“Chaplains...probably have a broader perspective and a broader engagement with issues of faith outside of our own personal tradition than other kinds of clergy.
Flatland: Hospital Chaplains Deliver Spiritual Care
By Bill Tammeus
Right from birth, this baby was sick, in trouble.
“Her mother immediately asked for prayer and was very optimistic,” Kathie Knehans, then a chaplain at Children’s Mercy Hospital told me. So Knehans prayed with the family. And even when no family members were present, Knehans, now retired, visited the child and prayed.
When the still-hospitalized infant reached 9 months old, it was clear she wouldn’t recover. So hours before she died, the parents asked Knehans to arrange to take the little girl outside, where she’d never been.
“A doctor, a nurse, a respiratory therapist, a chaplain and many other hospital staff and family and friends made up the parade that went to the playground on the hospital front lawn,” Knehans said. “There was no ceremony, no one spoke to the group. Just a quiet time of celebration and thanksgiving for the life of this child.”
Like chaplains all over greater Kansas City, Knehans was finding ways to comfort families in crisis.
“For chaplains,” says Dane Sommer, director of Children's Mercy’s Department of Spiritual Services, “there’s that tension of bringing religion into an organization that might not have religion or spirituality as part of its mission.”
Dane Sommer of Children's Mercy pictured in the hospital's interfaith chapel. Photo by Bill Tammeus.
Here and around the country there are chaplains in hospitals, hospices, industries, the military, police departments (the Kansas City Police Department lists eight chaplains it uses), mental health units, prisons, even race tracks.
“I think our role is to help people find peace,” says Joel Carmer, a Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care chaplain.
Jeffrey Howard, who oversees chaplaincy services at Truman Medical Center, says his job is mostly listening. When he’s talking, he says, it’s just preparation for more listening.
Once he was ministering to an atheist who, ironically enough, “just adored having me in there,” he said. One day the atheist asked Howard to pray for him: “I said, ‘I’ll be glad to pray for you. But why do you want me to pray for you?’” The man just said, “Do your faith.” So that’s what Howard did.
Chaplains come from many faith traditions. Knehans is a Presbyterian pastor, Sommer is ordained in the United Church of Christ, Carmer in the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints) and Howard in the Church of the Nazarene. But there also are Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic and other chaplains trained to meet almost any spiritual need of the people they serve.
“To be a board-certified chaplain,” says Sommer, “you have to either be ordained or licensed by a faith group and have what we would call ecclesiastical endorsement.”
Read the full article via Flatland here.
Learn more about the Spiritual Services available at Children's Mercy.