Blog Post by
Rev. Eric Post
Chaplain, Barnes-Jewish Hospital

As a chaplain, I am called to comfort the afflicted. As a Christian, I am called to love everyone, even those with whom I disagree. In my work caring for patients and families at a large hospital, these callings can coincide. How might my lens as a chaplain be helpful in making sense of the world at large, with all its division and brokenness?

I recently sat with a patient who shared with me her sadness about a recent terminal prognosis. As she told me her story, I felt an affinity with her and admiration for the passionate way she had lived her life. She found some solace in her faith, but her grief overwhelmed her. How could she say goodbye to the people she loved? How could she accept leaving so much unfinished? I was deeply moved, and my heartfelt responses seemed to resonate with her. The visit virtually sang with what felt to be a kind of profound human connection. As I sensed our conversation drawing to a close, the patient expressed gratitude for my care, saying “everyone” must love to be visited by me. “Don’t they?” she asked. I smiled, shook my head, saying, “Not everyone, but that’s okay,” and prepared to leave. The patient’s tone abruptly hardened as she began to wonder aloud what kind of people would not want to speak with a chaplain. Her list of such people included many for whom I feel a great allegiance—those who are marginalized or disparaged because of their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their particular religious belief or disbelief, or simply because of their political leanings. As a political and religious liberal, I heard myself named in that list.

I gathered that much of the patient’s anger was really about her illness, and I eventually found a way to redirect our conversation back to those feelings. The visit ended pleasantly enough, but I left feeling emotionally depleted. As challenging as the work of hospital chaplaincy can be at times, it can also feel in some ways removed and even shielded from the social and political reality of the world churning outside of the institution walls. Hospitals have a culture of care that can seem to transcend all the messiness of the world. There are times, however, when the reality of social discord pushes its way into the healthcare setting and reminds us how all aspects of life are related. This was one of those times, and I was struck by how it impacted me.

Later that day, I found myself processing the visit with a colleague who, in turn, offered me a story. She knew a hospital housekeeper who had worked for many years on an oncology floor. Cancer patients often experience long stays in the hospital and can be repeatedly readmitted through the course of their treatment. One such patient who was white took to chatting at length with the black housekeeper whenever she was in her room. The patient would regularly make disparaging remarks about black people and then would qualify her statements by saying something like, “Well, of course, I’m only talking about the way some black people act. You would never do such a thing.” Though the housekeeper was offended, she also felt compassion for the patient and continued to chat with her when she cleaned her room. When the patient eventually declined and died, the housekeeper learned that the patient, who had been a widow, had left the housekeeper her wedding ring. The housekeeper was informed that the patient had said about her when bequeathing the gift, “In all my time in the hospital, she was my only friend.” That housekeeper, according to my colleague, wore the wedding ring to work for the rest of her career.

I believe that each of us needs and is worthy of compassion, mercy, and grace. A ministry guided by these values makes perfect sense when caring for the vulnerable patients and families encountered in a healthcare setting. Such a mindset can be more challenging amid the din of societal division, when, instead of vulnerability, what may be experienced is prejudice, animosity, and even hate. Attributing the origins of such negativity to personal pain, collective suffering, or ignorance can be helpful. More importantly for me, however, is to remember how my own pain and brokenness cries out for mercy. When I am truly humble, I remain mindful that my very going forth each day is only made possible by the grace of God. What I am called to, without exception, is a ministry of love.

Rev. Eric Post
Chaplain, Barnes-Jewish Hospital







  • Posted December 7, 2021 8:46 pm
    Julie Allen Berger

    Thank you, Eric.

  • Posted December 8, 2021 5:36 am
    Susan Andrews

    Eric, your words are a gift -as is your ministry. I am grateful that you persevered through many years to reach this point in your journey. May you have many more powerful stories to tell!

  • Posted December 8, 2021 8:21 am
    James Willock

    Wow! What an eye-opening insight into one more of the many dimensions of our racism.

    If we are able to change the way we think and act toward and with those who are not “like us”, it will only be by the grace of God.

    “In order to “win [someone] to your cause,” Abraham Lincoln said, you must first reach [their] heart, “the great high road to [their] reason.”

    Thank you, Eric, for keeping your own heart open to labor in the hard work of reaching and touching the hearts of those with whom you minister. May God give you strength and bless your ministry.

  • Posted December 8, 2021 8:35 am
    Liz Rolf Kanerva

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Eric. Grateful for your words.

  • Posted December 8, 2021 9:07 am
    John Goodwin Home

    Beautiful message Eric. Thank you!

  • Posted December 8, 2021 11:39 am
    Barbara G. Willock

    Eric ~ I know that you ~ as are all candidates who come to CPM with an intent to be a chaplain ~ were somewhat discouraged to follow that line of study exclusively. And I know that you heeded the CPM’s advice and did prepare yourself for more than ministry as a chaplain. I am also so grateful to God that you were able to persevere in the call to chaplaincy that you heard. For many years it has been quite evident that God has given you so many gifts for ministry and especially ministry as a chaplain. Thank you for having developed those gifts and for sharing them with the patients you see at BJC and with us. May God continue to bless you as you make the coming kin-dom visible.

  • Posted December 8, 2021 4:08 pm
    Clyde Crumpton

    Eric, your sign speaks volumes to my community, as we find ourselves in a crisis. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on chaplaincy that also apply to the ministry we share in and through the church. Indeed, our ministries are bound by the values of compassion, grace and mercy, which become “more challenging amid the din of societal division, when, instead of vulnerability, what may be experienced is prejudice, animosity, and even hate.” Although discouraged at times, with each new day we continue in God’s grace, to serve out of love. Again, thank you for sharing this inspirational message. Blessings.

  • Posted December 8, 2021 4:33 pm
    Diane McCullough

    Eric, thank you so much for this message of loving grace. Thank you for sharing the story of the hospital housekeeper. Her way of lifting up the Holy Spirit within herself to be a friend to someone in spite of their open expressions of prejudice and racism is inspirational. May we all live in that kind of love.
    Thank you for your ministry.

  • Posted December 9, 2021 8:48 am
    Beth Kazlauskas

    Beautiful message and so important during these divisive times. Thanks for sharing! Beth

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