Chaplaincy Challenges: Early Thoughts

Ministry

Last month I had my first full day of visitations at Vancouver General Hospital as part of a chaplaincy internship I am enrolled in. The program will last until the end of next April and requires one 8 hour day of rotations at the hospital along with an 8 hour teaching day each week.

I’ve been looking forward to this experience for some time now, not only for the value of gaining skills and experience in walking with folks who are grieving loss of health or life, but also because this program has a reputation for digging deep and taking a hard look at why we minister in the ways we do. In theory, a healthy minister ought to be able to narrow his or her focus to deal with the person in front of them: their needs, their issues. Instead, we often find that we are in fact ministering to ourselves, nursing old wounds, calling up memories long past, or drawing fuel from closetted regrets. So I am eager to unearth what ought to be unearthed in order to serve people in a more disciplined and less self-centered way.

Another reason I’ve been looking forward to this program is because it is located in the context of a large metropolitan hospital in a city with incredible religious diversity. People from all walks of life and conceivably every race and creed may walk (or be brought) through the doors at VGH. I’m looking forward to grappling with the complexities of providing spiritual care in such a pluralistic environment. Religious pluralism is one of the new realities of a global society and the church will be experiencing more of it as time goes on. This is a great opportunity for me to sort through the practicalities and challenges of walking with a dizzying variety of people.

I think that one of the great benefits of this program for me is that it is really forcing me to sort through and articulate important things about Evangelical Christianity, especially when it is seen as rubbing up against widely-held post-modern views of the world and the nature of truth. It may seem like I’m getting a little too esoteric here, but the fact is, I think many evangelicals are coming up against similar situations, that we’re being posed similar questions and challenges, and that we ought to be able to engage in those discussions and represent the continuing validity and vitality of our tradition.

Here are some topics that I’d like to address in this “Chaplaincy Challenges” series:

  • The Big City Hospital: Petry Dish for Global Theology
  • Are Evangelical Christians the O+ Blood Type of Chaplaincy?
  • Christian Prayers at a Sikh Bedside

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