I have found a great challenge these last few months I want to share. Being a seminary student, I am required to work and attend classes in a hospital environment as part of the credits for my Divinity degree. This is called CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). I have not only found it a challenge but an experience that will guide me in my ministry. Now, having said that, I also say I am not sure just what my ministry will be but I am convinced CPE is, and will always be, beneficial in my life’s journey.
I have been a member of our congregational care team for a number of years and so I visit the people who attend our services at church whether they are members or not. These people may be in the hospital, nursing home or confined to their own home because of illness. I have been in the presence of the man or woman dying of AIDS and the ones who are recovering from minor surgeries. In all instances, I have found the greatest benefit that I am, and could ever be, is to be present.
When I talk about being present, I include being there for them in body, mind and spirit. Certainly my body is there although there are times I am sure I would like to have been somewhere else – anywhere else. My mind must also stay with the person I am visiting because I am not much help to them if I am anywhere else. The spirit is not of mine but of the Holy one who provides me with the strength and words that I need to be of help and comfort.
This is all good. But then as I continue each week to visit others, I find the practices that I apply with those that are in need are also the same practices that I should be using when I meet and greet others. The practice of being with a person in body, mind and spirit is the greatest of gifts to be aware of as you are listening, comforting and just being with another person. Often we are not aware of where we are and certainly not of what the person might be saying. Today’s world keeps all of us so busy that it takes an effort to be in one place with that one person at that one time. Our lives are so fragmented that to get all our thoughts and actions headed in the same direction and in the same place is a challenge.
I have found that I am in the room with a person but as I mentioned earlier, it is not easy to keep me there sometimes. I want to fade to another place and another time. Does that happen with you? It isn’t a reflection on the lack of interest in the conversation or the person but there are so many events and happenings in life that time is difficult to find to devote to one place, person and time. The greatest tribute I can make to a person is to keep my mind in that place for that person is truly the only person at that moment in time that means anything. To be of benefit to them or to myself is to be there with all my available thinking powers. I must keep all my thoughts with them. That too is the way a conversation with a friend, a family member or a new acquaintance should be. Just be there!! The greatest of the three is the spirit that comes from God through me or anyone when they believe they are a person of God and will ask the spirit to be with them as they go through this special time of sharing. Most important, the spirit of God can and will be with us as we ask through each infinitely small or large issue and challenge that comes to us.
The entire time I hope, as you have read this, you can think of that time when you were not completely available to that person that you were with. It could have been your spouse, a friend or a member of your church. In each case, how different and rewarding the visit and conversation could have been if you had simply been available?
To be available with all of you, the body, the mind and the spirit is a great tribute to another. It is not easy but it is the best, the very best kind of medicine that you or anyone else can give. Just think how that effort can make another person feel. How do you feel when you know someone is there with you – really, truly, wholly and completely with you at that moment in time?
Ordained in August 2006, Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having served as volunteer clergy for the congregational care ministry at King of Peace MCC and as chaplain at Bon Secours Maria Manor senior care facility, both in St. Petersburg, Fla. In June 2006 she earned a masters of divinity degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami.