The Pagan Community Is Preparing To Aid Members In Health Care Facilities

On March 8, I addressed the lack of trained Pagan clergy who could meet the needs of community members in health care facilities. “The Pagan Community Isn’t Ready to Aid Members In Health Care Facilities”. Motivated by this need, I networked with Pagan clergy, writers, counselors, and professors to start the Pagan Health Care Resource Team. Our goal is to create an open health resource for Pagans and helping professions regarding the needs of Pagan clients. We are still deciding what online format to use for the final public release. Currently we have a Google group. Once things get going again I’ll include more information about who is involved and how other Pagan professional health care providers and clergy can participate.

Since people are still commenting on the original post, I wanted to highlight their concerns and advice on the Staff of Asclepius front page.

kadiera, on March 8th, 2011

About a decade ago, we were part of a project (which fell through) to take some information to local hospitals, including local people they could contact if asked. The project got started because of a friend’s life-threatening illness; the chaplain at her hospital asked if there was someone they could call, and when she explained her faith, the chaplains were unhappy that they had no one in their files to call for her.

Our goal was not necessarily people with training, but Priests & Priestesses willing to show up and learn what they needed to know on the fly. In the aftermath of that experience, I acquired a number of books written for Christian ministers on how to handle hospital situations. They were informative, but I think I need to go back and read again, with our own hospital experience in mind.

One of the only hospitals to get info from that failed project is actually my son’s “home” hospital. We had limited contact with the chaplains during our various stays, though they all knew him during his extended stay, largely because we knew that if we asked….my name was the name they’d find as someone to call for us. And that’s not terribly helpful, you know?

A Pagan friend is one of the volunteers that holds babies in the NICU there, and she talks with the chaplains regularly. She says they’re very nice, and at least open to discussion. Most at this private hospital appear to be Catholic nuns, and at least one of them is familiar with Reiki.

I’ve been contemplating that during our next stay (a planned 2-day admissing to the PICU in late April for trach removal) that maybe I’ll ask for one of the chaplains to come chat for a while, because I’d like to write about our experiences with them, but mostly we’ve brushed them off. Too much of our longest stay was a balancing act between following our faith and not pushing away staff that we needed to keep our son alive and it’s one of the few things about that situation that I wish we’d handled differently.

MaryBeth, on March 13th, 2011

This happened to me, and I had contacted the local clergy and asked for visitation or even a phone call… I got NOTHING not even an email back.

VERY sad statement of lack of caring?

It was the COG in Minneapolis I contacted…. I was in the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Mn

Willow Darkwater, on March 13th, 2011

I have over 20yrs in the Wiccan religion. By Gardnerian rule, that gives High Priesthood ( at 20 yr. mark). As Wiccans we have more than a religion, we also recognize budding talents after a few years of practice and worship, that continue to grow as we do in the religion and the lifestyle. There was cluster of things going on with me as a Wiccan Priest: my sixth sense was developing in an empathic, clairsentient way and i was studying the Tarot in depth. i was also developing as a very soothing spirit; more and more friends were calling me in the night looking for a shoulder to cry on and an understanding ear. Maybe a reading, or something standing out significantly to me as an empath and sensative, usually something more intuitive than from an oracle. Then as i hit the twenty year mark and gained my high priest status i shrugged it off and was humble, then I realized, “No, i have earned this title and i will embrace it”–since then i have transitioned two human spirits and one other. I offer spiritual advising and cleansings, ridding of attachments (exorcisms), tarot readings for a flat rat not by the minute, and any other service i would feel comfortable doing. The point is this: any beginner is going to be probably willing to help, but not far enough into the religion, elements, correspondences, and the life and the gifts that come with devoted servitude to be able to help a hospital or hospice patient with anything spiritual, they are babes, and we dont send out or children to do the big jobs we let them get comfortable with budding talents, the circle, the formalities and the work their way into priests, high Priests, shaman,healers, psychics, alchemists, therapists, advisors, apothecarists and whatever else their pantheon bestowes upon them. Is the pagan community asa whole ready for this work, no, but not complete religious group is, thats like saying are all Jews ready for thin of work or any religion, come now , lets play realistically and stop putting the witches under the proverbial microscope.

Jenny Sill-Holeman, on March 22nd, 2011

Although I read this blog and its comments when it was first drawn to my attention soon after it was posted, I’m just now getting a chance to reply. I am Pagan with 25 years in my tradition. But for additional reasons I think I may be one of the few who is qualified to minister to Pagans in hospital or hospice.

I have had a year of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) as a Chaplain Resident at my local hospital (which is Catholic owned, by Catholic Healthcare West – CHW) and spent 5+ years as a hospice chaplain before leaving to develop my holistic healing practice (among other things I’m a Certified Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master/Teacher, with a focus on clients with chronic and life-threatening illnesses). I have not gone through the process to become a certified chaplain (although I’m qualified to do so) because, frankly, the certification program from the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), the primary certifying body, is quite biased towards followers of religions with accredited seminaries, and obviously there aren’t many of those in the Pagan world.

The best training someone can possibly get to be a chaplain is to take 4 units of CPE. Most programs are a year in length for full-time residency, although there are some that are considered extended programs and are half-time. Most of them pay a little bit. It takes time and commitment, but anyone who is seriously interested in doing Pagan clergy work should take the time for a CPE program.

In my experience chaplains in both hospitals and hospices are very open to learning more about what it means to be Pagan and how to minister to Pagans. I have given talks to both the chaplain residents at the hospital where I did my CPE training and to the CHW chaplains in the Northern California area about ministering to Pagans. All have been quite receptive, so if any Pagan would like spiritual support they should not hesitate to contact their hospital or hospice chaplain.

Regarding the question as to whether someone who is not trained can come into a hospital to minister to someone there, at least in California any patient can invite anyone to visit them (within the rules of the hospital, of course — there are sometimes time limitations for visits with patients in ICU, for example, and special precautions need to be followed when visiting anyone with a communicable disease like TB).

It’s rare that you can just drop in to a hospital and ask to see any Pagan patients, and that’s for the protection of the patients. There was a case in San Francisco a few years ago of someone wandering around the units telling patients that if they didn’t believe in that person’s particular brand of Christianity they were going to go to Hell — which apparently was described to the patients in excruciating detail.

I hope that gives some more background on Pagan clinical chaplaincy. I’m open to answering any questions anyone might have. I live in California, in the middle of the San Francisco Peninsula, half-way between San Francisco and San Jose, so I can support virtually any Pagan in the central Bay Area, or anyone who would like to visit a Pagan patient.

Khalila RedBird June 26, 2011
I, too, am a Pagan priestess with a year of Clinical Pastoral Education under my belt, followed by a year on staff as chaplain. I am working on a Master of Divinity at Cherry Hill Seminary, on my way to applying to the Association of Professional Chaplains for board certification. I serve in our local hospital as a volunteer and on-call interfaith chaplain. Jenny Sill-Holeman is correct in asserting CPE is the best training for hospital ministry and chaplaincy. It is demanding and rigorous — and the full year (full time) or equivalent commitment is a lot more than most of our clergy can undertake. One unit of CPE would be an excellent basic qualification, and many divinity schools require just that.
Any hospital that lets random clergy of any faith come in to visit just any old patient of that faith is opening itself up to major violations of patient confidentiality and sanctions under HIPAA. What I have seen work is when a clergy of a particular minority religion — such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Muslims — work with the hospital’s chaplaincy director and establish both their ability to serve in hospital situations among patients of their own faith and their willingness to appear at the hospital on a regular basis (i.e., weekly) to visit such patients, then the chaplaincy may provide a list of patients known to be of that faith.
On a less regular but working basis, Pagan clergy should take it upon themselves to learn how to minister to people in crisis and, at the same time, become acquainted with the chaplaincy at their local hospitals. Ask to be put on “the list” to be called if a patient requests Pagan clergy. Acquire whatever ID (and possibly parking privileges) that clergy of any other religion can acquire. Find out the needs. Make friends. Play by the hospital rules.
And those clergy who are interested in chaplaincy, please check out our new FaceBook page, Pagan Chaplains of the USA.
Blessed Be

You can visit the Pagan Chaplains of the USA Facebook page here.

I’m grateful to see the community opening up to dialog about the need for professional Pagan clergy. (Which includes professional priests and priestesses as well and other tradition’s designations.) One example is Etain Butterfly’s essay on visiting Pagans in the hospital for the Witches’ Voice. Clergy and ministry training in the US continues to expand. Earth Traditions provides spiritual counseling, hospital and prison chaplaincies and training for Pagan Clergy interested in becoming involved in these types of ministries. www.earthtraditions.org/ Cherry Hill Seminary offers distance education for professional Pagan ministry. www.cherryhillseminary.org

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog. She's also a new author and editor with Megalithica Books. If you would like to be notified when Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness will be available please email her at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com Donations for the blog can also be sent through PayPal to the same email.


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