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Closing the Chapter on Hospital Chaplaincy

Updated: Jan 25

It's been a minute since I last posted, what with working at the hospital, drafting bylaws for the Cherry Hill Seminary Votaries Alumni Circle and awarding the 2022 Wendy Griffin Professor of the Year Award, a trip to Philadelphia and Italy, plus a wedding! Whew, I'm tired. So this is sort of a chaplaincy update since that is what my life has been focused on so heavily for the last couple of years.

Big news--I've turned in my notice and I'm retiring--which is absolutely crazy to type. My husband retired earlier than expected back in March, which accelerated many plans we had been discussing. I've put a lot of effort, time and passion into becoming a chaplain, and my plans had been to work full-time and become board-certified. But after a lot of reflection, prayer, discussions and agonizing, I've decided to step away. My husband and I will be moving to our Virginia home, which will become our permanent residence, and then we'll look at living in Abruzzo, Italy!

Living overseas is a long-time dream of mine, and I'm incredibly grateful that we're able to do this. However, I'm also disappointed and sad to be leaving chaplaincy work. It's incredibly fulfilling and also challenging. I will certainly miss the opportunities to provide interfaith spiritual care to patients, staff and families, and perhaps my move to Virginia and Italy will open new opportunities. What I won't miss about chaplaincy, at least in the context of the hospital where I currently work, is the Christian privilege and heteronormativity. There's a lot of pressure to conform, and it takes real effort and fortitude to go against the flow. One thing I'm looking forward to in retirement is the freedom to simply be Pagan.

Along with leaving chaplaincy, however, is the realization that I'm also leaving behind a lot of the work I've done as a Pagan and interfaith minister. Our Virginia home is remote, and there aren't many local opportunities to meet other Pagans or do interfaith work. Fortunately, my Vodou house is still relatively close, so I expect that I will be able to gather with my spiritual community assuming COVID remains under control. I guess I'm having an identity crisis. After all, I've created this work over several years, and now things are changing. The changes are good and exciting, but it's also sad. These are difficult emotions to balance. I'm working on staying open to Spirit and the Ancestors and where they will lead next.

Changes like this are chaotic, uncertain and troubling. They pick apart who we think we are or who we thought we'd be. On one hand, I can see that this identity crisis is all arbitrary, an illusion that has me in its grasp. And yet, it isn't easy to let go. But I also feel like these changes are presenting me with a new and deeper challenge, one that I haven't faced before. It sort of feels like a fresh opportunity to take a completely unexpected adventure--and for me, it feels like some of my favorite books or movies. In these, the main character sits comfortably at home until suddenly an unwelcome event or situation occurs which requires the character to make a difficult choice. It comes down to will they play it safe and comfortable or take a risk and step out of their comfort zone? Neither choice is necessarily wrong, but it's a test of character. What kind of person do they want to be? In my past, I've frequently chosen the unknown--accepting that I'm gay, following my Pagan practice, enrolling in seminary and so on. Here I am again, and once more--as the song goes in Wicked--"it's time to close my eyes and leap!"

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