Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Master of Chaplaincy Studies by Rev. Akers


ULC Seminary Chaplaincy Course – KaZ Akers

What It Means to Be a Chaplain
In the last year it has become very evident to me what it means to be a chaplain, especially in the hospital setting.
I had to rush a dear friend by ambulance because the blood thinning medication he was taking had thinned his blood to such an extent that he was bleeding out through his skin.
When I found him at home, he was nearly unconscious and had fallen in his bathroom   He couldn't focus and struggled to fight what was happening to him.
At that very moment it seemed like the world slowed down.  I was extremely calm and knew exactly what to do.  While keeping him quiet, I called 911 and spoke to them making sure they knew his vitals and exactly where he was located.   I gathered together all his medicines and clothes, and his cell phone then called his out-of-town family.  Everything was effortless.  I was guided moment by moment by God.  I knew exactly what to do and when to do it. I knew exactly what to say and how to say it. 
Once the paramedics arrived I answered their questions while they worked on my friend.  There was no anxiety, and no panic. I knew he was divinely protected.  I followed the ambulance to the hospital got him admitted to surgery then went about the task of informing his pastor and his friends. 
I visited him almost every day in intensive care.  Critically ill people surrounded him in the ward.  I would enter the ward with a kind of reverence I never knew.  Honoring each person and where they were in their life journey.  Honoring the families in their suffering and worry.  Knowing that I had the ability to be there for them and be strong and supportive.
Of course, I was worried about my friend, but not once did I feel like crying.  I surprised myself that I stayed very present.  I KNEW there was a Divine process occurring.  Something completely out of anyone's control.
In the ICU I was comfortable and knew I belonged there.  My conversations with my friend's doctors and nurses were comforting for my friend. I could be there for him in a loving, supportive way and also be there for him when he needed me as a liaison to the medical staff - expressing his needs and desires when he could not. 
When he needed prayer, I was there.  When he needed a drink of water, I was there.  When he needed a joke or a story or someone to read his email, I was there.    For three weeks I held a type of vigil for my friend.  And made sure each time I stepped in to the hospital that I had a smile, a kind word and a positive outlook for anyone whom I encountered.
I stayed available sometimes in an obvious way and sometimes in a very neutral way.  It all ebbed and flowed depending on the day, the situation, the people around and my friend's health status. 
If I could express it as a freeing feeling to be available to ANYONE there for his or her spiritual unfoldment, that may be the most accurate description I can impart to anyone.
Being in a chaplaincy position is to release the ego and be a conduit for the ailing and their families to access their Divine connection and be at peace in their Divine journey. To know when to step forward and when to step back and to anticipate the needs of the patient and the family at the right time, in the right way.  To remain in the background as a touchstone when necessary, all the while being there the moment you are called upon to serve.
On an even more personal note, my father has been in and out of UCLA Medical Center for two brain surgery procedures.  Of course, this has been extremely stressful for him and for my mother and my sister.  It became very obvious to me what my role needed to be in this scenario.  I needed to be at peace at all times.  I needed for nothing to be too much to ask and for me to be the voice of reason when family members could not.  I ascertained when I needed to speak up either to the medical staff or my family and when I needed to be still. 
First and foremost, I needed to be available to my father without a single thought for myself.  That came easily and effortlessly.  It was a revelation. I transcended myself and put myself in a position of complete service. 
The Medical Center has a beautiful interdenominational chapel and I would go down at least once and day and pray and meditate.  At one point my father asked me where I was going and I told him that I was going to the chapel.  "Are you going to pray for me?"  He asked.  "If you want me to, I will."  "Yes, I need all the help I can get." 
So even in that way, not being in his room or in his presence, he called upon me to help him.    And THAT is one of the most profound things about chaplaincy.  Whether you are in a patient's presence or not, they feel your support.  They know you are a loving, caring component in their recovery, convalescence, or transition.
Knowing when to be present and when to make your presence known even if it is simply at a distance is the delicate but very vital calling for a chaplain. 
The relief I see in patient's eyes when someone is there supporting them, is a gift and a blessings. 
When you stand in the knowledge that you are being of ultimate service to people by supporting their spiritual needs is sometimes all that is needed.
It has shown me that I have a strength I never really knew I had.  And that God is with me at all times showing me the way.  Filling me with peace and that peace I can pass on whenever it is needed.

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