I am at Princeton Theological Seminary, entering my third year now, and pursuing an MDiv (Master of Divinity) and an M.A. in the four-year, dual-degree program. The MDiv, as you may know, is the traditional degree for pastoral ministry. The second degree, the M.A., is a Masters in the Arts, where you can pick one of three tracks to guide your studies. I am on the Youth and Young Adult Ministry track, also called Ministry with Young People. Being able to study this specifically is actually what brought me to Princeton Theological Seminary in the first place, as I have felt called to this ministry for years. It was through this church, RPC, and many years in the ryeX youth group that I first sensed the call to ministry. This calling to ministry with young people has guided me through high school and college and even now on to seminary.
This past summer I did an Internship known as CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). CPE basically puts you in a hospital and says, "Ok, now go be a chaplain." Right from the very first week, I was totally in love with this role of being a chaplain. I got to sit with people in some of the darkest moments of their lives. I got to sit at the bedside of an actively dying man and be the pastoral presence, naming the presence of God in that moment. I had not really expected much from the program, honestly it was another box I needed to check for the ordination process. But I was totally taken by surprise at how much I loved being a chaplain to these people and how much people really let me in. It has added much to my sense of calling and I have since thought more seriously about pursuing chaplaincy as a vocation.
While I make this shift in my studies towards focusing on pastoral care, I am certainly not doing away with ministry with young people. I am still pursuing the M.A. and still consider this so essential to my sense of call. But as I take more pastoral care classes and consider doing more CPE units, I know that this focus will help me become a better minister, wherever I end up.
Over the summer, I met multiple times with a woman who was 100 years old and Presbyterian. The first time I saw her, it was only my first week or so and I was just walking by her room. She was getting some testing done at the time. She was hooked up to these wires and she looked so sick. When I came back later, the testing was over so I cautiously entered the room and gently said, "Hi, I'm Meredith. I'm the chaplain on this floor," to which she responded, with quite a bit of gusto I might add, "Well, hi chaplain!" I was shocked by how full of life she was and by how excited she was to see me. Over the summer, she came back a number of times for shortness of breath and dizziness and every time I saw her name on the lists, I would tell the other chaplains, "Nobody go see her! She's my lady." Every time I came by, I would joke that us Presbyterians had to stick together and she was always so pleased to see me. Over the summer, I felt that I really got to see her in some of her best moments when she was feeling really good and also in some of her worst, when the medication was weighing on her and she felt so sick.
One of the last times I saw her, she really let me in. In our conversation, she said to me, "How is it that I am still alive at age 100 while two out of three of my children have died before me? I must have a purpose here." She talked about her fears of adding the oxygen tank this visit. Near the end of the visit, I took her hands and prayed for all the things we had talked about, but at the end of the prayer, she didn't let go of my hands. With teary eyes, she looked at me and said, "Never give up. Don't ever quit this work you're doing. You are so needed in this, I will never forget you. Please don't forget me." Immediately the tears began streaming down my own face as I received her blessing. She had asked me before in our conversation that day, "What do you want to do with your life?" I replied, "I think I want to do this." It is to that calling of chaplaincy that I felt she was speaking to when she blessed me that day. And the very last thing she said to me with a grin was, "And stay Presbyterian!"
I will never forget this woman and this summer that deepened my faith and trust in God in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Thank you RPC for your continued support on this journey and for encouraging me to become the minister I am today.
The Path to Gratitude: Awareness
The first step on the path to gratitude is becoming aware of our common humanity and common brokenness. We are all responsible for this. God desires to make all things new. Each of us must first become aware of our newness in Christ and live as new creations.
What are you grateful for...?