Friday, December 19, 2008

The Voice of Another Chaplain

Today I received an email message through my blog, saying in part:

Dear Marshall,
I thought that you and your readers would be very interested in the StoryCorps story of the day broadcast on NPR this morning. It is the story of hospital chaplain Janet Lutz from Atlanta telling her friend about the practice of blessing the hands of hospital workers. She also speaks about the quiet acts of kindness and prayer that happen every day in hospitals. It is a beautiful and heartwarming story.

The email was from Marisa Karplus, Senior Coordinator for Marketing & Communications at StoryCorps. I appreciate her calling this to my attention. Some of my readers know I listen regularly to NPR. I've enjoyed many of the conversations recorded and shared through StoryCorps.

Janet Lutz is a retired hospital chaplain, Board Certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). She speaks of the Blessing of Hands, which many of us find a powerful experience of ministering to, and being ministered to by, staff. You can hear her story at StoryCorps here, at with some additional information at NPR here. It’s well worth the few minutes it will take you.

I certainly value my own ministry to staff, and their ministries to patients. While not all of them will use this language, many will consider their various tasks as ministry. I do my best to honor this every orientation, acknowledging that I know I’m not the only person providing spiritual care in my hospital. I’m aware that many of our folks pray for patients, and a few even pray with patients – so far, in circumstances and with respect for the patient that I can fully support.

I’m also convinced that good pastoral care of the staff contributes good pastoral care of patients. First, it provides models of good spiritual support that staff may follow. Second, experiencing good care themselves they are in a better place to offer spiritual support. Finally, experiencing good care they are more likely to refer patients to receive care.

So, take a few minutes with Chaplain Lutz. Her story is moving. And, listen to her counsel to us, her colleagues. Taking the time to listen honors those we serve, and provides the basis for all other care we might give.

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