Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Edge of Glory

I spent last Friday at a ministry conference at the University of Chicago. It’s an annual event sponsored by the Divinity School. Lady GaGa fans will recognize this right away, this Chaplain was a bit slower off the mark, the title of the conference was Edge of Glory. For the postlude to the noon worship service the Sr. Organist for the University Organ, played… Lady GaGa’s “Edge of Glory.”
The conference was a mix of some very scary statistics from Duke's Mark
Chaves, Professor of Sociology and Religion about the shifting demographic trends in American religious affiliation away from institutional denominationlism, along with some truly awe-inspiring and innovative ministries which are responding to those scary shifts in the religious landscape; including the Rev Rick Hudgens, from Evanston, Il's Reba Place, Pastor Phil Jackson and Spiritual Transformation Through Hip Hop, Rev Nanet Sawyer from Chicago's Grace Commons and the Rev, Dr Shanta Premawardhana, President of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago..

I’d gone hoping to get some new information or insight which might improve my evidence based practice of ministry with our patients and their families and our Associates in the hospital where I work.

And, I know that I my time there was well spent and that my reflection on my work as a Chaplain in your midst has deepened. This, alone, will improve my practice. But, what I realized by the afternoon workshop I attended, led my an internationally known leader in the area of interdenominational and inter-faith cooperation in ministry, is that, perhaps, next year’s conference ought to feature the truly awe-inspiring and innovative ministry of anyone who works healthcare—Chaplain, nurse, doctor, counselor, tech, administrator, maintenance person, housekeeping person, medical imaging or lab tech… Any one of us.

For, the thing that unites persons who find sustenance and hope in an organized religious faith and those who would tell you that they are “spiritual but not religious” and those who claim atheist or agnostic or secular humanist or whatever is that when they walk through our doors they come as suffering sharers of our common humanity. They come to us our suffering brothers and sisters.

No matter what our role or discipline among the members of the multidiciplinary healthcare team, we are all committed to serve in our healthcare system with genuine respect, a joyful spirit and passionate caring. And, no matter what our role or discipline we share the common purpose of offering healing and wholeness and hope to any who come here. The word patient has its origin in the Greek, pathos, suffering. We share a common commitment to meet our patients, our suffering brothers and sisters, at the deepest point of our humanity—compassion. To understand this is to understand the central truth of the commonality of our human journey—the thing which unites those of diverse faith and no faith. The compassion you live in your daily life, and especially in your work, is service with ultimate genuine respect, spirit-filled joy, and with the deepest passion of caring. To work here with compassion, is to, literally, from the Latin, suffer with another. It is to feel for your patients, if we are to take seriously the ancient Hebrew scripture which unites the three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam— the same great swell of love and concern with a mother feels for her newborn baby.

So perhaps, standing on the Edge of Glory belting out the chorus to a Lady GaGa song is not such a bad idea in this place that gathers our sisters and brothers, sufferers of every sort, from this world of truly scary statistics:

I'm on the edge of glory, and I'm hanging on a moment of truth
Out on the edge of glory, and I'm hanging on a moment with you
I'm on the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge,
I'm on the edge of glory, and I'm hanging on a moment with you
I'm on the edge with you.
I'm on the edge with you
I'm on the edge with you
(You, you, you...)

 Let us come to prayer this week. Let us come with all that we are, all that we have, and in everything that we do. Let us bring our compassionate hearts before the throne of Glory, praying that we might bring them to anyone who comes to us in this place, this place on the edge of glory; praying that we might offer them to anyone hanging on in a moment, a moment of truth—of diagnosis or prognosis, of accident or circumstance, of worry or concern. Let our prayerful, compassion-filled hearts join this week with our suffering sisters and brothers singing: “I am standing on the edge of glory with you, hanging on, hanging on. I’m on the edge with you. I’m on the edge with you. I’m on the edge with you….”Amen.