THE MINISTRY OF PRESENCE

Through WordPress I came across this blog from an American Baptist Pastor, Rev. Mindi. I found myself thinking how I felt the same way in the beginning years of ministry. – Steve

On Monday afternoons, I go to the local hospital to be a volunteer chaplain for the afternoon.

I hate going.

Every Monday, there is a bit of dread that hits my stomach as I step into my professional clothes, clip on my official badge and drive to park in my official spot. With my hands still on the steering wheel, I pray the prayer a mentor taught me when I was doing Clinical Pastoral Education at a hospital in Boston: “Lord, help me not to run.”

I enter the hospital through the main doors and greet the volunteers at the front desk. I bypass the public elevators and head for the staff elevators. Turning the corner from the second floor desk, I enter the chapel. Usually it is quiet and empty. Occasionally there are staff members on their phones that I have to politely remind that it is a chapel, not their lounge. I log on to the system, check the main census, and attempt to memorize the names of the ICU patients. I check the census by religion which is never complete. While some staff members are great at intake in asking spiritual preference, when they are in a hurry it’s often the first question that is skipped. Usually I only know the spiritual preference of about half of the ICU folks.

I log off. I sit in a pew and stare at the stained-glass window. I take a deep breath. I pray again. “Lord, use me, however you need me.” Sometimes I have been known to pray “Lord, please don’t let me be needed today.”

Then I walk out that door, around the corner and down the hall to ICU.

And somehow, miraculously, every time I pass through those doors, the switch is turned on.

I’m the Chaplain. I’m here for you. Whether you be a patient, a visitor, a nurse or therapist or business representative or doctor or housekeeping or internal services, I am here for you to be your chaplain.

At that point, I forget that I ever wanted to run or wanted to not be needed. I’m actually disappointed if everyone is asleep or being bathed or whatever. I’m ready.

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