Bishop Steve Crews has preached the gospel for 33 years. The Danville, Va., native served several churches along North Carolina’s Outer Banks before being called to his current ministry with the Church of God of Prophecy in Hamlet.
While working to build and serve his current congregation of more than 100, Bishop Crews has also busied himself with a number of community outreach programs including the local food bank and Backpack Pals. Still, when a fellow clergyman told him about the Chaplain Associates program at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital two years ago, Crews realized he had found yet another ministry.
He has been a volunteer chaplain at the hospital ever since.
“It’s an opportunity to meet a lot of people, to provide care for people who may be going through a difficult time,” Crews says about the program. “It gives us an opportunity to share the love of Christ with the patients and families of FirstHealth.”
Currently, 15 individuals serve the spiritual needs of Richmond Memorial’s patients, visitors and staff as volunteer chaplains. Some have been with the program for as long as 15 years while others joined the hospital ministry just this year.
They represent various religious denominations. All but a couple pastor congregations in Rockingham or Hamlet, and some also have jobs outside their churches. The service is important to everyone associated with the hospital.
“Our volunteer chaplains are so important in meeting the spiritual needs of our patients and their family members,” says Allison Duckworth, Richmond Memorial’s chief operating officer. “We are tremendously grateful for the time and caring provided by all of the volunteers with the Chaplain Associates program.”
Some of the current chaplains volunteer at the hospital several days each month, a commitment that can be especially difficult for those with busy congregations and other professional and personal responsibilities. That’s why the hospital’s Chaplain Associates program is recruiting new volunteers.
“Some chaplains have to serve several days a month,” says Crews. “We don’t want it to become a burden.”
Nancy Caulder, R.N., is the clinical practice coordinator for Richmond Memorial Hospital and the hospital’s liaison for the volunteer chaplain program. “We really want the hospital commitment to be just one day a month,” she says.
According to both Crews and Caulder, when hospital chaplains are on call, they commit to a 24-hour period of availability from 9 a.m. one day to 9 a.m. the next. During that time, most will spend a couple of hours making rounds, looking in on every hospital department from the Emergency Department to the nursing floors to see if they are needed and then leaving, but with the understanding that they will return if their services are required.
“I’ll make my rounds,” Crews says. “I leave, but I’m still on call until 9 a.m. the next morning.”
The service he provides “depends on what’s needed,” he says.
“It’s across the board,” says Crews. “Sometimes someone may want me to come in and pray for a patient or with a family that has just lost a loved one. Sometimes I read Scripture. Sometimes they just want to talk or want somebody to talk to. Sometimes it’s just somebody coming by, somebody willing to say hello to them.”
“Sometimes it’s just taking the time to come in and visit,” says Caulder.
Despite their personal religious orientation, volunteer chaplains must be willing to provide services to individuals of all faiths. According to Caulder, who cites supporting information from a 2006 study from Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, most patients and families not only want, but apparently expect that a chaplain will be available for them while they are in the hospital.
Crews agrees. “I think it’s a service that’s expected by the majority of the people for the hospital to have a chaplain,” he says.
While many of Richmond Memorial’s current volunteer chaplains are ordained, the group’s Executive Committee, for which Crews serves as secretary, recently decided to let others know that the service is open to lay people as well. All an applicant needs in order to apply is a recommendation from his/her pastor and/or congregation.
The approvals process that follows an application includes a meeting with Dr. Beverly Jessup, director of FirstHealth’s Pastoral Care program; completion of a self-study manual; and a background check.
Retired clergymen and lay individuals as well as ministers with active congregations are encouraged to apply.
“We would love to accept applications from any of these people who would be willing to come in and serve as a chaplain one day a month,” Crews says.
Anyone interesting in volunteering with the Chaplain Associates program at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital should contact Nancy Caulder at (910) 417-3287 or at email@example.com.
As volunteer chaplains at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, Pastor Billy Walters, left, of Joy Freewill Baptist Church in Hamlet, and Bishop Steve Crews, of the Church of God of Prophecy in Hamlet, are available to meet the spiritual needs of the hospital’s patients, families and staff. The hospital is currently recruiting new volunteers for its Chaplain Associates program.