A couple months ago, I thought about going back to school. A seminary is offering a D.Min. with a focus on the pastoral theology writings of Eugene Peterson. (I’ve mentioned him before and before and before on prayer and especially before mentioning a video with Eugene and Bono.)
I didn’t think about the degree program for very long. As I complete my first five years as a chaplain on Monday, I’m aware that I don’t need to add to my work, I need to focus. But as I was thinking through the degree, I did pose a research area that would have guided my studies. And, the truth is, this is my study, just not in a formal way.
Here’s how I drafted it:
I am curious about the implication of the cure of souls while working in a place that struggles with the cure of bodies. In the past five years, I’ve been with families and patients at or after death a few hundred times. (At our hospital, we’re the ones who ask about funeral home selection, among other things). And during the past few months, my colleagues and I have walked through that process more than ever. Our parish is the people who work with intensive care and death.
As chaplains, we are weary and committed. We need help as we are helping. And yet, I’m not sure we need more understanding of the process of death or more effective ways to speak to grieving people or five easy steps to help the nurse who held the ipad while the wife watched her husband die.
We don’t need to know more about where God is in suffering. But we do need to reflect more on who God is in suffering.
I think that there is a pastoral imagination question here, that can expand the pastoral part of pastoral care in our current situation. And that can reflect on how to help pastors resume pastoral care in the hospital setting when that becomes possible again.
This is part of what will be guiding my next five years.