The Chaplain's Notebook


At the end of April, we started a Zoom support group for health-care workers in our church. I had heard about the stresses they were going through with the spread of COVID-19, the very real pressures of being in the hospital environment while trying to be safe and careful, personally and for their families’ sake.

One of the doctors involved would regularly ask the participants, “Do you have enough PPE?” PPE (personal protective equipment) includes things such as N95 masks, face shields, gloves and PAPRs (powered air purifying respirators). Having the right equipment meant more protection, heightened safety and greater confidence — reducing these health-care providers’ chances of contracting the disease from those in their care while enabling them to give better service.

It occurred to me that deputies use protective equipment as well — not only in this time of COVID-19 — such as ballistic vests, masks, gloves and helmets. These are all PPE items we see in the news — the ones on the outside — but they aren’t the only protection we need. How do we stay safe, strong and healthy, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? In other words, what kind of “inner” PPE — the kind you can’t see — do we have in our soul’s arsenal?

The “easier” answer is maintaining good nutrition, exercise and rest, and having some kind of support group or support system (yes, church qualifies), a spouse, a friend or even someone from the Psychological Services Bureau or a chaplain to talk to. Openly and honestly venting our concerns, stresses, worries, anxieties — simply talking them through — can work wonders.

The more challenging question is: How about our spiritual lives? As a chaplain, I believe having a strong, growing, connected relationship with God (a God of our personal understanding) is vital, if we give it a chance. God can meet us and help us in ways that no one else can, and in ways we never imagined!

At night, I try to think of at least three things that I can be thankful for each day. One passage from the Bible that has been important in consoling my worries and stresses and receiving God’s peace is this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Although written by St. Paul, its essence is true in every faith and spirituality that I know of.

God invites us in. Always. As Thomas Merton once said, “I know You are ever with me and will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

In the long run, spiritual PPE is the kind that matters most.

Thank you for all you do in your work. God bless.