Recently, I began volunteering as a chaplain at UCSF Medical Center in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. It is a difficult job and yet rewarding as well. My first day felt very nostalgic because I hadn’t been inside that hospital since I was a chaplain intern in the Clinical Pastoral Education program 7 years ago. I instantly remembered how insecure and awkward I felt as I met with patients. As a chaplain, we were required to meet every patient on our assigned floors at least once. You quickly learn that each patient is different; each day is different; and each interaction is different. Like Forrest Gump, I often felt that meeting patients was like a box of chocolates — “never know what you’re going to get.”
Because every patient interaction is different, it was crucial that I found ways to stay centered, aware, and ready. As a chaplain, I expected to encounter moments of grief, fear, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, confidence, hope, and even joy. What I learned was that the most valuable tool a chaplain can have is the ability of being prophetic. Now, I’m not talking about the ability to look into the future and predict any outcomes. I’m talking about the ability to speak truth or to act in truth. I’m talking about a prophetic box of chocolates — you never know what truth is going to reveal itself in a conversation, an encounter, or in a brief moment. This may manifest when a grieving family needs more time with a patient and you ensure that the staff will give them that time and space. This may manifest in the moments of talking with a dying patient who appears to be fine, but in reality they are scared and you give them the courage to name their fears. Or this may manifest when a patient can’t convey their needs and you may have to advocate for them.
The reality is we all have moments and opportunities that call us to be prophetic, to speak truth. The fear is how do we know what “truth” to speak – a fear that would paralyze me as a chaplain. However it was always amazing that when I wasn’t trying too hard and trusted the Holy Spirit, my presence alone was enough. The ability to trust my intuition, trust my gut, trust in the gifts that God has given me provided all I needed no matter what box of chocolates I was given.
I have been preparing to attend the 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis on the week of July 4-10. As a minister commissioner, I will be listening to the prophetic ways that the Holy Spirit will guide me as I discern and pray over how I will vote on the many overtures before this assembly. And if I am elected and confirmed as Vice Moderator to the 219th General Assembly, I will be letting my conscience guide me in moderating fairly yet truthfully.
Trusting the Holy Spirit, trusting ourselves, and allowing God to use us in prophetic ways is not an easy task. However, it is a part of our calling as Christians, as believers, and as disciples. How at St. John’s are we a prophetic witness in our community? This is a question we are constantly asking as we strive to be a welcoming, relevant, and vibrant faith community. We may not always know what life will throw at us, but we can rest in the assurance that God will guide us as we discover God’s truth.