|The Rev. Mike Griffin|
ROCKINGHAM – Mike Griffin loved his job as a Lemon Springs firefighter, but couldn’t shake the feeling that something important was missing from his life.
A chance encounter with a hospital chaplain as he awaited news about his father-in-law’s heart surgery helped him find the missing piece.
During a conversation that started in an elevator and then moved to a hospital conference room, the chaplain encouraged Griffin to explore his feelings about becoming a minister. The Rev. Mike Griffin is now pastor of a small United Methodist church in Rockingham and a chaplain associate at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital.
“It’s still a work in progress,” the 41-year-old Griffin says about his ministry.
As one of 17 chaplain associates at Richmond Memorial, Griffin assumed a role that has become an important extension of his full-time ministry at Rockingham’s Pee Dee United Methodist Church and his commitment to the North Carolina United Methodist Conference.
He never expected his hospital work to become so important to him. When he started, it was to fulfill a clinical pastoral elective during the first year of his ministerial studies at the Duke Divinity School. Most students don’t take the clinical elective until later in their academic career, but Griffin – now in the fourth of a five-year program – wanted to get it out of the way. Instead, he found himself drawn to an interesting new pastorate.
“It’s just kind of grown from there,” he says.
“Grown” is something of an understatement. In addition to his full-time ministry and the various community commitments it involves, Griffin has a volunteer ministry at both Richmond Memorial and FirstHealth Moore Regional in Pinehurst, helping start a new service for the Specialty Centers Building at Moore Regional while introducing new elements to the chaplaincy program at Richmond Memorial.
While the Specialty Centers service is directed toward staff needs and concerns, the work at Richmond Memorial is all-encompassing.
“It’s everything here,” Griffin says. “It’s whatever they want at the time.”
According to Dr. Beverly Jessup, director of FirstHealth’s Pastoral Care program, Griffin takes his hospital ministry very seriously.
“Michael is committed to the program at Richmond by building our pastoral care presence there by working with the staff and case managers and checking to let folks know that a chaplain is available for spiritual care and comfort if identified,” Jessup says. “The case managers recently asked that we check with them when we arrive at the hospital and touch base with them from their reports. Michael is familiar with the presence we have here at Moore Regional through the training he received in his clinical pastoral education residency program, and he is attempting to bring more of that ‘feel’ to the Richmond Memorial staff.”
Griffin has worked with his fellow chaplains at Richmond Memorial to incorporate more services into the hospital’s chaplaincy program. Consulting with case managers is part of that and allows the chaplains to be more informed about patient, family and staff needs.
He also introduced a “Blessing of the Hands” service to the hospital, attracting 45 hospital employees and one interested visitor to the brief program of anointment and prayer. The service was simple – Griffin and a couple of other chaplains prayed as participants rubbed anointing oil into their hands – but meaningful for those who took part.
“We let them know that what they are doing through their hands is a gift that was given to them as they provide overall patient care that covers both birth and death,” Griffin says.
One of the participants in the Richmond Memorial service was Pam Tyler, R.N., a registered nurse in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Tyler admits that she was attracted to the service out of curiosity but found it “thoughtful” of the chaplains to offer the program for hospital personnel.
“Any time anybody takes time out of their day to say a prayer for you makes me feel better,” Tyler says. “We can always use a little bit of help. Actually, that’s a lot of help. We know that the help is there. It’s just a matter of being reminded.”
Griffin and his wife, Pamela, are both longtime members of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas family. She is a patient care technician in FirstHealth’s Occupational Health program, and he – like many people just starting or changing their professional careers – worked for a while in Central Transportation at Moore Regional, transporting patients under the supervision of Assistant Director Lee Harris.
Even then, during the early days of his ministerial study, Griffin was obviously on the track to a life devoted to service, Harris says.
“He was one of those always willing to help out,” says Harris. “He was very strong in his ministry.”
FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital is recruiting volunteers for its chaplain associate program. For more information on how to become a volunteer chaplain, contact Nancy Caulder, R.N., Clinical Practice coordinator, at (910) 417-3287.
FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital is a division of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.