Room 20**… I don’t remember the exact number, but I remember walking by it about 6 times one Sunday afternoon. The room is just down the hall from the chaplain’s office at Munson. I had been called to visit a couple people, as the on-call chaplain that day. We also had a couple of our folks in, so stopped to see them, as well. Getting to the office and back to the rooms… Forgetting the census… Having to clock in and out, so I wasn’t visiting our people on Munson time… Meant I walked up and down the hall 3 times, so passed the room 6 times! Monday afternoon, I was back at Munson and discovered, the person in Room 20** was one of ours and had been discharged that morning. You’d be surprised how often that happens.
Our congregation has a long and strong reputation for hospital calls, probably going back decades. Melissa, José, and I have tried to carry that mantle forward. We continue to hear from hospital staff and patients (even from other congregations), how much our ministry is appreciated. We have a lay visitor at the hospital, literally, every day. Our pastors are there almost as often. José is there Monday and Friday. Melissa is there on Wednesdays. I am there on Tuesday and Thursday. One of the three of us is frequently there on Saturdays and Sundays. In spite of this, we miss calling on a significant number of our members – about half of those who come through the Emergency Department.
Over the past couple of years, I have been working with Munson to identify and correct this problem and have received much support. Munson wants to get this right as much as we do. They are intentional about orienting new employees and have an excellent script. The challenges they face are employee turnover and the urgency of treatment in the Emergency Department. Patient care comes first. While we miss a few because of these things, an even bigger challenge is having our people give the “right” answer.
My hope in sharing this information with you is to ask for your help. If José, Melissa, or I are the last people you want to see in the hospital, your answer, to all the church questions when you are admitted, should be “No.” “Would you like to list a church and religious preference with Munson?” “No.” “If you were to be admitted and a clergy member from your denomination is making rounds at the hospital would you like to be added to the list to receive a visit?” “No.” If you think there might be even a remote possibility that you would like to see one of us, your answers should be “Yes.”
“Well, I don’t know, if I’m going to be admitted…” “Well, this is supposed to be outpatient…” “Well, it might be nice, but I don’t want to bother them…” “Well, let me see how I feel…” “Well, I’m not that sick am I?” In all these cases and the countless others I can’t take space to print, your answer should be “Yes”. If you answer “No” to any of these questions, your answer will be “No” throughout your stay. The good news? In either case, you can change your mind! You’re tired of seeing your pastors? Tell your nurse! Haven’t seen your pastor? Tell your nurse. Your nurse can change the census for the next day.
Beloved, we get it, if you don’t want to be visited, while you’re in the hospital. I never tell folks, when I’m a patient! But no one in our congregation should ever be sitting in a hospital bed wondering why their pastor hasn’t been to see them. “The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God” is the second Great End of the Church! If you’ve been in the hospital more than 24 hours and haven’t seen a pastor, tell your nurse and ask them to change your admission status. Chances are, we’ve walked by your room a half a dozen times!
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:34b-36
See you in worship!