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What the Heck is a Chaplain Anyway?

Ministry Announcement

Deborah M. Jackson, M.Div., Professional Chaplain & Minister

After a one year Clinical Pastoral Residency from August 2022 to August 2023 I've graduated from one of the most challenging and transformative experiences of my life. Needless to say, it is also my 1st major accomplishment since the death of my momma. The world feels bigger and emptier without her. While I was caring for my mother, before I completed my Master's of Divinity I was investigating something that could ground me transitionally as I moved forward on this ministry journey. With the help of mentors and professors I learned about hospital chaplaincy; yet, because of its demands I could never proceed because of its demanding schedule interfering with the care of my mom.

I shared a year ago about being accepted into the program but I knew it would be tough to communicate with you guys as frequently as I had been. Little did I even begin to know or understand how entrenched this training would be in my own emotional development and preparation.

I sincerely believe there is likely no training more intensive for a clinician (i.e. therapist, physician, minister or practitioner) than hospital training. If someone would have told me my 20 year career in pharma/surgery/hospital would weave one day into ministry I would have told them they were crazy.

Here I am finally on the other side. I've met hundreds and hundreds of clinicians, families, patients. I've have the honor to prepare memorial services for VP's, be called to the aid of physicians in distress, consult with medical teams on assessment, intervention and treatment of dying patients and shocked family members, become a vital part of decision making with integrative committees and so much more. But hear this, of all the important work I learned and committed myself to, the greatest work was the work done in me. My ability to hold up the mirror has been expanded. My capacity to understand the impact of caregiving on my life, and how losing my mother and father has shaped me played a role in my ability to help others.

I will continue to emphasize the importance of preparation and personal work as a key to living well. Living well from the inside out doesn't mean a life without problems or suffering; it does mean intentionality about tending to the heart, emotions, mind methods of processing life. For me spirituality and finding meaning and purpose through the process has been crucial to adjusting and readjusting.

I've been learning how much there is for community to learn about chaplains. So little of what I do is praying with people. It represents less than 2%. Our training is built on psychological theory and theological practice (based on our own spiritual beliefs). While I am a Christian, professional chaplains represent all faiths and traditions. Some of the dearest people I've met came into the program with there on Master's of Theology in their own practices of expertise (i.e. Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist etc.) My particular area of expertise is interdenominational. I always wondered how my exposure to Catholocism, Baptist, Methodist, Pentocostal and Non-denominational could serve me. Now I see it was all for a reason. I've been trained to know and understand I don't have to choose. I integrate. As chaplains we have also been trained interfaith. We also build relationships throughout the community to support the religious needs and practices of families and individuals of different faiths.

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