PINEHURST – As pastor of Sanford’s Robinson AME Zion Church, the Rev. Iris McKoy-Jordan leads people in the joy of worship.
At Mountaire Farms in Lumber Bridge, where she is workplace chaplain, she counsels plant employees through work-related or personal challenges.
At FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, where she has been a chaplain associate since 2009, McKoy-Jordan assists people experiencing both the joys and the challenges of life. Although she is in the hospital for only one overnight-shift a month, she considers her time at Moore Regional as essential to her pastoral calling as her church or workplace ministries.
“I see people at their absolute worst – when they are sick or when family members are waiting for the outcomes,” she says. “It gives me a well-rounded view.”
Moore Regional has had a Pastoral Care program since the 1980s – organized soon after Cindy Strother, now administrative director of Guest Services, joined the hospital’s staff. In those early days, the service functioned as a totally volunteer operation but with a very committed group of volunteers.
“We were so very happy that we had so many very giving local pastors who were able to step up to the plate,” Strother says. “It was an opportunity to be a ministry for them to get out of the administrative functions involved (in their churches).”
A few years later, however, when the health care-accrediting organization The Joint Commission began to recognize access to spiritual care as a “patient right,” Strother, with strong encouragement from then-Moore Regional CEO Charles Frock, saw the need for a full-time Pastoral Care department with a paid staff. That’s when the Rev. Dr. Beverly Jessup joined the organization.
Jessup had “become intrigued with hospital ministry” while participating in a Clinical Pastoral Education program for his doctorate in ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was working in the spiritual care program at what is now Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (N.C. Baptist) in Winston-Salem when he heard that “a hospital in Moore County was looking for a full-time chaplain.” He interviewed for the job with Strother and her supervisor, hospital Vice President Derry Walker.
Although a full-time program would be new to the hospital, Jessup joined the Moore Regional staff in June 1993, prepared for the challenge not only by the hospital experience of his tenure with Wake Forest Baptist but also by his 15 years as a full-time minister with the Society of Friends.
“I was,” he says, “ready for God’s leading.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Jessup is directly responsible for the pastoral care services provided by more than 30 volunteer chaplain associates at Moore Regional Hospital alone. Thirty other chaplain associates at FirstHealth hospitals in Richmond, Hoke and Montgomery counties also fall within his purview, although their day-to-day supervision is the responsibility of others.
During calendar year 2015, Jessup and Moore Regional’s volunteer chaplains provided 12,080 pastoral care visits as well as hundreds of prayer requests, weekly prayer services, memorial services, support group meetings, and special Hanukkah, Advent, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship services.
Many of the program’s services focus on the hospital’s staff. A 2015 “Blessing of the Hands” service, held during Nurses Week, drew 67 of the hospital’s nursing caregivers, and a “pastoral presence” is always welcome during times of staff or community loss.
“Bereavement support becomes a priority for the staff at that time,” Jessup says.
As an important part of FirstHealth’s health care continuum, the Pastoral Care services are known for their quiet accessibility. There is no proselytizing; the goal, according to Strother, “is to reassure and comfort.”
Chaplain associate volunteers, who are ministers, deacons or lay people “of good standing” with an organized congregation, are introduced to the acute-care setting through a series of pastoral care orientation classes. The department also offers an accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) unit, an intensive training session for current chaplain associate volunteers or local ministers that has been accredited by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy Inc. (CPSP) since 2001.
In addition, Moore Regional’s CPE program recently received a new accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Pastoral and Psychotherapy Training (CAPPOT).
The Rev. Kenneth Tart, of Zion Hill AME Zion Church in Lakeview, South Carolina (left), and Annette Thomas, of Lemon Springs United Methodist Church in Lee County (right), meet with the Rev. Dr. Beverly Jessup, of the FirstHealth Pastoral Care program, prior to the Ash Wednesday service at Moore Regional Hospital. Both Tart and Thomas are enrolled in the hospital’s nationally accredited Clinical Pastoral Education program.