital was purchased by a business and a community medical facility became a commercial enterprise driven by profits, the hospital chaplain who had served this institution was let go.  In a business venture designed to produce revenue and return for shareholders (as well as monumental profits for the CEO), there was no budget for a man whose job seemed to contribute little to the health care mission.  Years of volunteer chaplains long on intention but woefully short on the kind of pastoral care provided by the full-time hospital chaplain have proven the importance of this man and this institution.  Now the COVID pandemic has proven how important a hospital chaplain is to the overall mission of providing a full measure of care to those sick and those dying.  Where hospital chaplains still exist (usually in not-for-profit health care conglomerates), the need and benefit of these chaplains was never in doubt.  Now that we look back on the many who died alone in hospitals without benefit of family or local clergy at their side, we understand how important these chaplains were and are.

I would like to take just a moment to remember the work of those who were able to supply pastoral care to those at their worst and to be with those who were dying.  I salute them.  I wish there were more.   I have the greatest respect for them and for their advocacy on behalf of the pastoral care that is also a central part of the overall healing mission.  I miss the phone calls that once regularly informed me that a member was hospitalized and desired care and lament that this age of privacy works best to keep the pastor from knowing the needs of his people and supplying them.  I remember the many times when I was not able to be with an individual or family when death came near and loss left them broken and alone.  I rejoice at the times when the chaplain's wisdom and experience helped me to know what was going on and gave me a step up to answering that need with the wisdom of God's Word and the healing grace of His Gospel.  I know from my wife, a nurse of more than 40 years, how much the hospital chaplain contributed to the difficult times when families faced the worst possible diagnosis and the patient had to face a hard choice.  Not to mention are those times when family stresses proved too difficult for the medical staff to handle with the care given to the patient and how the chaplain served that family as well as the patient.

I hope and pray that those who review the history of COVID will remember how important the hospital chaplain was when there was a chaplain and how much better things could have been if there had been more.

1 comment:

Samual said...

I was hospitalized a few months back for about a week (not Covid!), and I found the chaplains to be very helpful. This was in a community hospital, and there was no employed chaplain; they were all volunteers. There must have been at least seven of them, with a different one on duty each day. I was surprised that they would undertake this on a volunteer basis, but it was a real service.

Continuing Anglican Priest