Below is a story about the Concordia Chaplaincy Department, published in our February 2011 issue of Faith in Caring magazine. To be added to the mailing list or e-mail distribution list, e-mail us here or call the Concordia Public Relations Department at 724.352.1571, ext. 8266. Enjoy!
If the Concordia Mission Statement was a recipe, two essential ingredients would be 1) service to others and 2) a Christian environment. And while all caregivers at the organization help to carry out the mission, the foremost conduit for fostering that Christian environment is the Chaplaincy Department.
Since Concordia's humble beginnings in 1881, Christian faith was the cornerstone of the organization, with seven of the first 14 delegates being Lutheran pastors. While Concordia has changed significantly since then, the spiritual core remains intact.
"Our Christian faith has influenced this organization in every imaginable way," said Rev. Jack Hartman, Concordia chaplaincy director. "From major decisions to the type of care we provide at a basic human level, the goal is to allow the love of Christ to shine through our actions."
Today, the Chaplaincy Department consists of pastors, deaconesses and a number of other spiritual care team members including students. Concordia has played a vital role in the development of several deaconess interns. The goal for these individuals: to spread the Good Word.
Last year, the chaplaincy staff performed well over:
- 750+ worship services
- 800 Bible study/devotion sessions
- 5,000 room visits at Concordia locations
- Weekly patient visits at 16 different hospitals
This is all in addition to conducting 10 funerals, three weddings and four baptisms.
"The baptisms came at the requests of a few employees," Hartman said with a smile. "We take care of the whole Concordia family, which includes the staff."
A Friend and Adviser, Good Times and Bad
Ruth Frohn moved into a Concordia Haven Apartment with her husband John in 2002. The decision to relocate from their condo in Murrysville to Concordia came after John's health started to fail.
The couple had been to the Cabot campus a number of times for festivals and to visit friends, but the decision to stay for good was predicated on one huge factor: the Christian environment.
"I've always felt the presence of God here," she said. "It's wonderful to be around people who love and appreciate you? It's really like being with family."
A year later, John needed skilled nursing care.
"When John was in Lund, Pastor Hartman ministered to him, to us, every day," she said. "He would ask John about his new toys (he had a collection of walking, talking stuffed animals which are now on display in Ruth's apartment), or take him for ice cream at the snack shop."
Outside the Box
Concordia's growth and maturation has provided the Chaplaincy Department with opportunities to explore new ways of reaching people.
In March 2010, the Chaplaincy Department and Concordia Visiting Nurses (CVN) launched the In-Home Spiritual Care Program. Professional pastoral care visitations are offered to each CVN patient as a standard part of services.
Upon acceptance, the providing CVN staff member sends a referral to the Concordia Lutheran Ministries pastoral care team with the request for a visit. A Chaplaincy Department team member then contacts the patient and schedules an in-home visitation with a professional pastoral caregiver within seven days of the referral.
"We had one woman who had major surgery planned for a Monday, and she decided the Saturday before that she wanted to pray with someone. We saw her that Sunday and then regularly during her recovery," Hartman said.
Another ministry that isn't confined by conventional brick and mortar standards is the bereavement support group series Griefshare, coordinated by Chaplain Paul Rist. This series, offered at different times and at various locations, is open to any individual who has experienced a loss, even if they have no ties to Concordia. Griefshare presents a Christ-centered perspective on the grief process.
The Chaplaincy Department gets involved in a number of other unconventional ways as well. Chaplain Roger Nuerge participates in "Stand Up Meetings" at the Lund Care Center (daily sessions with clinicians and social services staff to identify resident needs).
During the Advent and Lenten seasons, Deaconesses e-mail messages to Concordia employees. The Chaplaincy staff participates in a reading program for kids at the Concordia Child Care Center?
The list goes on and on but one fact remains: the spiritual needs of the Concordia family have been a top priority for over 130 years.