ISHPEMING - For patients at Bell Memorial Hospital who are religious and would like a prayer or even those who aren't religious and just need someone to talk to, the hospital has a chaplaincy program with clergy on hand to fulfill those needs.
The program began in 2008 when the hospital opened its new facility in Ishpeming.
The old hospital had clergy coverage, so in an emergency there was always someone who could be contacted to provide services, said Rev. Warren Geier, pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Ishpeming and a Bell Chaplaincy Committee member.
Bell Hospital’s chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering a quiet place for prayer and regular services every Wednesday. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
I think the approach of the hospital is holistic and there’s a spiritual dimension, too.
— Warren Geier, Bell Chaplaincy Committee member
"Rick Ament, the CEO when the new hospital was being built, wanted the chaplaincy program to be more visible than it had been in the past," Geier said. "I think somebody on the board directed him to me and that's how I got involved with it. So we got it up and running right away."
There is a clergyperson on call each week who can be contacted at any time of the day to provide services, Geier said. Clergy on call are required to make a visit to the hospital at least one day that week to see if there is anyone who wants a visit. That person is also in charge of holding the service that week, which is open to the public, from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday in the hospital chapel.
"While we don't get a lot of people that come to the weekly service, what people do tell me is they do see people in there using it as just a quiet space," Geier said.
Bell's chaplaincy program
- Bell Hospital's chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- A clergyperson is
available at all times
- A service is held in the chapel every Wednesday from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45
- People are welcome to put into the prayer box names of patients for whom they want a prayer said.
- The clergy come from all denominations and can help patients get in touch with their pastors
The system that is set up does get used and the nurses are aware of it and how it works, he said. If a clergy is on call they do get called if they are needed no matter what time of the day it is, Geier said.
"A couple of weeks ago I got a call at 1 a.m.," he said. "Someone had come in and just wanted to talk to a clergy person and they weren't connected to any church here.
"Whoever is on call, gets those calls and it's not like we look forward to those calls, but we are available."
According to Geier, there have been a number of times when someone has requested a clergy before surgery to do a prayer with them. The clergy are not just available for the patients but are also available for the family members of a patient.
"Sometimes we've had it where someone has come into the emergency room and family members request a clergy to come in and do a prayer with them, especially if it looks like someone's not going to make it," Geier said.
The clerics come from all different denominations and are volunteers, so any clergyperson who wants to participate in the program can, he said, but they are not there to replace someone's pastor. The pastors here obviously visit members of their church when they know they are at hospital, Geier said.
"If a pastor doesn't know a member is there we contact them and let them know," he said. "Or if someone's pastor is not from around here we can try and get in contact with them for the patient."
Geier said he has always felt welcomed at the hospital, especially by the staff who have been very cooperative.
"You hear in the news these days about how atheism is the largest growing religion in the country but it seems like in this area there's still a lot of people that value the church and what it has to offer and do look for clergy support when they are in times of need," he said.
The clergy are available to provide spiritual support, Geier said.
"The doctors and nurses are primarily there to attend to the physical needs of the patients, which is obviously one dimension when you're sick," he said. "But I think the approach of the hospital is holistic and there's a spiritual dimension, too, and we're there to help support the spiritual wellbeing of the patients and to support them in whatever faith theirs is."
Geier said he wants people to know that hospital chaplains aren't trying to save anyone's soul - it's really more of a visitation and prayer ministry - and no one is trying to get someone to join their church.
"It's not like if I go I'm just going to talk to Lutheran patients. I go to talk to whoever's there," he said. "And what you find is most people are very receptive to that. Again, I'm not trying to convert a Methodist to a Lutheran or a Catholic to a Lutheran, I'm just there to support them and to support their clergy."
That means if there is somebody who isn't particularly religious who just needs someone to talk to, the clergy is available for that as well, he said. The clergy are also available to the staff if they need to talk to someone.
"I'll go in and just sit there and talk to them," Geier said. "And when we're done I'll ask them if they would like me to do a prayer with them and if they say no then that's okay because we're not trying to force anything on anybody."
The chapel is open everyday, anytime of the day and a clergyperson is available at all times as well. For more information contact Geier at 486-4351 or visit www.bellmemorial.org/pastoral.php.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.