God is teaching me that as a chaplain, I do not have to have all the answers," said Melinda House.
House is an ordained minister and has served as a chaplain at Ascension St. Vincent’s Healthcare in Jacksonville, Florida, for seven years. Her chaplaincy journey began after being encouraged to take a class on clinical pastoral work. It was then, as she resonated with the chaplains’ way of stepping into people’s suffering, that God called her to be a chaplain. House later completed her board certification.
Her presence is in high demand between being present for a patient’s death, supporting family members, following up with staff, sitting with patients with a new diagnosis, helping patients process grief and building relationships with staff. Amidst this busyness, House has learned that people rarely want answers; they want a space in which to listen for God.
“I’m not here to fix but to be a presence and help them know they are not alone. Being silent, not only externally but internally, and creating a sacred space for them”
are among the most important aspects of her job. This availability also extends to fellow staff, who are frequently serving in traumatic circumstances.
She offers a monthly staff event, Tea for the Soul, at St. Vincent’s. Attendees enjoy tea, cookies and activities that promote honest self-reflection before God. In one exercise, staff wrote down thoughts, prayers and emotions on dissolvable paper. The disappearance of the papers, as they were dropped into the water, represented that each request was seen and heard by God.
House’s mind often turns to Isaiah 26:3 as a relevant verse for her personal soul care: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” In ministering to individuals experiencing trauma, being rooted in God’s presence helps her remain present to the needs, joys, gifts and losses of others.
House knows she is serving exactly where she needs to be for this season of her life. The peace which surrounds that knowledge spurs her on to continue fulfilling God’s call to chaplaincy ministry.