Trinity's Director of Outreach, Rod Nash, spent most of Summer 2016 on leave, participating in a Clinical Pastoral Education internship at St. Joseph's Hospital. Here, Rod offers us a reflection of his experience.
For 11 weeks this summer, from early June to mid-August, I served as a Chaplain Intern at St. Joseph's Hospital here in Tacoma. I was part of a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) class alongside five other Chaplain Interns from all over the country. Together, with the guidance of our supervisor, we processed our collective and individual experiences serving as hospital chaplains. The 11 weeks were, as you might imagine, intense, challenging and tiring, as well as encouraging, eye-opening, and personally revealing about my own growing sense of pastoral identity.
I met daily with patients and their families. In those meetings I encountered people dealing with everything you can imagine - from emergencies to minor surgeries, to imminent death, and even death itself. I talked and prayed with people in those challenging places, and accompanying patients and families in their questions and their grief and their grasp for hope. I participated in more sacred spaces and conversations than I could possibly recall, and felt immensely privileged to be there for them.
The hospital is an especially vulnerable place. For many people, it is a place that brings up the greatest human fears; those of pain, loss, suffering, and death. Being a patient puts immense stress on individuals and their relationships. While I saw many people struggling mightily in the face of their fears, I also saw inspiring resilience, courage, and faith. This dynamic of vulnerability produced deep, rich conversations and connections with people throughout my entire summer experience.
One of my greatest takeaways from the summer was realizing the tendency that I have have to want to bring people out of the depth of whatever pain they may be facing. I deeply desire to give others hope and help them focus on the positive in their situation. However, in meeting with people day in and day out, I soon realized that what people need most in these situations is not someone who is going to try and make it all better (as if I could), but someone who is willing to accompany them in their darkness and to sit with them in the depth of their pain. Giving a voice to hope, especially the hope we have in Christ, is still vitally important, but I learned to allow the moments of verbally expressing that hope to come in their own time, usually after sitting with someone in their pain for a long while.
I'm very grateful to Trinity for allowing me the time off this summer to take part in this CPE experience, and and to the Olympia Presbytery for making it fiscally possible.