Thursday, March 5, 2015

3 Key Foundational Elements Required in a Hospice Chaplain

As I was gathering my thoughts for this article I came across a piece about the Empire State Building. Here are some very interesting facts about this building. The Empire State Building was built during 1930-31 in a record one year and 45 days. It rises 1,453 feet, with 103 floors of steel, limestone, granite, and brick weighing over 365,000 tons. There are a total of 1,860 steps from the street floor to the 103nd floor. The building does not sway. It gives, but only to the extent of 1.48 inches in a 110 mile per hour wind. So, what holds up this massive building? There is a fifty five foot deep foundation of steel and concrete embedded in solid ground. It is said that without this foundation the building would not possess its strength. The parallel to the foundation we build for our own lives is obvious. There are 3 foundational elements that a hospice Chaplain must possess to give strength for a career. For those who know me, they will tell you that I believe there is that “Aha!” moment in a Chaplain’s life when he or she either thinks or says, “I was born to do this.” Without that inner conviction, a Chaplain will drift. That is a good introduction to the foundation that must be present in a hospice Chaplain’s life. The foundational elements which provide career-strength and stamina are focused on the emotional, moral, and theological. Emotionally the Chaplain must be self-aware. I recall interviewing a prospective Chaplain and when discussing a family member who had died, she dissolved into tears. There is no question that all of us have lost at least one close family member. However, to succeed in hospice chaplaincy a Chaplain must be clear of unresolved grief. What is a great field for ministry will turn into a nightmare if there is unresolved grief. During a Chaplain’s career, he or she may lose a loved one to death. That will require the Chaplain to seek grief counsel preferably from EAP (Employee Assistance Program). This work is too emotional to have unresolved grief issues or loss issues causing distractions. Morally the Chaplain must be as clean as a freshly washed sheet. The Human Resources Department of a hospice will do a background check, but that doesn’t always reveal what might be lurking behind the scenes in a Chaplain’s life. When there is a breach of moral deportment, the entire hospice will suffer. The news media, in this day and time, flashes news in an instant over the internet and other social media. It is required of a Chaplain that he or she is absolutely squeaking clean. The Chaplain will be in a patient’s home, at times by him or herself. The patient’s family will never have reason to worry or be concerned with the Chaplain visiting the patient without other family members present. Sexual abuse of a patient or caregiver must never occur. Telling off color jokes to staff members is an indication that all is not well in the private life of a Chaplain. Again, it is expected that the Chaplain is a paragon of moral virtue. Theologically the Chaplain must be secure in his or her faith. The issues of suffering, fairness of having such a terrible disease, grief, and the like all have a connection the Chaplain’s theology. It is required of the Chaplain that he or she has a theology of pastoral care, a theology of suffering, a theology of bereavement support, a theology of compassion and mercy, a theology of grace, a theology of death at the bare minimum. To have less makes the Chaplain hamstrung to do the job that is difficult on its best days. The age of the Empire State Building is somewhere around 84 years. Its foundation has held strong through the years and many a storm. Its foundation is firm to say the least. What about your foundation? Is it just as firm? Blessings to my Chaplain Colleagues in this most sacred of spiritual enterprises.

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