What You Can Expect From a Chaplain?
As you already know, the Penn Central Conference began a chaplaincy program for clergy and clergy families about four years ago, following the recommendation of the Strategic Planning Committee. The program's aim is to provide support for clergy and families as they navigate the myriad transitions that are often part of life. Transitions are often fraught with stress, discomfort, disorientation, and emotional upset. I know that a hospital chaplain made an enormous difference for me following cancer surgery several years ago.
So, what can you expect from a chaplain? First, a chaplain will maintain confidentiality. Relief from stress entails being free to share one's experience about a given situation and it is a comfort to know that what you share is held in confidence. A chaplain will do her best to listen to you and help explore awareness of your feelings, facilitate acceptance, expression and letting go of those feelings. The process helps in coming to peace about the issues a pastor or family may encounter.
Often chaplains are called upon during times of loss and grief. A chaplain may assist persons explore options and invite ways in which one's faith can be a source of comfort, peace and clarity during what can be a painful, confusing and difficult time. Chaplains may be able to give useful information and support as you weigh various options and make decisions. A chaplain does not make decisions for people they talk with but can help them find comfort. They do not aim to fix problems but to let you know that you are not alone and find the peace that passes human understanding that comes with knowing that God is with you.
Prayer, scripture and sacrament are expressions of our religious tradition and are shared by a chaplain. Our faith can help us to restore hope, peace and the rhythms of wholeness.
Scott M. Watts, MS, M.Div., LPC, NCC
Facilitator of Care to Clergy and Clergy Families