Chaplains comprise approximately 10% of the Covenant Ministerium, serving in diverse institutional contexts from hospitals to corporate offices. In the upcoming issue of the Covenant Quarterly, due for publication November 30, 2015, four Covenant chaplains offer theological reflection on their ministry, with relevance for all pastoral caregivers. The issue features articles from Robert L. Hubbard, Tim Fretheim, Joel Jueckstock, and Kyle Vlach. An additional piece from author & editor Amy Simpson considers the church’s role in caring for families suffering from mental illness. Here’s a sneak peek.
Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (PhD, Clarmont Graduate School) is emeritus professor of biblical literature at North Park Theological Seminary. Ordained by the Evangelical Free Church of America, Hubbard served four years active duty as a U.S. Navy chaplain, including a tour in Vietnam, followed by twenty-six years in the Naval Reserve. He and his wife Pam live in Denver, Colorado, are the parents of two grown sons, and have one grandson.
“Further, the incarnation reminds us that we must be people living in genuine communion with God. To represent God to humans (and humans to God, too) we must intimately know God. Through that relationship, cultivated by worship, Scripture, and prayer, our understanding of who God is grows. It’s the only way that we, like angels and prophets, can be on intimate terms with God….A chaplain’s representing the living God effectively – demonstrating God’s love and mercy, or speaking or acting on God’s behalf – requires an ongoing relationship with our Lord that profoundly shapes our outlook, our attitudes, and our very personhood.”
Tim Fretheim has served for twenty-three years as chaplain at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital of Vancouver, British Columbia. Prior to chaplaincy ministry, he served for fifteen years as a Covenant minister in various capacities, including parish minister, church planter (whose plant only grew two feet tall), and Teamster (in good standing!). He and his wife Marcia, a spiritual director, live in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, and have three adult children.
“The challenge for chaplains is to learn how to reach out to people that have delusions with religious content, both in the hospital and in the community. These persons can be behaviorally difficult and disruptive. They may require a great deal of time from the pastor. A congregation might be apprehensive and fearful about such a person. Thoughtful preparation will need to be given to ministering to a person with these needs. But the studies mentioned above indicate that positive spiritual coping benefited these people, allowing them to live a richer life.”
Amy Simpson is the award-winning author of Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry and Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (both InterVarsity Press). She’s also a personal and professional coach, senior editor of Leadership Journal, and a frequent speaker. You can find her at AmySimpsonOnline.com and on Twitter @aresimpson.
“Individuals and families affected by mental illness need help and support. They routinely find themselves on their own in the dark, unsure of how to get the help they need. Many often find themselves in crisis, and when they do reach out for help, they run into stigma and fear that alienate others from getting involved. Many people believe there is nothing churches can do to help. They are wrong.”
Joel Jueckstock (MDiv, Bethel Seminary) is a Covenant pastor serving as supervisor of Spiritual Care Maple Grove Hospital and adjunct professor at Bethel Seminary while in the final stages of doctoral work at Luther Seminary. Joel and his family live in St. Paul, Minnesota, and worship at Salem Covenant Church.
Kyle Vlach (MDiv, Bethel Seminary) is a Covenant pastor, licensed marriage and family therapist, chaplain, and Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor at United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter and is a member of First Covenant Church.
“Effective pastoral care requires that the caregiver recognize not only the priority of divine agency but also one’s own agency, seeking to align oneself with God’s work. The task of reimagining a ministry of active presence is not necessarily concerned with the ‘what’ of incarnational ministry but with the ‘how,’ specifically the ways in which the pastor’s agency can be best aligned with God….If the pastor is without a sense of agency, self-awareness, and capacities for ministry, her potential will not be fully actualized. Pastors may better partner with the ministry of the Triune God through increased awareness of the self in ministry.”