My approach to pastoral care/spiritual guidance/counseling/ home and hospital visitation is inspired by Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Lament for a Son. In the book, he describes losing his adult son and the ways people would try and comfort him. The only way, he explains, is to be close, to sit on the mourning bench. That is my philosophy of pastoral and spiritual care, to get close, to be close and to journey with someone through whatever it is they are facing. It is not my responsibility to fix, to make the pain better, or to make it go away, and by recognizing that, it frees me to be fully present with someone. It creates a space to meet people where they are without expectation of where we are headed, or what’s expected and without judgement of emotion.
As part of formation, I took Clinical Pastoral Education at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As a CPE chaplain, we were responsible for regular twenty four hour shifts, emergency room shifts, and I had my floors, the Pediatric Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care, Labor and Delivery, and the Neonatal Unit. I learned early in this experience that as a chaplain working with people of all faiths, rarely did what I have to say matter. A prayer was helpful, but it was sitting together, being present, talking, maybe even laughing while someone was waiting for a procedure, or waiting for a loved one in surgery, it was just being present. That is what mattered. It is this intention I take into all pastoral and spiritual care moments. I am fully present with you at this moment whatever that looks like and means to you. I enjoy visiting and being with people for the good, the joyful, the painful, and the heartbreaking. My ministry calls me to be with people in all of these moments and it is my relationships with others that makes this work meaningful.
I’ve participated in a monthly Small Group Ministry group which Rev. Danielle has facilitated at the retirement community where I live, and it’s been a great pleasure. Rev. Danielle has a true gift for guiding us—enough structure and questions to make us comfortable yet spur our thinking (she knows what she’s doing and we are safe in her hands), and—best of all—the maturity to wait in patient silence as we ponder how, or if, we want to respond. I’ve felt heard and supported by her sensitive listening and appropriate responses.Elli Norris, UU church of Davis