The following post was written by CBF contributing writer John Foster in celebration of Pastoral Care Week.
Growing up, the Gary Green’s vision of ministry centered around a pulpit on Sunday morning. As he worked toward a master of divinity degree from Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas, which he completed last May, God broadened his vision. He realized that ministry not only means preaching but just as importantly, social justice and pastoral care.
An experience with a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-endorsed chaplain helped culminate this vision. Through a hospital chaplaincy internship, God showed Gary glimpses of all ministry can be.
At those times in life when God shows a new vision through people and circumstances, Green often says, “I saw a little more of God today.” This past summer was full of those experiences.
Two years after hearing her speak in his class, Green contacted CBF endorsed chaplain Angela Lowe about doing an internship at Lawrence Memorial Hospital where Lowe is coordinator of spiritual care and a staff chaplain.
Through the internship, Green ministered among patients and families at some of the most crucial, holy moments of their lives. When people are coming to terms with their mortality or making the choice of whether to keep a family member on life support, having a chaplain present can be an enormous comfort. One man’s family even asked Green to be present as their family member passed away. In those situations, he often didn’t talk much or do much. He’d pray if they asked. Otherwise he offered his presence.
Not every situation is so somber. Green met with a man on palliative care. He came into the room expecting to be sensitive and quiet. When he got there, he found the mood was anything but somber. The patient was joking around. Everyone was laughing.
“His philosophy was that he was going to enjoy the rest of his life,” Green said.
As he built a relationship with this man, he said the man ministered to him more than he ministered to the man. At the end of many days like this, he would tell Lowe, “I saw a little more of God today.”
The presence of a chaplain is crucial in these moments, Lowe said, to be the presence of Christ, regardless of the patient’s religious background. She ministers among people of not just Baptist or Protestant faiths, but all faiths. Chaplains start from scratch, build rapport, and walk beside patients through some of the most important and scary times in their lives. The goal isn’t to proselytize, she said, but to help people reconnect with God.
Lowe also introduced Green to members of the Muslim community in Lawrence and members of the Unity Church. He even attended a Ramadan feast. When people form relationships across different cultures and religions for the good of the community, God is revealed, he said.
“I saw a little bit more of God that night.”
These interactions fanned Green’s fire for social justice. They broadened his view of what ministry can be, beyond the pulpit.
“That ministry is just as necessary, if not more necessary, than what we do on Sunday,” he said. “It’s so much broader than that.”