Entry #12: This is my STORY!
Updated: Nov 6
Sadly, as much as I want to provide excellent pastoral/spiritual care to all that need it. Within my starry-eyed dreams of pursuing clinical chaplaincy I never pictured the realities of encountering racial, gender, denominational prejudices, and/or bias. I learned this the hard way that it didn’t skip pastoral/spiritual care for female clergy at all. This is my story and account of a lesson that I learned and faced early during my 1st hospital chaplaincy (volunteer) honeymoon year. I hadn’t learned about Clinical Pastoral Care Education (CPE) programs or board certification, yet. I had served as a volunteer hospital chaplain before I was accepted in a CPE program for three years prior. Interesting fact, the pastoral Good Old Boys Club is still a thing to be reckoned with.
There have been many that were comfortable and accepting of my pastoral presence and then there were some that were grudgingly tolerated of my pastoral presence. Whether the pastoral conflict came from a disgruntle male patient or another pastoral female annoyed, that I had asked her to wait outside the room while I checked with the patient to get permission to allow her to come in. It challenged my naïve belief of acceptance in pastoral leadership. I have personally experienced both encounters during my seven years serving as a hospital chaplain. One must know with surety that the Lord called you on this journey of service. One can endure some unexplainable hardships that goes along with spiritually growing in the ministry of hospital chaplaincy and/or mastering the skill of trauma stewardship can be extremely tough. It personally challenged and tested my pastoral authority to the very core of myself, but now looking back, it was totally necessary and worth it and I would absolutely do it again!
How does one develop a non-judgmental heart of service? How does one show empathy and compassion to individuals that may not be so welcoming, nice, or even just plain difficult, rude and/or disrespectful because of their circumstances or up bringing. In spite of this, one still must be able to sincerely provide them with spiritual care if they will allow it. I remember having a patient visit with an older senior African America couple. The male was the patient and he and his wife were sitting in chairs in the patient’s room. I entered the room greeted them and introduced myself, Hello, I’m Chaplain Pressey, the chaplain on-call today, how may I help you? His wife was reading the newspaper and he was sitting in the chair next to his hospital bed. He stated sharply, you can’t, I don’t believe in know female clergy, priest, or whatever you are. I need a male, priest, angrily. When he said this, his wife dropped her newspaper and looked at me to see how I was going to respond.
Of course, I was a bit shocked, I took a moment to think about how to respond. And then I said, well I am the only one on-call today, but let me see if I can find a male priest to see you today. I’m assuming a Catholic priest, correct. He said, correct. Have a good afternoon, and I’ll stop back by to let you know if I’m able to find you a priest. I started walking out the door and his wife got up and followed me out the door. She closed the door behind her and said to me, I’m so sorry how he treated you and thank you for coming. Interestingly enough, she said absolutely nothing while her husband was speaking to me that way. I left and stopped by the Chapel to pray before I went to the chaplain office to find the list of clergy contacts in the area. Please note, I felt some type of way about the way he spoke to me and treated me. So, I had to forgive him before I could start helping him. After only about three phone calls, I was able to find a Caucasian male priest to come into see the patient in about 2 hours from a community parish. I said yes please come, but when I hung up the phone, I thought for a second, what if he was also prejudice about race, too? In spite of my hesitancy, I went to inform the patient that a male priest would be coming to see him in about 2 hours. I never mentioned that he was Caucasian. I left that day after I had made the arrangements for the priest visit.
Being offended by a patient from your own race for the 1st time was an interesting hurtful encounter. I just assumed that patients would be extremely grateful for chaplain services, but this wasn’t the case here. He seemed angrily offended at my very presence from the start and appalled that I would even attempt trying to provide him with pastoral care. That really surprised me. I had to regroup before I said anything because I thought in my mind for a second, he must not be sick enough since he was so mean. Believe me I had to repent for that thought. There are periods of learning that takes place where one must endure/face situations like these so that one will learn how to serve in a non-judgmental manner. One learns to not take it so personal, hurting people hurt people, and intimacy in trauma can sometime cause some to become embarrassed and defensive about having to be vulnerable and transparent to a stranger (chaplain).
But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5: 44, KJV).
As humans we all face challenges that can push one out of our character, for the female clergy we must still strive to serve, love, & continue to provide non-judgmental pastoral/spiritual care to others even if it seems at 1st sight, they may not even deserve it at 1st glance. We must remember that we are still human beings fulfilling a spiritual service/calling. In growing in providing pastoral care one must learn to pray, seeking fellowship and/or counsel from other chaplains to vent and release painful encounters, if necessary. And then remember that we can’t allow our flesh or emotions to lead us when we have been wrongly treated. Our spiritual calling must be greater than that moment because we are living, breathing peacemakers!
Here’s a sneak preview, “Peek a Boo, I see You!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing Call!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your
work with becoming extraordinary, through pursuing EXCELLENCE!