If you take a walk through the corridors at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland you will see Black patients and neighbors -- but you won’t see many Black chaplains serving the spiritual needs of the community.
The Legacy Health System Clinical Pastoral Education program aims to change that by seeking out African American spiritual leaders to become hospital chaplains. A new chaplain education course will break down structural barriers that have kept Black leaders from hospital ministry.
The Rev. William DeLong, director of spiritual care at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, said most Black ministers and pastors gravitate toward the pulpit but they are essential in the hospitals as well.
“There is this wealth of really needed ministry for people that are experiencing life-changing crisis and situations like what we work with here at Emanuel,” DeLong said.
DeLong will teach a spring intensive internship program from January until April in 2017. The 12-week course will teach spiritual leaders to provide comfort in health care settings, such as trauma centers and acute care wards.
Vicki Guinn, a public and community relations consultant with LHS, said the program is very specialized training that will give the student a lot of hands-on experience working with people in need.
“You learn a lot about yourself as a person. You get some insight into skills that you can develop, interpersonal relationship skills and how to work with people during these often tragic and vulnerable times,” Guinn said.
The internship is fully funded by grant money and there are five available class spaces for minority ministers and pastors. DeLong specifically sought a grant to help pay for African American spiritual leaders to receive this training.
The clinical pastoral education department has also changed its usual education requirement for this internship. Normally these graduate-level courses require bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but in this case, those who have been engaged in meaningful ministry regardless of education are welcome in the internship.
Guinn said that leaders in African American congregations often have a huge variety of schooling, from those who felt the call to preach but had no formal training to those who had gotten Ph.Ds in divinity. DeLong said the requirements reflect this range of experience.
“I don’t want to say no to people who have been pastoring a congregation and have all these skills and gifts, simply because they didn’t get a bachelor’s degree,” DeLong said.
Those who are interested in becoming chaplains are encouraged to contact DeLong at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Spiritual Care and Education, (503) 413-4151 or visit www.legacyhealth.org/cpe.
Candidates can expect to meet with DeLong and pastoral education staff to undergo a vetting process to make sure they are the right fit for the role.
“Because this training program works with real people in real life situations, we really are concerned and careful about who we allow to have that kind of access to our patient’s, to our families,” DeLong said.
Both DeLong and Guinn said it was essential that the hospital chaplains reflect the community of patients, especially those in the diverse neighborhood around Legacy’s North Portland hospital. Guinn said it was important for patients who seek the comfort from African American spiritual leaders.
“We want for the patient who is looking for an African American minister, that we know someone who has received this training and knows how to work in these pretty intense health care settings,” Guinn said.
DeLong wanted to bring in more Black chaplains from the community since his arrival in Portland four-and-a-half years ago. He said he wanted to recognize the history of Emanuel Hospital and its effects on gentrification and displacement on the Black community in North Portland.
In the 1970s, the medical center razed nearly 300 homes and businesses in the heart of the historically Black Albina district. The plans to expand the hospital had been discussed for 10 years and the city of Portland and the Portland Development commission approved them with little feedback from the neighborhood residents.
“The history of the urban renewal in North Portland and Emanuel’s participation in that and efforts to recognize both the sin of that and the hope for the future -- this was something we needed to address,” DeLong said.