By Margaret Kirby
This summer I had the great privilege of attending the Annual Conference for the Association of Professional Chaplains in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The theme this year was “Together at the Table.” Chaplains bring the heart of care and compassion to many tables. We are participants and team members in burn units, oncology units, on palliative care teams, and in the intensive care units. Chaplains provide direct ministry at the bedside to the very young in the Neonatal Intensive Cares and Pediatric hospitals, and to the very old at all levels in a variety of settings: acute care hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation units, hospices, and in the workplace. Chaplains walk alongside our military units and our police and fire departments. Chaplains come to the table from all faith backgrounds and walks of life to assess and consider the spiritual impact of life events and encourage each individual and family group to lean into their own spiritual resources for health and healing.
In the midst of the multitude of voices at such a conference, it is refreshing to find many new connections. Some of these help to broaden and deepen our understanding of this ministry to the sick and hurting in our communities through the diversity of their voices. Others help to clarify our own call to this ministry by the similarity in faith and tradition. We had the opportunity to share in fellowship at breakfast together one morning with our own “denominations.” In true Church of God fashion, we began with three (all ordained Church of God ministers) and ended with five at the table, adding two from similar, but diverse backgrounds when they could not find a table at which they fit.
This table time gave us the opportunity to hear, via a letter, from the director of Chaplain Ministries, Xen Riggs, and to consider the exciting opportunities that he is coordinating for further training, sharing, and connecting in the various regions across the nation. We also had the opportunity to learn from one another and encourage one another as ordained ministers placed in ministry in our communities in hospitals, Clinical Pastoral Education programs, through the written word and in public speaking. Chaplains carry the light of the gospel as we minister together at each of the tables to which God has called us.
Church of God chaplains in attendance with me were Al Miles and Judith Silva. Joining us at the table were Robin Kivett—a part of the Church of God movement, serving as a nurse; and Chaplain Lt. Col. Alvianette “Leigh” Kennedy of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Margaret Kirby serves as a Church of God chaplain in San Antonio, Texas, with Baptist Health System. Learn more about Chaplain Ministries at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/chaplain-ministries/.