Thought that this interview would be a good post after promoting the
Bible Study Guide.
Allow me to introduce you to
...my friend and a Sister-in-Christ!
We attended the same high-school and graduated together.
We were in youth group together at Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver, BC.
Our paths separated but now after many years,
we find ourselves attending the same church once again since we both found
a new spiritual home at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, BC.
Hope that this interview will inspire you as much as it did me!
Interview with Chaplain/Pastor Ingrid Schultz – March 22, 2013
1. How long have you been in the Ministry?
I began as pastor of Comunidad de Fe, a Hispanic Mennonite Congregation in Chicago, in 1992. I was doing an internship there through the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) of which AMBS is a consortium member. I chose to work in a Hispanic congregation because I thought I might be returning to Bolivia where I had worked for 7 years with MCC. However during my internship pastors Gamaliel and Amanda Falla announced they were leaving to start a church plant in Florida. The church asked if I would stay on as their pastor. I eventually said yes.
One of my concerns was how the men of this Hispanic congregation would feel about having a Anglo woman as their pastor. When I was ordained at Comunidad de Fe on October 15, 1995 the men of the congregation all stood up, each with a carnation in their hand, and in response to my initial concern about how the men would feel about having a woman pastor, talked about a gift they had received through my ministry. In a moving moment of the service Ruben, a 79 year old Colombian man, who had recently taken a step of faith, said “Pastor Ingrid has been like a mother to me”.
I was pastor of Comunidad de Fe for 7 years and then moved back to BC. In March of 1999 I became a pastor at the First United Mennonite Church in Vancouver. I was an associate pastor at FUMC for 3 years and then lead pastor for 10 years. I enjoyed working in this congregation of diverse generations and cultures.
2. How did you come to have an interest in chaplaincy?
One of the parts of pastoring that I have always enjoyed most is doing visitation and pastoral care. We had a lot of elders at FUMC and I loved hearing their stories and learning from their life of faith. I had many opportunities to visit care homes, hospitals and hospice centres and I wanted to learn more about caring for those who are ill and dying. So the church graciously let me work half time for 8 months while I took Clinical Pastoral Education at Vancouver General Hospital. CPE challenged me to listen from the heart and got me thinking more about chaplaincy.
In June of 2011 my father died and my mother needed more support at home. I learned that Menno Home in Abbotsford was looking for a chaplain and, after consulting with my community, I decided to apply. I was grateful to be invited to the position and to be able to care for my mother. I have been working as chaplain of Menno Home for almost a year and I love my work there.
3. What are some of your challenges?
An area of learning for me has been providing spiritual care for people with dementia. Before I started at Menno Home I visited with Chaplain Mary Catherine Fortuna, of the Purdy Pavilion, a long term care facility at UBC. Mary Catherine told me that when a person’s cognitive ability diminishes their spiritual connection expands. I watched her in action leading a service for a group of residents and saw how she sparked memory by incorporated the 5 senses, by using familiar rituals, and, of course, through music. I have tried to do the same in the services I lead at Menno Home; for example having bread baking when we talked about the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread”, perfume when we reflected on Mary anointing Jesus feet, and warm face clothes for a hand washing ritual when we talked about footwashing. We pray the Lord’s Prayer at each service and this is a place of deep connection for residents who have forgotten so much but still know the powerful words of this prayer.
I’m learning that dementia is something akin to the experience of exile of the Children of Israel. There is a longing for home, and for connection with lost family members and some days one asks “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” I see my role as chaplain as facilitating moments of connection, with God and others, for residents and their families who find themselves in the foreign land of dementia.
4. What are the high lights?
Highlights for me are those times when connection occurs. For example, after a communion service, when a resident with dementia suddenly looked up and said: “Jesus is here”, or when a new family member at our Family and Friends Group is encouraged by someone who has walked the caregiver journey for longer, or when a group of residents start singing “Jesus loves me” and Anna points to me and sings: “Yes, Jesus loves you”!
A Bible school intern told me that he was hesitant to volunteer with elders at Menno Home. He wondered if he shouldn’t rather do what he considered “front line work” in God’s Kingdom. However, after working at Menno Home some weeks he said he discovered that Menno Home was, in fact, at the heart of God’s kingdom. He spoke eloquently seeing God’s face in a community that mirrors both the vulnerability and the power of Jesus suffering love. I’m humbled by the way residents, care staff and volunteers mirror that love each day.
5. Compare being a Senior Pastor to being a Chaplain.
As a lead pastor I enjoyed being a part of a community of diverse ages and cultures who brought their gifts together for the task of being God’s people in mission. The same is true as chaplain. I enjoy being a part of an integrated team of care aides, nurses, social workers, housekeeping staff, recreation workers and volunteers who come together to care for residents and model a community that cares for each other. As lead pastor I enjoyed naming gifts in the congregation. I also enjoy doing this at Menno Home with staff, residents and volunteers. I think that care homes are a wonderful place to learn about life, faith, gratitude and letting go. I get excited when I see people discovering gifts for service at every age.
6. What are some of the joys and challenges of being a woman Chaplain/Pastor?A number of women were my predecessors as chaplains at Menno Home. They did an excellent job. Chaplaincy is an area of ministry that has been open to women for some time. That was not the case for women as lead pastors in Mennonite Church BC. To learn more about the joys and challenges of being a women pastor I’d encourage you to watch the videos related to Women in Ministry that are part of MCBC’s Pilgrimage Project (www.pilgrimageprojec.com ). In them Pastor Helmut Isaac and I tell FUMC’s story. After I left FUMC to become chaplain at Menno Home the church invited another woman to become their lead pastor. Lydia Cruttwell is a gifted preacher, teacher and care giver who was a member of FUMC and did her pastoral internship there. I had read a statistic that churches who hire a woman pastor usually go back to hiring a man as their next pastor. I’m pleased that this was not the case at FUMC.