Our time for the summer unit of CPE ended a week ago at the Regional Trauma Center in “Amish Country.” A time for us to wrap up our reflections ( though mine are still resonating). Time for contemplating this context of ministry which is in a city(though arguably not a New York or even Philly-sized) which serves a county of a half a million, plus a neighboring area. Where our diversity includes not only several racial or ethnic groups, but a distinct religious sector, the Plain Sect faiths. A place where many may see the county as one way, the days of old, in spite of the rapid, burgeoning growth in divergent paths. In the past, most towns could count a traffic light or two, but now bypasses, sprawl and transience are phenomena of the last fifteen years. Where the trauma bays is far more frequently in use than ever before. Here are some random thoughts from the group.
One of my team mates brought up how the ER staff treats people who are intoxicated- the “drunks” – and how he found himself buying into their vibe and banter even when he felt he should not. It is easy to understand- the staff have seen lots of pain and crisis when people drink and drive. It is hard to have to clean up a person who chose this path. My peer stayed and joined in. And I thought of that fire in the courtyard with Peter and the others- denying Christ. What you do to others, you do to me. What about those it is hard to love? We talked about how easy it is to see Jesus’ ministry and our calling to carry it out, in a sanitized movie-set way. The truth is that the ER and much of the work we do here on the eight floors is a very real composite of the demoniacs, lepers, drunkards, gluttons, prostitutes, blind, lame.. these are not people somewhere else, but here in our midst and we are called to minister to all of them.
And while much of our work is valued at the time, who knows for whom the message is a fleeting glimpse. Some may see their crisis as the catalyst for a quest, while others know they can or will not, and some will outright reject. Our sharing centered around remembering that Jesus was not only loved and adored, but rejected with a cry to “Crucify!” One of the struggles for some has been wondering how their work will bear fruit, who cannot see their presence at the moment as sufficient, a single step in a much longer journey. Sometimes our work is done in very visible ways, and at other times when perhaps only God knows we have been present. Some wrestle with not having an affirmation of their care. Others struggle with knowing that they see a person leave who is going right back into the crucible that sent them here. And I think of the rich man who walked away, those who were healed who never said thanks. And those who do the things they do not want to do, and cannot do the things they know they want to.
For myself, I know that what I have gleaned here can, and will hopefully, carry over into ministry and relationships in a variety of circumstances and contexts. But I also know that the immediacy of this care in this context, where I am Spirit led and sent into roles I could not imagine, to be in liminal moments where I am in awe of God’s presence, demonstrating compassion to those it is easy to forget, is an experience I am drawn to. Times where mere words seem insufficient. While my peers wrapped up their unit and moved on, I am continuing as an on-call chaplain while I return for my second year in seminary, with a new ID, and new discerning to do. When I began my process of discernment, I assumed I would be ruling things out that did not seem like my ministry. Instead I have found that I am ruling things “in” which I think means that I am becoming more a person open to the Spirit’s leading, and less a person who wants to tell God how I think it ought to be. I am energized to see where the long and winding road will take me next and who my fellow travelers will be.