Entry #20: No FRIENDLY Fire, please!
“To be or not to be, that is the, (hospital chaplains) question, from the Shakespeare’s Hamlet’s play (1601). It’s that moment where, the value of life and asking oneself whether it's worthwhile hanging in there. For myself, being trained to provide pastoral/spiritual care through the lens of Interfaith was quite difficult at 1st. I felt that I was being attacked, challenged, and corrected for my Apostolic faith tradition, which made me want to fight back. In one of my previous blogs, “Entry 2: Becoming A RareFit (2020)!” I shared about the moment that I was told that I had to take the Cross off the wall in the Chapel when I do Interfaith services. I couldn’t believe that I was even being asked to do something like that, crazy. I even said, that I won’t, because you are trying to make every other faith tradition comfortable, but mine.
I’m a Christian who very much believes in the Old Rugged Cross faced with Interfaith services and pastoral care visits different from my own beliefs. As chaplain’s one of our educational requirements was to provide Interfaith services for the hospital. Services were held weekly for various faith traditions and the interfaith services were designed to be more inclusive and have a broader outreach of spiritual care. Our services were held in the hospital chapel, but they were also broadcasted all over the hospital and in patient rooms as a media means of providing spiritual support and care. Hints because of Interfaith, I entered the land of another type of friendly fire. Friendly fire can take on many different meanings and looks when feeling pastorally attacked.
The military term, “friendly fire,” is defined as, “the firing of weapons from one's own forces or those of an ally especially when resulting in the accidental death or injury of one's own personnel,” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1918). Being female, a different race than the majority or a different denomination also, different than the majority shouldn’t be a reason for a hospital chaplain intern or resident should experience friendly fire. As a result of one’s convictions or different religious doctrine or beliefs. It can happen at any time during the program while we are getting to know our instructors, our classmates, and our peers. Oh, so very subtle as we are growing in pastoral care chaplaincy, if we are not careful you could be doing it, too. Unconsciously being bias and/or having a judgmental view can rear its ugly head if you are not careful or discerning.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment
ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete,
it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the
mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam
that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7: 1-3, KJV)
Having spiritual manners and etiquette is very important for all aspects of pastoral care leadership, relationships, and ministering aspect when serving others. This aspect of servant leadership in chaplaincy can be based from a perspective of one’s character and integrity. Being able to honor and respect someone who is different from you is extremely important to ministering effectively. Effective pastoral/spiritual care takes great effort to becoming and/or understand the importance of Interfaith. To be understood, one must be willing to understand. What I grew to understand as I was being taught about others religious beliefs it actually helped me to become more sensitive and open to wanting to compassionately be able to relate to someone who was from various beliefs and faith transitions. Believe me I have encountered some that caused me great concern for the individuals, but that wasn’t my role to address them during our patient interaction and visits.
Developing a whole new patient care world view from a place of love, empathy and compassion meant that I would have to learn how to reach them. I began to work harder at learning about some aspects of other religious preferences and what might be important to them in their own denominational affiliations or even having none, still should receive pastoral care in excellence. So that’s the goal, to provide the best spiritual care that one can. The pastoral care classes, clinicals, and services that we were required to provide to the patients, their families, and staff should be focused on providing pastoral presence and patient comfort, period. That is some of the skills that are needed to assist in being able to seek a patient’s connection and/or understanding of someone who is sick, injured, and/or possibly dying. Here is a great refences book resource that could help provide one with a quick overview of denominational protocols and what could be important to the different patients and families that one serves. The book entitled, “How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook (2015).
I value the treasured moments when God’s presence has enabled me to discern when and how to provide peace, comfort, presence, and/or prayer when it is welcomed. And to also, know when it is not welcomed and how to conduct myself accordingly. This was what my 8 years of hospital chaplaincy has been about, providing spiritual support. Growing in the ability to be able to provide non-judgmental patient care is a true heart of the chaplains calling. Remember that your faith tradition is your own faith tradition, and so is theirs, their faith traditions. So, respect their perspective and beliefs when providing pastoral care and when interacting with other diverse peer chaplains. May we each one prayerfully effectively reach one as one serves!
Here’s a sneak preview, “The Perfect Stranger!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing call!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
Friendly Fire (1918) Retrieved on May 24, 2021 from https://www.merriam-
How to Be a Perfect Stranger 6th Edition (2015) Retrieved on May 25, 2021
Muniz, H. (2019). Retrieved on May 24, 2021 from (Act 3, Scene 1, line 35, 1601)