Thursday, February 12, 2009

Newest at Episcopal Cafe: the Christian at the Bedside

My newest piece for Episcopal Cafe is now up. You can read it here. It deals with one of the difficult conversations for chaplains - of the expectations of many who don't understand the scope and practice of professional chaplaincy.

The misunderstandings and inaccurate expectations of chaplains that many Christians have are as difficult as those we experience from patients, if not usually as clinically acute. While I give one example in the Episcopal Cafe piece, it comes more often from the family member out of town, someone who, commonly, hasn't seen the patient in years but has an immediate and acute concern about the patient's status with God, and especially with respect to the afterlife. The call will come long distance: "Hi. My name is ________. I am [the patient's] relative (take your choice: son or daughter, niece or nephew, brother or sister). I just want to be sure that [the patient] has turned his/her life over to Christ. Has [the patient] told you anything? If not, will you go talk to [the patient]?"

Of course I will talk to the patient. Of course I will not try to convert the patient, nor even to convict the patient whose Christian faith may have lapsed. (And, again, the reasons why are in the Episcopal Cafe piece.) Nor will I satisfy the caller with details of conversations with the patient. I may say something - something about the patient's spiritual comfort, about the patient's willing to talk, and about a good conversation - but I won't say, usually can't say, what the caller wants to hear.

And of course I will call the caller to faith. I will ask the caller to trust God to work with the patient as God and the patient find best. Most will accept that, if somewhat uneasily; but whether they accept it or not, that is where I will turn the conversation.

I do often wish folks would trust God more, and feel less responsibility themselves. I often wonder if God doesn't wish that as well.


Anonymous said...


Your article is wonderful! Thanks for saying so eloquently why we should not be strong-arming people to Jesus on their death beds!

Anonymous said...

Your article is really nice.



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