This blog post comes from CBF-Endorsed Chaplain, Mike Bumgarner in celebration of Pastoral Care Week. Chaplain Bumgarner is a Board Certified Chaplain for the Norman Regional Health Systems in Norman, Oklahoma.
I love being a hospital chaplain. I am thankful every day for the privilege to be a minister in an acute care setting. The work can be difficult. Pastoral presence in the middle of trauma or disease process requires focus, empathy, and lots of patience. The rewards of the work are never immediate, but somehow you know when that presence has mattered. I have been a chaplain at Norman Regional Hospital for 26 years either full or part-time. I still have people walk up to me and say, “You may not remember us, but we remember you. You were with us when our Dad died in 1990.” That kind of connection is spiritual.
Trauma and illness create fear and courage, extreme weakness and strength, and incredible vulnerability and honesty. It is a crazy walk down roads with many forks. As a chaplain, I get to walk that road with phenomenal people. Sometimes I am a guide and sometimes I am a fellow traveler. Trauma and illness creates fear that can be immediate and profound. Normal can change in the blink of an eye. Chaplains are first responders to the terror that can accompany an injury or a diagnosis that suddenly crashes into lives. Chaplains sit in the midst of chaos. That presence can offer a crack in the sudden darkness for light to break through.
I love the hospital, because it is a crazy collage of people and circumstances. I love the staff I get to work with. The hospital is my parish. Chaplains pastor a weird and rich congregation that defies religious identity. Our liturgy is hope in the midst of pain and suffering. When Jesus said “I was sick and you visited me,” I think of my calling and all that “sick” entails. As the hospital strives to be an instrument of healing, I realize I am part of a team that is called to offer that gift of healing. I have the best job. I thank God every day.