For the past few months, I've been working with hospital chaplains. I'm the Operations Manager for a hospital chaplaincy and chaplaincy education department, which basically means I wrestle the bureaucracy so the chaplains don't have to.
Here If You Need Me (Kate Braestrup, 2007) gave me greater insight into what my coworkers do. It's a memoir by a Unitarian minister whose vocation took an unusual form--her first husband was a Maine state trooper who'd been planning to go to seminary and become a law enforcement chaplain, but was killed in a car accident. His widow, Braestrup, decided to take his call upon herself, and she ended up a chaplain to the Maine Warden Service--i.e. lots of search-and-rescue for lost children, missing snowmobilers, and the like. It's moving, and gives me a better picture of how a chaplain operates ecumenically as she tells stories of supporting people of no faith at all and of faiths considerably more conservative than her own.
It reminds me a bit of Take This Bread, which I read a few months ago, in that it's the story of an intelligent adult coming somewhat belatedly to a religious life, a life that's more about doing than about believing. It's appealing, but I have trouble wrapping my head around it, coming as I do from a background where faith is largely accepting a set of intellectual propositions about God and then trying to live in a way consistent with that belief scheme. Being as I am sort of an agnostic believer--"I believe, Lord, help my unbelief" is probably the Bible verse I identify with most easily--every time I find out about one of these smart adult converts, part of me hopes they've found The Answer. I want them to have some airtight bit of logic that will prove to me that yes, there IS a God and there IS an afterlife, for sure, and here's how you go there, and I will see my dad again and get to meet all these fascinating dead people I research and try to bring back to life in my books. But so far, my quest for The Answer seems fruitless--but I'm pondering what it means to have Faith without Answers.