What about our spiritual health? Methodist chaplains are on it.
A conversation with the Rev. Caesar Rentie
Vice President of Pastoral Services
Methodist Health System
Methodist Health System, as the name implies, has its roots in the United Methodist Church. The idea for the first Methodist hospital, in fact, came out of a Sunday school class nearly a century ago. So Methodist’s healing mission is the direct result of its founders’ faith.
These days, the chaplains at Methodist hospitals are busy assuaging the fears and anxieties of our staff, our patients, and the community as we all endure the COVID-19 pandemic. You could say that the need for pastoral care is in overdrive.
We spoke to the Rev. Caesar Rentie, vice president of pastoral services, about how his staff is applying their talents to help the rest of us keep calm and keep the faith. An excerpt of that conversation follows.
What kinds of responses are you seeing to the pandemic?
People are anxious because it’s a moving target, and it’s on everybody’s radar screen. Some people go into denial and want to act like nothing’s wrong even as the house is on fire. The other coping mechanism is wanting to get as much information as possible and then imagining the worst doomsday scenario, which is just the opposite of putting your head in the sand.
The response in the middle is to look at the data, see what it’s presenting, and then start to work with that. What I would say to someone in this situation is this: 1. Go to credible places where you can get the information. Pay attention to where we are in the moment, gather the data, and then respond to it with the expertise that we have. 2. Realize that this is an opportunity to learn. There are some people who are producing best practices. We have the opportunity to learn from them and produce the same results.
How do you judge credible sources of information?
World organizations and national organizations, like WHO [the World Health Organization] and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] are good places to go because they don’t have political leanings; they’re just putting out the data. Our hospitals are also good organizations for information because they want to take care of the community. County health organizations, too, are looking at information in an unbiased way. You look at organizations that have a long history of laying the data out there and telling the truth.
What are Methodist chaplains doing to support healthcare workers?
We know that we have to pay attention to our staff right now because they’re under a lot of stress. The fear is exposure, because if you’re exposed you’re going to be quarantined and taken away from the front line. One of the things we’ve done is put out a daily devotional around the COVID-19 virus and sending it out to speak to the spiritual, emotional, existential part of who we are as human beings. That’s really the role of the chaplain: to move us out of our primitive brain of bouncing off the walls to a more reflective place so we can act with reason.
Can you share one of the devotionals with us?
Here’s one I put out recently.
In light of the stress we are experiencing as a community as we confront COVID-19, I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. words:
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
Thus my hope as we live through this pandemic is that we remember we are not alone in our sufferings because we are tied together in a single garment of love.
If you’re looking for an organization that is committed to the highest standards of care and considers healing to be a ministry of love, take a look at Methodist Health System. Visit us at Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.
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