I Am a Midwife to the Holy

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 5:42am

I Am a Midwife to the Holy

by Emma M. Churchman,  guest contributor

When I was a child I never dreamt of being a hospital chaplain. I generally detest hospitals and I don’t trust medical professionals. Hospitals can be giant cesspools for infection and disease; they smell funny. So when I found myself in my last year of seminary training as a hospital chaplain in a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, I laughed out loud in discovering hospital chaplaincy is a true vocational calling for me.

In CPE, I discovered that I am a trauma junkie.

The world made sense to me the first time I was paged to the ER for a dying patient. Most people who work in trauma (ER/trauma doctors and nurses, EMS, police, firefighters, etc.) are drawn to trauma because they come from trauma.

My own family of origin is a unique cesspool of trauma. I viscerally understand what it’s like to experience physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual trauma. I have spent my entire adult life trying to survive and overcome my childhood trauma. In chaplaincy, I have been given an opportunity to utilize the coping skills I developed in response to trauma and get paid a salary. The deep shame I have carried from my trauma has transformed itself into hope.

Chaplain Larry Grimm sits with terminally ill hospice resident Chiu Ning Yuan, 89, in the chapel of the Hospice of Saint John.

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

It is oddly comforting and familiar to be with others during their trauma experiences. When I am standing in a trauma bay with a screaming patient lying on the table surrounded by doctors and nurses shouting orders with family members in the waiting room wailing for God, I am at peace.

A few weeks ago, within a three-hour stretch, five different traumas came into the ER, including two drivers who had hit each other, a pediatric trauma that involved physical and sexual abuse of a young boy by his older cousin, a logging incident resulting in spinal paralysis, a traumatic brain injury in a young man due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and a older female patient in cardiac arrest.

By the time I left the ER that afternoon, I still had 15 hours left of my 24-hour shift. On days like that I try to pace myself. I pray into those days, asking God to guide my ministry when I am too spent to think clearly. When the pager goes off yet again after my fifth attempt to lie down in my on-call room to sleep I pray that God will show me how to be present to the patient and family I am about to encounter in the middle of the night. I also pray that God will wake me up enough to be able to find the back door to the ER at 3 a.m. Sometimes I leave the hospital feeling faith-filled and well-used. Other days I just go straight to bed and don’t get out of bed until I have to go to work again.

Massage therapist Nikki Hernandez embraces terminally ill patient Jackie Beattie, 83 at the Hospice of Saint John.

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

As a chaplain I hold hands, pray, find warm blankets, and bring hot coffee to those who need it. I cry. I laugh. I remain silent when there are no words that could bring comfort. I am the person that staff, patients, and families turn to for comfort. I lay my hands on those who are suffering, and weep with them. Sometimes I pray verbally, but often silently. I wipe away tears and I hug equally into grief and joy. I place my hands on the heads of doctors, nurses, EMS workers, MedFlight pilots, and police officers and bless them. I ask God to protect them and keep them safe. I ask that their hearts remain open to those they serve.

I wait for the coroner to arrive and hold a dead baby when its mother cannot. I go on rounds with doctors and help interpret medical jargon. I gather staff together to debrief particularly challenging traumas — especially pediatric physical and sexual abuse cases. The staff want to protect these children and help them heal. They take it personally if these children die on their watch. I take it personally.

As a Quaker, I was taught to find that essence of God in all people, and I strive to be open to all spiritual possibilities.

My goal is never to convert patients to Christianity, to save them, or to baptize them. Personally, I don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I am not baptized and don’t believe I need to be saved in order to be closer to God. I am a follower of Jesus’ teachings, but I would not call myself a Christian. My theory is that the Apostle Paul suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and was more focused on streamlining and managing Christian churches than on following God’s will.

The Bible is a helpful reference guide for me, but certainly not the word of God. Prayer can be verbal, but it can also be nonverbal for me. I believe that God created us, but that God also gives humans choice to live into God’s will for us. I don’t believe that God causes suffering; I do believe that God suffers alongside us. I don’t know if heaven or hell exists, but I’m open to that possibility.

Chaplain Claire Nord, prays with Ken Sheel, terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, and his family while on a home hospice visit.

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

My job as chaplain is not to judge someone else’s theology, but rather to help them to understand it more fully. Many trauma patients would not self-identify as spiritual, however, theology tends to appear when someone experiences a life-altering trauma or illness. Patients want to understand why they are suffering, and they want to look back on the trajectory of their lives and question their choices. I get to be a part of those discerning conversations.

I am a child of God. I am a trauma survivor, a compassionate listener, an empathic healer, an intuitive truth teller. I am a death doula, a minister to souls, a witness, and a guide: a midwife for the Holy. I walk alongside those who are suffering and afraid. I help others to discern God’s will in their own lives. I serve as a reminder of God’s presence in each moment. I am the Quaker shaman.

An extended version of this article was published by Friends Journal.

Share Post

Shortened URL

Contributor

Emma M. Churchman is a life-long Quaker and member of Swannanoa Valley Meeting in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She has a MDiv from Earlham School of Religion and a private practice as a spiritual director and transformational coach. She is currently in a chaplain residency program at Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, Tennessee. You can read more of her writing at Friends Journal.

Share Your Reflection

82Reflections

Reflections

<3 a heart that is true love healing those in most need … this is God at work … bless you and all you do. I love the open perspective of this healer who seems to echo many of my ideas of spirituality. It recalls to me a chaplain I spoke with at hospice this last year as my Godfather/Uncle was dying. They too were open to my quirky combination of spirituality and provided wonderful insights and peace. It is blessed work for sure and for those in trauma as described this work is angelic straight from heaven I have no doubt. Thank you for the story.

Sandra, thank you so much for sharing your experience of being with your Godfather/Uncle as he was dying. The days and hours preceding death are luminal moments. What a blessing that you were able to be together, and that the hospital had a chaplain to support you in that process! Thank you for your story!

Just truly inspiring. Keep up the good work peace

Thanks so much for your kind words. Happy (and grateful) to inspire others!

Stunning and stinging...may your level of love always overflow. Thank you, I will continue to read of your ministry.

Oh my gosh Terry, "stunning and stinging" is such an apt description! Thank you for that. And thank you for recognizing the presence of love in my ministry. Blessings.

The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes . . . - Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

O love, O pure deep love, be here, be now
Be all; worlds dissolve into your stainless endless radiance,
Frail living leaves burn with you brighter than cold stars;
Make me your servant, your breath, your core - Rumi

from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche

The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes . . . - Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

O love, O pure deep love, be here, be now
Be all; worlds dissolve into your stainless endless radiance,
Frail living leaves burn with you brighter than cold stars;
Make me your servant, your breath, your core - Rumi

from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche

Paul, Thank you so much for these inspiring pieces! Rumi's words, as they always do, brought me to tears. I love the image of God's "stainless endless radiance." My deepest wish for myself and my life is to live in service to God in whatever ways God might call me. Rumi captures that: "Make me your servant, your breath, your core." I believe that everything we do is prayer, and that our breath is God's breath. Blessings on you and your journey.

What a beautiful article. I am also in the vocation of helping people with trauma as a yoga therapist. Its an amazingly fulfilling, fascinating and purposeful life. You are a gift to those you serve.
Warmly,
Anna
vibrantheartyoga.com

Anna, Thank you for the good work you are doing in the world! People who have experienced trauma often struggle with being present in their bodies, or in the case of physical and sexual trauma, don't like their bodies. Massage can be a very powerful way to learn to be in relationship with your own body. It certainly helped me in my own journey of learning to be in my body. Blessings to you!

Thank you. I could not have said this better myself.

Thanks Rev. Sandie!

Nor did I ever dream of becoming a hospital chaplain and yet, here I am in CPE in seminary and plotting out the next step: residency. For all the reasons you listed above and more. Thank you for bringing to light such a sacred profession. (I am of the opinion that every US citizen should be required to do a unit of CPE in a hospital.)
:)

Right on Suzanne! That and Americorps. But I digress.... Thanks for your response and best wishes as you discern next steps. Remember, you are interviewing the CPE Supervisors just as much as they are interviewing you! ;-) Blessings.

Emma, your wise words show your gift of ministry in chaplaincy. I am a Quaker chaplain, now retired-but are we ever retired from Chaplaincy-I think not-who worked in trauma too. Now living in Merida, Yucatan, MX. If you ever need a break full of sunshine and warmth, you have a place to stay and be welcome.

Martha, I get it. Once a chaplain, always a chaplain. Blessings on your trauma ministry! As you well know, it takes a special breed of chaplains to work full time in trauma.

And heck yeah I'd love to visit with you in the Yucatan! I do need a break and I'll be looking for cheap flights tonight...Kidding. But thank you. I hope that our paths will cross when the time is right. Blessings. Emma@quakershaman.com

Thank you for sharing these beautiful words and images. As a current CPE resident, I find it very inspiring and affirming. Thank you for your work.

Tami, Congrats on being in CPE and I'm glad that you found my words helpful. CPE is kind of like sprinting the entire length of a marathon. You keep on thinking that there will be a moment where you can pause and catch your breath and recalibrate. But there is not. And, now that I'm at the tail end of my residency I wouldn't have it any other way, well, other than wishing I had learned how to practice good self-care earlier. It is a tremendous opportunity for learning and growing and stretching. Blessings to you on your journey of self-discovery and accompanying others in intimate moments.

Emma,
Thank you for sharing from your experience
and in being alongside.

Namaste
-John

John! Good to hear from you. Thank you for your always poetic words friend. Blessings.

Ah, fearless Emma! You bring the words of Isaiah to life:

"Have no fear, for I am with you; do not be looking about in trouble, for I am your God; I will give you strength, yes, I will be your helper; yes, my true right hand will be your support." Isaiah 41:10

Thank you, thank you, dear Emma, for allowing yourself to be all that you are. How different the world would be, if each of us could overcome our barriers to living bravely. How many of us hold ourselves back. It reminds me of the famous quote by Marianne Williamson:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. ....We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am deeply moved by your story, inspired and challenged once again, to live my life to the fullest, to let my heart be wide, wide open and to allow God within me to be seen.

with deep appreciation for your gift,

Jan

Jan, Your poignant words brought me to tears. Thank you for this acknowledgement of my vulnerability and authenticity. It has taken a lot of courage for me to "out" myself as a trauma survivor, and to "out" myself theologically to my faith community and as a hospital chaplain serving in a primarily conservative Christian area. Your reminder that my vulnerability liberates not only myself but others was most welcome. And I just adore both the text from Isaiah and Williamson's quote. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Excellent! Inspiring and beautiful. Thank you for doing this important work for all of us.

Thanks Rev. Karuna!

Emma, your writing and calling in life is both beautiful and precious--and that you're being a "touch-stone" of the Divine in all, integrates this ever-presence in just your intention and being. What a wonderful gift you share in your loving service with all. A true exemplar of compassionate and contemplative presence in action and inaction.

George, What wonderful imagery!: "compassionate and contemplative presence in action and inaction." Thank you for giving language to that intention that I carry. There are so many good people in this world living lives of service: some outwardly identifiable (like hospital chaplaincy), some without title or recognition (or salary). May we all live with the framework that you have articulated, striving to see that of the Divine in all we encounter.

I am utterly struck by the honest humanity of which this chaplain describes.

Thank you!

I am utterly struck by the honest, orthodox-free rendition of what it means to be human.

Steve! I'm totally going to make myself a T-shirt that says "Orthodox-free." I love it! Thanks for being MY inspiration today.

I am a woman VietNam veteran, survivor of multiple trauma situations, including MST. I have been working with traumatized veterans the last several years, particular facilitating retreats for "post traumatic spiritual disorder" (NOT religion...). I resonate with much of what Emma Churchman says, and agree with it all. keep up the good work. GBU.

Sister Sarge! What powerful work you are doing. I'm intrigued by the concept of "post-traumatic spiritual disorder" and would love to learn more about it, if you are willing. Please feel free to email me: emma@quakershaman.com.

I am humbled by this orthodoxy-free witness of how to work and live so fully human.

This reflection resonates for me. As a minister of care who visits hospital patients and a spiritual director I have similar experiences. My family history is one of much trauma and brokenness and during my formation for spiritual direction I came to understand that God heals us so that we can be free to be present for others. Yes our past helps us to better understand and empathize without judgment. I also have no desire to convert. The Divine reveals to each of us uniquely. Thank you for midwifing the holy. And yes God is present in every breath we take:) Peace

Mary, I love the verbage of "midwifing." Awesome! Also the reminder that the Divine reveals to each of us uniquely. Thank you for your important ministry of care and spiritual accompaniment! And good on you for choosing a career that allows you to call on your broken family history. It is in empathy with others that God resides. Thank you for midwifing the holy. ;-)

I am sitting here in wonder after reading of your work and spiritual insights. Your pure honesty and heart thoughtful expression is my favorite part. All I could think of is"well done, Emma, well done.' I am very grateful that there are chaplins like you.

Jeannie, Thank you for taking the time to read my piece and write a response! That means a lot to me. Blessings on you!

I too am a Quaker Chaplain, having done hospice chaplaincy ever since June, 1991. Currently, I am on the hospice team here where I live, at Foulkeways retirement community in Gwynedd, P A. I share much of the experience of Friend Emma Churchman, and am so grateful to have been called to this particular ministry. It has provided so much nurture and direction for my spiritual formation and Emma's description of her theology is one that I can claim for my own. Living and working in this Quaker retirement community is tutoring me in preparation for my own end of life inevitability and I am deeply grateful.

Mickey, You have such a rich history of chaplaincy! Accompanying others through end of life experiences is so precious. Being in those luminal moments is an honor. Thank you for your good service among Friends. It is true that chaplaincy teaches you just as much about yourself as those you serve. Twenty five years is a lot of wisdom Mickey! ;-) Friends are blessed to have you among them at Foulkeways.

I, too, was a hospital chaplain. It was inspiring to read the other chaplains words. Some were true of my experiences, some not so much. One thing that rings true in my experience as well is that as a chaplain I brought Gods Presence to the situation.
It was a great honor and I am awed that I got to bring God with me, Emmanuel, God with us!
God is forever with me and you, but it was a special announcement that came with being a chaplain! Thank you, Jesus.

Donna, Thank you for your faithful service to God and God's people. Thank you for bringing God's presence into your encounters with patients, families and staff. Blessings on you.

Thank you for a well written inspiring article. I recently graduated from a Quaker MA program and am trying to discern what I really want to do as a vocation. Yesterday after a couple of days retreat I came away with a focus on healing and reconciliation. I thought about chaplaincy and questioned whether I would be a good candidate since my Evangelical faith has gone through some major deconstruction. I thought it quite timely when I read your article today. It makes me consider that a less rigid faith construction may actually be a strength if I were to pursue a career as a chaplain. My degree was taught almost entirely by Native American professors and I have grown to have a real respect for the way indigenous cultures address major life transitions and communal life that promotes belonging and well being. Just want to say thanks for putting your thoughts out there. You never know who might need to hear them.

Ed, Ah, discernment. One of my favorite topics! I believe that God is constantly inviting us into spiritual discernment and that God communicates with us in a myriad of ways. Some of my favorites are song lyrics, dreams, and giant billboards on the side of the road I'm driving down. Perhaps God has discovered the On Being site? God is funny like that. ;-) If you are questioning whether or not you can be a "real" chaplain, let me be your inspiration. ;-) Truly. There is no spiritual or theological box I seem to be able to fit in, and yet I could not be happier ministering to a Southern Baptist, or a Quaker, Jew, Mormon or Muslim. We are all seeking God's guidance and understanding in our lives. A chaplain accompanies others on their spiritual journey, whatever that looks like for patients, families and staff. Ideally, our theology and beliefs do not get in the way. I hope you do apply to CPE! And keep me posted: emma@quakershaman.com

Emma, you have written a wonderful description of the work health care chaplains provide all across the country to people no matter what they believe. You have represented the profession well and I thank you for that.

David, Your kind words mean so much to me. Thank you. I hope that I have represented our shared profession well, and that I have done justice to the many chaplains that have come before me, and certainly to those who have served in this profession much longer than I have. Thank you for your good ministry in supervising chaplains!

Emma. Thank you for writing. Your style is wonderful and your language inspires me to begin writing more publicly about my own experiences. Chaplaincy can be such a blessing to so many. May those who need to hear your words, be receptive and use them to heal themselves.

Chaplain Randee, Yes! I hope you do begin writing more publicly about your own experiences. I am learning that is in my expression of vulnerability and authenticity that true healing takes place. I hope you find this to be as true as well. I'm so glad you found inspiration in my writing. Thank you for your ministry of chaplaincy. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and reply. Blessings.

Such a moving and inspiring piece from a dear friend. Been so long since we have been truly in contact with one another. It sounds like you are making a "difference" in many lives. You should be proud of yourself - I'm proud of you! You such such a wonderful Human Being. God Bless you.

Jimmy! So good to hear from you, and thank you for taking the time to read my piece and write. Thanks for the props. Let me hand some back to you: thank you for your ministry as a sheriff! I work with a lot of police officers and sheriffs at the hospital and get a first hand glance at some of the parts of those challenging jobs. GBU and the good work you do.

Emma, what you are doing is wonderful. You have been given an extraordinary gift from God. One question I have to ask is, After this life is over, where do our souls reside for all eternity? You mentioned that you are a follower of Jesus. He is very clear on the topic of eternity, so if we are true followers, we must believe what He says. Also, I have to wonder exactly why you would choose to attack Paul by saying that he had an obsessive-compulsive disorder. What does that comment have to do with your wonderful work? My prayer is that God will open your eyes to the complete picture. That one day you will be talking to the dying about their Savior. You have been given a great responsibility. You are a child of God. However,your comments about Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, and the Bible, well, it's pretty clear where you stand on that topic. We are all free to believe what we want. God has given us that choice. But you are dealing with people at the most critical time of their lives...their step into eternity.

Your comments: "Personally, I don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I am not baptized and don’t believe I need to be saved in order to be closer to God". "I don’t know if heaven or hell exists, but I’m open to that possibility."The Bible is a helpful reference guide for me, but certainly not the word of God. My job as chaplain is not to judge someone else’s theology, but rather to help them to understand it more fully.

Stan,

Thank you for taking the time to read my piece and respond. I can see in your writing your deep desire for others to experience the sense of peace and fulfillment that you have in knowing you will reside eternally in heaven with your Savior. Were you to find yourself in my hospital, in the last days and hours of your life, and I were called to minister to you as the hospital chaplain, here is the prayer I would offer to you:

“Oh Lord, we rejoice in You. You know everything about us. You know us from the tops of our heads to the bottoms of our feet. You know us and You love us because we are your children. Just as You bring us into this world you lead us out, when it is our time to return into your loving arms. Heavenly Father, we ask that You be here with your son Stan. Help Him to feel your love, and open Your arms wide to him. Lord, we know that it is only You who decides when we leave this world and we just ask that You bring Stan home to You when You are ready. Stan has been Your loving and faithful servant. He has abided by You. He has known only You through Jesus Christ. We ask that You lead him to his Heavenly home. As the Apostle Paul said our true citizenship is in heaven. We also ask that You be with Stan’s family when he leaves this world, that You protect them and keep them safe, that You care for them in all ways possible. Lord we know that all things are possible through You. All of this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Blessings on you Stan.

Emma, I could not ask for a more beautiful prayer when that day arrives. Blessings to you as well and to all the lives that you touch.

Emma, Thank you so much for your candor. When I did CPE, I kept wanting to be paged to the ER (I never was, in CPE, or later as a volunteer hospital chaplain) but my great teacher came in the form of a seven-year-old non-verbal child whose silence taught me grace. I learned my calling was not to the ER or big trauma, but to a ministry of presence to those wading in still waters to companion them into eddies of deeper meaning. As much as I thrummed to your essay/post, I loved even more your line about prayer because I say all the time "I live my life as a prayer" or "my life is the prayer." Sometimes the prayer is vocal, sometimes silent. Sometimes a dirge, sometimes hallelujah, sometimes a stumble or splat and sometimes a leap of faith into the arms of grace. CPE taught me the words of the prayer matter far less than our presence in it. And I love that our breath is God's breath. My friend from CPE says we are the lungs of God. I invoke Ruach Ha-olam, the Breath of the Universe for that reason. Lastly, I love everything you said about the bible and God and how chaplaincy is not a theological exercise. I found in jail chaplaincy where many chaplains are hellbent on evangelizing, the practice of presence and embodied compassion are what occasion the metaphor of a syllable we utter as God.

Leaf, What wonderful, juicy images you present for the presence of God! Inspiritus, the Spirit within, came to mind for me with the image of being the lungs of God. Words can be so limiting as descriptors for God, yet you posted many that rang true for me. And yes, CPE does have a way of clarifying our true calling! May your life of prayer continue to bless you and those around you.

GRACIAS ! Your sharing inspires me .. Please recommend a Hospice Program here in Washington DC , where I now live . I want to volunteer. Bless you !

Maria, I am so glad you are inspired and would like to volunteer with Hospice! I'm actually not familiar with any Hospice programs in the DC area, so I hope that other readers might be able to answer your question. Blessings.

I have lived a trauma dominated life from the time of birth, and am greatly inspired and encouraged by your life and this article. I have done what I can to pay it forward, stay grateful, cope, adjust, reframe and find meaning and am under incredible stress at this time from loss and grief and the particular frustration of unfair victimization by glib thugs. Prayer, meditation, service wherever possible is the way for me. Finding balance and yet pulling out all the stops to practice the presence of God not unlike that described above. Open, where closing is more likely, seeking, while fearing to find only what is, accepting. Thank You.

C, Thank you for your faithfulness friend. I don't know why some of us experience more trauma than others. I am delighted that you have chosen to survive your trauma, and to remain open to the presence of God in your life. God is with us in our suffering, God hears our deepest cries. God laments with us, holds us while we weeps, and hears our prayers. Sometimes our prayers aren't answered in the ways we imagined they would be. Sometimes healing looks different than what we hoped for. I love the image of God as a mother hen, wrapping wings around us, holding us close. May you feel God's arms wrapped around you today. Your life and your testimony are an inspiration to me. Thank you.

Thank you.

Roberta, Thank you so much for taking the time to read my piece! Blessings.

So inspiring! I hope when my end of life time comes, if it comes quietly and there is time, that someone like Emma is available to help me see the light of this part of the human journey! Thank you and Peace.

June-Ruth, Thank you for your kind and generous words. I hope that your transition out of this world is full of peace and liminal moments. I, too, hope that someone is with you during this sacred time. Blessings!

I am so blessed to hear your reflection here. so blessed are you to know your calling at what I consider such a young age. I graduated from Bethany Seminary in association with Earlham School of Religion in Richmond. Wish I had known you but am glad to have met you here today.

Ken, what a great connection! Of course as an ESR student I took courses at Bethany. I really enjoyed learning from their professors. Blessings to you in your ministry. And thanks for calling me young: I just turned 40! ;-) I liked reading that.

I work at a police department with seniors in crisis. I have attended the Episcopal Church since I was a child, but my feelings regarding God, Jesus and spirituality are very akin to yours. God be with you,
fellow traveler...

Donna, Thank you so much for your ministry with seniors in crisis! That is intense work. Of course I appreciate your theological kinship, and affirmed that there are other good folks out there with similar beliefs. God be with you!

Emma,
Thank you for putting words to some thoughts and feelings I didn't even know I had.
As I watched my wife fight, and then, die of a brain tumor I learned many of the things
you mentioned...sit, listen. Everyone has a story.
Blessings.

Doug, Thank you so much for sharing your story of being with your wife as she journeyed with a brain tumor. I can only imagine what it was like for you to accompany her, and support her, knowing there was nothing that you could do to fix the problem. I'm imagining if she died of a brain tumor it was inoperable. How do we be with others in their struggles, be witness to them, without taking action? It sounds like for you learning to sit, be with, and listen was an important part of learning how to accompany your wife. I honor you for supporting her in this loving way. Blessings on you.

Emma, i don't mean to be negative, as you are obviously involved in some wonderful work, but, I think you're details views of your own beliefs I think were ill judged in this particular article. These amounted to a personal creed (which you are entitled to obviously) and i think quakers need to be alive to the danger of a kind of inverted intolerance. They are also self contradictory - you say that you would never convert your patients to christianity and then go on to explain that you would not call yourself a christian. firstly, I would hope that not chaplain would use such an opportunity to convert a person to their own view (christian or otherwise) and secondly, who in the right mind would convert someone to something they didnt believe in (ie you said you werent a christian) i get the point that you call yourself a follower of jesus; i just think this thinking seems a bit muddled; sorry. As for the apostle paul; again you're entitled to your view obviously but i think it unwise in an article that is supposed to be focused on the patients and their beliefs to give a detailed view of of your own beliefs. Whether paul was mentally ill or not; i believe he was loved by God and at least he brought us that wonderful phrase 'God is Love'. don't mean to be negative; i wih you blessings in your journey and in your work Emma

Rev. Emma...I have read your essay twice now. You are such a perfect, potent being of light who also happens to be a very good writer. I do not identify as Quaker, but I am so thankful for the Quaker faith. Such love, compassion, and tenderness. With gratitude for who you are and what you do.

Lisa, Thank you so much for your kind and generous words. I am grateful that you found resonance with my writing and my theology. I would not begin to assume that my beliefs are in alignment with the theology of all Quakers, but I certainly speak for a few. Blessings.

wow, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing an insight from this amazing profession and from such an amazing person!

Alexis, Thank you so much for reading my article and visiting my website! Blessings to you on your journey of becoming an intuitive healer.

Waal what a story. I have always value chaplains and their work. I am a Hospice registered nurse and work with chaplains. I have seen them turning misery into miracles by a simple touch or their presence at the bed side of an ill patient. They empower people to be fully. I like the chaplain that respect other religions, those chaplains minister within the spiritually of the person they serve looks like this one I just read. All I can say is you are called by God.Though you are professionally certified you minister to people spiritual needs. As a nurse I see chaplains having similar care plan with nurses. As professional chaplains listens, assist patients, articulate and assess patients spirituality. Chaplains are spiritual care givers. Godly sent from heaven.

Ruth, It means so much to me that you, as a Hospice RN, understand the impact that chaplains can have with patients at End of Life. I also value that you recognize that chaplains are able to be with people of all faiths, and accompany those people in their religious traditions. In my estimation that is what good chaplains do - we set our own beliefs aside in order to embody the beliefs of those we serve. I am also grateful that you lifted up the role that chaplains have with nurses and other medical professionals. Absolutely we help medical teams to assess patients, but we also offer spiritual and emotional support to medical professionals. We are there for you too! Blessings on your important work Ruth. Thank you for your ministry.

Thank you for your work, Emma. I've recently survived a (diagnosed terminal) cancer, and feel increasingly drawn to situations where I can be a loving, spacious presence with others going through illness, trauma, or end of life. I admire the work you do and seek to learn through you and others who are midwives to the holy in those moments when people are most broken open.

Krys, Congratulations on surviving terminal cancer! Your experience certainly can deeply inform accompanying others through illness, trauma, and end of life. It takes a unique person to be able to sit with someone else in their suffering and unknowing. I honor your leading to accompany others in this way. I'm glad that my experience resonated with you, and hope that you will find ways to be present with others. Certainly oncology units would benefit from your volunteer support. Blessings on you.

As a retired clergy of the United Church of Canada - may I say I think you are right on! Thank you for your candidness and may God bless you - however you understand her to be. You are doing wonderful work that few have the talent and strength to do.

Martha! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for lifting up a feminine image of God. And thank you for acknowledging that the ministry I embrace is one that many run away from. I am deeply aware that trauma ministry is for the select few. It means a lot to me that you, as retired clergy, understand what it takes to be a trauma chaplain. Blessings on you for the ministry you have already offered so many!

Emma, thank you so much for your rich reflection on being a chaplain. I am also a chaplain and for the last 7 years have worked on a Pediatric ICU and PEDS Oncology unit. Like you, I function well in trauma type situations -- you and I share many of the same personal ones -- as well as the ones I experience with my patients and their families. I believe it is a privilege to walk with others and help them hold their fear, pain, incredible joy as well as debilitating suffering, and the many wonders of the Holy One's actions in our lives. I think all ordained ministers should be required to do CPE and I like the idea of all citizens doing at least a unit as well. I had a whole other great career and came to chaplaincy quite by "coincidence" (as if there are such things in God's world". I'm so grateful for the many accents, languages and seemingly unbearable situations in which I see, touch and hear the Power Greater than Ourselves. Blessed, blessed are we by this work. Continuing blessings and Peace. Chris

Chris: I totally agree with you regarding all ordained ministers doing CPE. Why not all citizens as well? CPE confronts us with our "stuff" so that we can see ourselves and others more clearly. What a blessing it is to not walk around in the world constantly "triggered" and "reacting." Thank you for your important ministry working with critical pediatric patients. It takes a special chaplain to walk with children and their families through pain and unknowing. I agree, we are just blessed by this work as the patients, families and staff we serve. Emma

apples