Reflections from a Hospital Chaplain

Reflections from a Hospital Chaplain

This blog was written by the Rev. Jennifer M Creswell. Jennifer has served parishes and hospitals in Portland and New York as a priest for 15 years and is currently serving as a healthcare chaplain at Hillsboro Medical Center and Tillamook Medical Center. She also supports families through transitions as a postpartum and end-of-life doula.

Please note that this reflection mentions deaths related to COVID-19.


An ICU nurse said to me recently, “it feels like people are meaner this time around.” In the first wave of COVID, it felt like we were all in this together. Now, nearly a year after the vaccine has been available, we are divided. This nurse wasn’t exaggerating. She told me of patients and families harassing her, calling her constantly throughout her shift demanding untested treatments they’d read about online. She said she’d been threatened with legal action by patients she’d treated—patients who presented to the hospital struggling to breathe but who denied the existence of COVID, much less their own diagnosis. This nurse and others describe a strange new reality in which healthcare providers are suspect, even dangerous to certain people. Patients who take an aggressive stance against whatever the medical team recommends, so deep is their mistrust.

I’ve been reflecting on this, and what it means to be a follower of Christ in this time, from my perspective as a hospital chaplain (in the Portland area and at the coast) in the time of COVID.

Our faith compels us to move toward Oneness—closer union with the trinitarian God, with other humans and with all creation in the recognition that we are, fundamentally, interconnected and that we belong to each other. But how do we practice this moving toward union when we humans are so divided on the surface of things?  

In the hospital, I see some of the things that divide us and the things we continue to hold in common. When a loved one is sick, families worry. When someone dies, their people grieve. People with and without COVID, for the most part, would rather not be in the hospital. 

In the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time than usual walking with unvaccinated COVID patients as they die and with their families. Their grief is familiar to me; their longing for things to be different, their anger, their frustration, their mystification. These are often present in various forms when a loved one is dying. What I don’t hear from these patients and families is regret. They maintain that the vaccine is dangerous, that COVID is mild, or that it is made up altogether.

People are going to the cross for their beliefs. They are dying—and watching loved ones die—rather than compromise their beliefs. These beliefs are about COVID, sure, but they are about something else: about identity, about autonomy, about fear, about worthiness (the need to be seen, the need to be valued, the need to have one’s opinions—and more, one’s life—validated).

I’ll be honest with you: I struggle with these deaths. Not with supporting the patients and their families, but with the (to me) unnecessary suffering I see. The father, the mother, the brother dying before their time and leaving families bereft. It seems selfish, to go all the way to death in order to be right. But there’s got to be more to it than that.  What would people die for? That is the question I hear coming out of this. What would I die for? What is it that these-who-would-be-martyrs gain from going all the way to the grave?

As a Christian, as someone whose God also submitted to death, these deaths make me pay attention. I don’t know what they mean. The questions haunt me. And sadden me. And stir my compassion and my imagination.  

COVID-19 Vaccines required for Diocesan Clergy

View as a .PDF

Dear Clergy, 

In our clergy call yesterday, Tuesday, October 19, I mentioned that I would like all clergy in this diocese to be fully vaccinated. My guess is that most of our clergy are already fully vaccinated, but this requirement is an important indication of our commitment to the health and well-being of the body of Christ. If a clergy person has a verified medical exemption from their physician, they will need to always wear masks when indoors and should get tested for Covid often.

This pandemic is becoming part of our daily world now and I believe that the best way forward for our communities is for everyone who can get vaccinated should do so. If you have questions, please contact my office.

You can find information about the COVID-19 vaccine, including where to get a vaccine, by visiting https://govstatus.egov.com/find-covid-19-vaccine.

Blessings,

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20 octobre 2021

Querido Clero,

En nuestra conversación con el clero de ayer martes 19 de octubre, mencioné que me gustaría que todos los clérigos de esta diócesis estuvieran completamente vacunados. Supongo que la mayoría de nuestro clero ya está completamente vacunado, pero este requisito es una indicación importante de nuestro compromiso con la salud y el bienestar del cuerpo de Cristo. Si una persona del clero tiene una exención médica verificada para su médico, deberá siempre usar cubre boca cuando esté dentro del edificio de la Iglesia, y debe hacerse la prueba de Covid con frecuencia.

Esta pandemia se está convirtiendo ahora en parte de nuestro mundo cotidiano, y creo que la mejor manera de seguir adelante para nuestras comunidades, es que todos los que pueden vacunarse deben hacerlo. Si tiene preguntas, comuníquese por favor a mi oficina.

Puede encontrar más información sobre la vacuna COVID-19, incluyendo los lugares donde puede obtener la vacuna, vaya al siguiente enlace https://govstatus.egov.com/find-covid-19-vaccine.

Bendiciones,

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A little church with a big heart that serves all: St. Martin’s, Shady Cove

This blog was written and contributed by The Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell, Vicar of St. Martin’s in Shady Cove.

When the global pandemic hit in March 2020, St. Martin’s Shady Cove had been offering a monthly, indoor, no-barrier food pantry to the community for over ten years. Through this outreach ministry, we were known as the little church with a big heart that serves all. Then when a global pandemic emerged, we were forced to adapt to a drive-thru model. 

Bill and MaryEllen Mower

Coordinators Bill and MaryEllen Mower led our stalwart volunteers to set up canopies and tables, sort food indoors and carry it outdoors, and give it all away. As families and individuals lost jobs and faced hardship, they came in droves. More volunteers came to help. So we offered two pantries a month. Then last Fall, two wildfires displaced over 5,000 persons in the Rogue River Valley. More community partners came to the fore. St. Martin’s responded by holding five food pantries in September, and three every month after that. 

In 2020, the Diocesan Commission on Poverty and Homelessness awarded St. Martin’s a grant. It came at a critical time. Not only did this generous gift help us to feed more hungry neighbors with more healthy food. It was a vote of confidence when we needed it that furthered the mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon in Shady Cove. We are so thankful.

As do many of our churches, St. Martin’s faces the threat of wildfires again, and unprecedented cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the Delta variant. The needs are greater than ever. Like Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fish to feed thousands, God takes the grant we received, and other generous gifts, and showed us how much more we can offer a hurting world in Jesus’ Name. 

Amidst multiple challenges, in a deeply polarized world, there’s a little stretch in Shady Cove where the good news is being proclaimed in humility with every loaf of bread and box of fruit given and received. With deep gratitude, St. Martin’s looks forward to supporting the Diocesan Commission on Poverty and Homelessness in their “Baskets of Plenty” Virtual Auction in October. We hope you will, too.


Baskets of Plenty Virtual Auction – October 9, 2021

Join the Commission on Poverty and Homelessness for their upcoming online silent auction, beginning October 2, and their online live auction on October 6. You can sign-up to participate by visiting: https://cphfundraiser.schoolauction.net/auction2021/. Download the flyer here and share it with your congregation and community.

Diocese of Oregon COVID-19 Guidelines Update

View as a PDF. En Español.

August 25, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is the end of August 2021 and we find ourselves continuing to fight COVID-19, with cases and hospitalizations on the rise, again. Oregon is tracking around 2,500+ new confirmed and presumptive cases a day (source), 93% of hospital beds, and 94% of ICU beds are at full capacity (source), and almost all of the cases are reported as the Delta variant (see Daily Updates).  It is disheartening that we are not where we hoped we would be when we released the guidelines for reopening our parishes and missions.  

At the end of July, we released a statement to the diocese clarifying that state or local government directives would override our diocesan guidelines. The very next day, Governor Kate Brown announced a statewide mask mandate, requiring masks for indoor spaces. And earlier this week, Governor Kate Brown announced another statewide mask mandate for outdoor gatherings stipulating that, effective Friday, August 27, masks are required outdoors when distances between households cannot be kept. This mandate to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, has prompted related concerns in our congregations regarding a return to stricter protocols for worship and fellowship. 

The following updated guidelines are intended to help our congregations to be proactive. I understand that these guidelines will be discouraging for some, however, taking a more conservative approach now will help stop the spread of this virus and its variants.  

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth, regardless of your vaccination status. 
    • Masks are required for indoor gatherings, and beginning August 27, masks are required for outdoor gatherings where distance cannot be kept between households. 
    •  Continue to provide masks to visitors and members who arrive without one. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Continue to provide hand sanitizer to visitors and staff throughout your building. 
  • Reduce the number of individuals gathering for in-person worship or consider online services.
    • The safe number for in-person worship will vary depending on the size of each congregation’s worship space.
    • Assess your worship space (if you haven’t done so already) and calculate how many individuals can gather to maintain a safe distance between family units. For many, it may be as simple as revisiting your plans from earlier in the pandemic.
  • Clergy should wear a mask while preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. Lectors, cantors, and all participants in liturgy should be masked.
  • Congregational singing is not advised. However, if your congregation does choose to sing, all should remain masked. Cantors, soloists, and choirs should be masked and maintain distance from each other and the congregation.
  • Communion should be received in one kind only. Clergy should remind congregations that receiving Communion in one kind constitutes full Communion. 
    • Clergy and Eucharistic ministers should consider bringing the Host to each person individually and family unit rather than inviting people up to an altar rail. This allows for all to remain distanced rather than crowding near the altar or in a line. 
  • Exchanging The Peace should be done from a distance rather than in the form of a hug or handshake. 
  • All indoor fellowship activities (coffee hour, bible study, Sunday School, etc.) should be moved outdoors, eliminated, or moved online
    • If these activities do remain indoors, individuals should be masked and maintain a safe distance from others, regardless of vaccination status. 
    • If moved outdoors, individuals also should remain masked unless proper distance is provided between households.
    • External programs should adhere to local and state mandates with regards to masks. 
  • If you learn you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should get tested. Tests are free and easily available, find the closest testing center to you here
    • If someone on your staff tests positive for COVID-19 they should isolate at home; everyone on staff should be tested, wear masks and isolate until receiving a negative result. 
  • Get vaccinated and encourage others to get vaccinated. Find your closest vaccination location here. Vaccinations are safe and effective.
    • The FDA authorized the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine, and will shortly approve the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines soon. 

The virus and its variants continue to evolve, and we need to continue to adapt and adjust. Please continue to pray for our world, our nation, and our health care professionals. Pray for loved ones and strangers alike. We are all created in God’s image; be kind to one another, including yourselves.

Stay safe. And wash your hands. 

Blessings,
+Diana

Diocese of Oregon COVID-19 Guidelines for the Reopening of Parishes

Almost as quickly as health authorities asked us to cease holding public worship in March 2020, the CDC has suddenly announced that it is appropriate for fully vaccinated people to gather unmasked indoors and outdoors. This is a lot for many of us to wrap our minds around…especially in Oregon, where restaurants and bars were just recently shut down due to exponentially increasing cases and hospitalizations. 

There was also a church in Salem that made national news after dozens of members became infected, and several—including their head pastor and his wife—were hospitalized. None of us wants to be “that church,” and yet it is reasonable for parishioners to wonder when we will gather again for worship (if we’re not already) … or when we can sing again … or whether we must still wear masks and sit apart from others if we’re fully vaccinated. These concerns and the anxiety you may feel are valid, and these guidelines aim to answer some of those questions and ease some anxieties. 

Some congregations, particularly small congregations, may voluntarily share their vaccination status, or some may have already, with each other. It is encouraged for parish leaders to inquire (without being invasive) the vaccination status of their congregation to better assess the next steps in reopening their parish for in-person worship. Congregations that are fully vaccinated may resume in-person worship unmasked. Congregations who may have some members vaccinated and some not must inform all parishioners that masks are required still for non-vaccinated individuals (including children over the age of 5). 

Please continue to read the full guidelines available as a PDF below. Please note that a Spanish version will be available.

Paycheck Protection Program Update (April 19, 2020)

We are writing to inform you that the authorized funding for the Payroll Protection Program was used up last Thursday [see the link below].

https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2020-04-16/paycheck-protection-program-runs-out-of-money-as-additional-funding-stalls-in-congress

In the Diocese, we hope the Parishes did apply through their local banking relationships.  Your local bank has to be an SBA [Small Business Administration] lender. 

If you have not applied, we would encourage you to do so as soon as possible, even if this first traunche of funds is apparently used up

Across the country, other Dioceses have had success reaching out to smaller, more local or regional banks, as the national banks have generally been overwhelmed by the higher demand for SBA funding.

The Diocese has completed and submitted an application on behalf of the Mission churches.  If you are a Mission church, no action is needed at this time.

The most important thing is for Parish churches to apply and do it now if you haven’t yet.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/19/mnuchin-pelosi-say-very-close-to-a-deal-on-second-round-of-small-business-loans.html

If the program receives more funding from Congress, as expected, we expect another spike in demand.  It is likely that those PPP loan applications already in the queue for further review and underwriting will be processed before new applications.

Below, for your reference, is a link to our PP resource previously distributed.

Our blessings for your success.

Michael Dotten, Chancellor
Sydney Brewster Fitzpatrick, Vice Chancellor
Rick Grimshaw, Treasurer

COVID-19 Emergency Fund Application

The mission of the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation is to support the creation and development of healthy diocesan institutions, vital congregations and affiliated organizations in the Diocese of Oregon. All members of our beloved community are suffering during this COVID-19 crisis, either by loss of income, access to essential supplies, heathcare, illness or isolation.

In response to this crisis throughout Oregon, the Foundation will deploy rapid funding resources to churches, diocesan institutions and affiliated organizations. This emergency capital may be used to retain employees, increase mission program capacity, or otherwise fund critical needs at this time. Please refer to the Foundation’s grantmaking areas of interest. 

At this time, grants may be approved up to $10,000. Because funding is limited, we humbly ask that you not apply for more than you need.

This application is separate from the normal EBOF grant process and congregations or ministries that have already existing standard EBOF grants may apply for emergency funding.

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Parish Churches

The Federal Government, under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the CARES Act is providing loans to small employers (including churches) to cover 8 weeks of payroll costs in an effort to assist employers in retaining their employees.  You should have received an email late last week regarding this. 

Click the button below download a spreadsheet to help calculate the appropriate amount of the loan your church should request if you have decided to apply for these funds.

The fact sheet and the application are also available below for you convenience. 

Please note that if the loan funds are spent on the approved payroll expenses (see fact sheet) the loan will be forgiven. 

Applications for these funds can be submitted through many banks. Please contact your bank for details on where to send your application. The application window is from April 3 through June 30. However, because the limited funds will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, it is strongly advised to submit your application as soon as possible. 

The diocesan chancellors are available to answer questions and offer assistance as needed.

More information on the CARES Act.

FAQs

Q: What should I enter in the “Applicant Ownership” section of the PPP loan application?
A: The diocesan chancellor suggests entering “Not applicable; non-profit religious organization.”

Q: What types of supporting documentation are required?
A: While you must check with your lender for their specific requirements. The following types of documents are likely to be required:

  • Payroll processor records for the period including February 15, 2020
  • Payroll tax filings for 2019
  • Other documentation to support payroll expenses, such as bank records
  • A complete Paycheck Protection Program application

For more information visit the US Department of Treasury at: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/top-priorities/cares-act/assistance-for-small-businesses

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Mission Churches

Mission churches considering applying for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the CARES Act should not apply on their own.  Because payrolls for mission churches are processed using the diocesan EIN (employer identification number), the Diocesan Finance Office will make one application on behalf of the mission churches as well as the diocese. 

Loan proceeds received by the diocese will be made available to mission churches through a process to be announced in the near future. 

Thank you, and look for more information to come. 

Again, if you are a mission church, please do not make a separate application to the Paycheck Protection Program.

More information on the CARES Act.

The Skin of Our Teeth

By the Rev. Lawrence Crumb, vicar of St. Andrew’s, Cottage Grove

The American playwright Thornton Wilder, best known for the high-school favorite “Our Town,” also wrote a play called “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Written during World War II, each act takes place just before some great catastrophe (the Ice Age, the Flood, a long-lasting war) that threatens to destroy the human race and civilization as it was known.

I once attended an outdoor performance in Wisconsin, where summer weather is unpredictable. In the scene before the Flood, one character said, “It’s starting to rain,” and it really did. Fortunately, it was just a brief sprinkle, and the performance continued.

The message of the play is that no matter the disaster, the human race has always survived, if only “by the skin of our teeth.” That is a good message for the people of our nation and of the world as we face the coronavirus.

There is often a light moment in tragedy, and it came for me as I listened to Sylvia Poggioli reporting on conditions in Italy. When she mentioned the Papa Giovanni hospital, I thought, “That’s a cute name for a hospital.”

Then I realized that “Papa Giovanni” is Italian for Pope John. I well remember Pope John XXIII, who was elected in October 1958, just after I had entered seminary, and died in June 1963, just before the end of my first year in parish ministry. He summoned the Second Vatican Council, which continued under his successor, Paul VI, and also taught us how to face death, saying just before his own death, “My bags are packed.”

Holy Week and Easter will be very different, as we watch the services of other churches on the internet and read them, or parts of them, from the Prayer Book at home. One way or another, we can reaffirm our belief in the risen Christ and experience the joy of Easter.

Wilder’s message of the survival of the human race has its spiritual counterpart in the life of the Church, which has survived persecution, natural disasters, and competition from other schools of thought and ways of life.

I was taught in seminary that the Church is not infallible, but it is indefectible – that is, it will never completely die out. We have Jesus’ promise that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) and that he will be “with [us] always, even unto the end of the world.” (28:20)