Friday, May 9, 2008

Discipleship Emerging, pt. 3 - Chaplaincy

As I work through this job hunting process, my thoughts have done a lot of circling around what *type* of job to look for, as I've already written about (endlessly). A calling or vocation is not a calling to a job description. I feel like being a minister *is* who I am - or who I'm called to be/become. I also think all people are called to be ministers, in some way - and that for me, what it means to be a minister is that I'm a reminder-er - my role is to remind others that they are ministers. And, I guess, to support them and equip them as they go about ministry/service/working for the kingdom in their own spheres of influence. And to remind them they're not alone, and foster community and connection between the various spheres. And...well, that's enough!

So whatever job I have at any point, it doesn't have to be identical with my calling...but it does need to be consistent. I was becoming progressively troubled as a healthcare chaplain, because my primary understanding of my calling - reminding and equipping and building up - wasn't what I was spending most of my time doing. This, as much as frustration over paperwork and evil corporate greed and governmental waste, is why I'm not a chaplain right now.

Well, being laid off had something to do with it, too.

But I'd already decided I wouldn't stay more than another year. Really. some extent, volunteering at my church and with the college ministry while working in hospice as a 'day job' worked. But hospice isn't really the kind of thing you can do long term if you're not really passionate about it. And while it generally worked ok, sometimes it didn't leave much emotional energy for volunteering, even though that was the stuff I 'really' wanted to do. It was frustrating to know you were doing second-best at things that were most important to you. Meanwhile, I was trying to find ways to be who I am - a reminder-er (really need a better word!) and equipper, but thinking I really ought to be around people who were going to live long enough to do something with the insights they were having...

When the hospice job evaporated, I took that as my cue that it was time to shift to doing a job that was where my heart was - in the church.

My understanding of vocation may be shifting, by the way. I still agree and am passionate about what I've said - being a reminder, equipper, and community-builder. But there's another element that comes to the surface in the last few years, an element that working in hospitals and hospices has helped to crystallize, as well as reading literature from the emerging church, and my own Bible study.

I have seen too many men and women die feeling lonely and cut off from the church…too many people die without believing they are loved, or that God intended for them, for us all, to have lives of meaning and purpose - to know that we are of infinite value.

I have watched people die who never got to the point where they trusted that. At best, I could say that because of me and even more the nurse's aides, nurses, and social workers, they at least were *told* that they mattered. More, they saw people *acting* as if they mattered. That's something. For some of my patients, there was no one else in their lives telling them those things.

We all bear some responsibility for the lives we lead, and I'll grant you that many of those folks made choices that contributed to their isolation. But so what? We all fall short, and some of us only have bad choices to start with. The fact remains, whatever else, that often hospice was standing in the gap in solidarity with those patients when no one else was. Not family...not church.

(Not to say I didn't encounter many incredible and inspiring families, and churches, and a synagogue. Sometimes things - people - work out. Sometimes they don't.)

My dream is to be a part of a church community that is not content to leave those needs in other hands. My dream is to be a part of a church that believes Jesus meant it when he said that whatever we have done for the least of these - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoners and the oppressed - whatever we have done for them, we have done for Christ.

And whatever we have not done for them, we have not done for Christ.

The fact is, the church is meant to be doing this work...and when we're doing it right, no one does it better. Can you imagine showing any more love and compassion and solidarity for the desperately poor of Calcutta than Mother Teresa did? She's a model for us. Christ is the model for us.

The hospice I worked for was a the end of the day, decisions about how we gave care were made with concern for the bottom line, and the value of the company's stock. The decision to eliminate a chaplain position - to go from having a full-time ministerial presence in the hospice house, to a chaplain visiting 10-15 hours a week (though I know he does 20 or more - go Tom!)...this was not a decision based on care for patients. Nor do I believe it was based on financial necessity. It was based on cutting corners...on not valuing spiritual care for the dying. Because the model of what we "had to provide" is set by industry standards of care, concocted to meet Medicare guidelines. Which is fine...but it's a different model than the model of Christ.

I's just business. In our culture, that excuses pretty much anything that isn't actively illegal. But...Amos 5:10-13, 15 should speak to our culture.
They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

End of the day - I feel called, compelled, to find a way to minister to the lost and least, the overlooked and serve as a reminder that they are loved, that there is purpose and meaning for their lives, to help them find community. My dream...whatever my to be a part of a church community that embraces that, not as an occasional project, but as the meaning of our lives - the working out of our calling - the source of our joy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this a lot. Remember when I did the community project with the DVD of the pictures the kids had taken? I think it's interesting that in the "age of accountability," all most people seem to be concerned about is whether or not a person is responsible for him / herself. Shimself. But if we're part of a larger community, which we all are, obviously, then don't we share some responsibility for the health and well-being of that community as well?

I get very frustrated when people think that the decisions they make only impact themselves (I get really annoyed with libertarians). I have a hard time understanding why people wouldn't want to think about posterity and preservation.

You wouldn't believe the numbers of students' parents who fail to realize that their children are observing everything they say and do, internalizing, learning, emulating...

Of course, we're biased, you know. But it seems like a no-brainer to me that everyone's responsible for some service to the larger community - even globally.