Friday, May 6, 2016

Making a Successful Transition From the Parish Pastorate to Hospice Chaplaincy, Part 1

Making a Successful Transition From the Parish Pastorate to Hospice Chaplaincy


It is not an easy transition from the parish pastorate to hospice chaplaincy.  In the early days of hospice parish pastors took care of hospice patients and their spiritual needs.  As hospice began to develop and became more of an industry than a movement, professional Chaplaincy became the standard.  Making the transition is not easy by any means. 


There are at least six guideposts that will assist you with your transition.  Yes, this is a lengthy document, but hopefully in applying these guideposts your transition will not be lengthy.


  • A hospice Chaplain must have a well-developed Pastoral Care Theology.  It is assumed that a parish pastor will have this.  Unfortunately, in many cases this is not true.  In hospice chaplaincy it is an absolute necessity. Here is my statement:
    My theology of ministry has its roots in the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.  Three words come to mind in my theology of ministry:  Comfort, Counsel, and Companioning.  These three components of my theology seem so necessary in hospice chaplaincy.  My patients and their family members need comfort; at times they need counsel; and, always, need my companionship on their hospice journey.  Do I dare to think that my Person and Work has the same authority as that of the Holy Spirit?  I would be foolish to think so.  Yet, I feel equipped to provide these aspects of spiritual care as a mature and seasoned Chaplain.  Because I am settled and secure in my own faith journey, I am able to provide spiritual support to those of other faith groups.  I do not compromise my belief system in order to do my work.  Therefore, I am able to provide spiritual care to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, followers of Eastern religious systems, Wiccans, and those who have other belief systems that are more secular. 
    In reading Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care, edited by Rabbi Stephen B. Roberts, Skylight Paths Publishing: Woodstock, Vermont, 2013, I came upon an illuminating article by Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs.  Her article is titled “Creating a Personal Theology to do Spiritual/Pastoral Care”.  She states, “My theology has to be large enough to accept the theology of those whom I serve, whether they are Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Humanist, or Atheist. If I cannot support a patient (or family member or staff person) in his or her theology, then I cannot serve as a multifaith chaplain, I need to be secure in my own belief system.  I also need to be able to be open to understanding and interpreting [my patients’ theology] or that of family members, or staff persons with whom I come into contact.  I have to be open to other people’s theology and help them through using their belief system, not my own.”
    Have you put to pen and ink your theology of pastoral care?  Those of us who have gone through the rigors of Board Certification can reflect upon the hours of work spent thinking through and reflecting upon this subject and then putting those thoughts and reflections on paper.  I urge you to take the time for this project.  You and those you serve will benefit greatly from it.

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