A COHI STORY
THE ESSENCE OF COHI
by Pat Beachy | COHI | Heritage West Region
Henri Nouwen in his book, THE WOUNDED HEALER, says that those who have suffered and been wounded can become use those situations to heal ourselves and each other.
Last night I had the privilege of witnessing this process in action and was greatly blessed in the process.
The names are fictional. The situations are not. Mimi and Melody are both COHI lay chaplains and belong to different COHI centers.
A few weeks ago, Mimi was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and underwent surgery to remove it. She was told then that she would have to receive ongoing treatment for a while. The treatment would be difficult and debilitating. For some time, Mimi has been the sole caregiver for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s. She realized that she would not be able to take care of him as she has been. And also, that she needs to take care of herself to get well.
Before the realization that she would undergo more treatment, Mimi and some of her friends had been discussing for a time the possibility of Mimi’s moving into a senior living apartment and placing her husband in memory care. About three weeks ago, she brought the subject up to the her adult daughters. The daughters are having difficulty accepting this plan or that their parents are not well.
After an afternoon with several of Mimi’s close friends, discussing the situation of the move and the family issues, Mimi realized in her heart and in her mind that her idea is the best for herself and her husband. Thus, began the process of downsizing, selling her home, and moving. All while coping with the difficult reaction from her daughters.
Since I know Mimi fairly well and consider her a friend, I suggested that she speak with Melody, a dear friend I have know for some time. Both of Melody’s parents experienced Alzheimer’s and were being taken care of in a memory care facility. Melody had also helped organize and manage a support group for caregivers of those having dementia or Alzheimer’s. Melody is a very caring, loving person, who uses her COHI training almost daily. She agreed to meet with me and Mimi to share her experiences and knowledge of Alzheimer’s and the issues it creates.
A couple of days after agreeing to meet with Mimi, Melody’s sweet father passed away. Her mother passed last March. But, given the person that she is, she still agreed to meet with Mimi and help her with information about Alzheimer’s and discussing how to cope with her daughters. Melody has even offered to speak with Mimi’s daughters to help them understand the situation, their mom’s decisions, and Alzheimer’s.
Last night we met for dinner. After introductions, hugs, ordering our food, and chatting a bit, Mimi and Melody got to the point of the meeting. Mimi was aware that Melody’s father had passed.
As I sat quietly, I witnessed Community of Hope International in action. These two loving, caring women, both experiencing difficult losses and life events, were ministering to each other. God was present in that restaurant booth in a mighty way. I was profoundly affected by watching this interchange.
At one point, Melody read a poem she has written for her father’s funeral taking place in a few days. All three of us were teary-eyed.
It was an honor to witness this. I pray that Mimi and Melody will get to know each other, support each other though this walk they have before them. I pray that they become friends and pray for joy for each of them as they work through difficult life events.
A post-script – I picked the fictional names out of the air. After sending the draft of this to Mimi, she told me that her grandchildren call her Mimi. And Melody is a music teacher and accomplished musician. I knew that but didn’t connect it until Mimi told me what her grands call her. Coincidence – maybe. . . . .
PORTER AT THE DOOR
by Deborah Cady | COHI | Grace Episcopal Church, Kirkwood, MO
Knock, knock. “Who’s there?” said the novice. The teacher bowed his head and shook it slightly while saying, “Try it again, this time with your Benedictine spirit.” Knock, knock. “Welcome, you are a blessing to us. How can we help?” The teacher smiled and told the novice to begin.
Over 1500 years ago, Benedict of Nursia founded a monastery outside of Rome. He crafted a document still used today, which is known as The Rule of Benedict. It is a rule of balance and wisdom which guides a community into spiritual living. This document, ancient as it is, still rings true today and is the framework in which the Community of Hope operates. Benedict believed that to live a spiritual life, one must live in community, for it is in community where we find the Christ in others.
Everyone has a job. No person's job is more important than another. It is a community of respect for one another, where each job is linked to the well-being of the other. Everyone works for the good of the community.
Recently, I was asked what exactly does the Community of Hope do? I was taken aback! What do you mean you don't know who we are? Puzzled and concerned, I turned to scripture and The Rule of Benedict. Reading the rule of Benedict, I think I found our answer. You see, one of the important roles assigned is the role of the porter at the door. He or she is to stay stationed at the door of the monastery to receive any visitor who may arrive (at any hour). Joan Chittister in her explanation of the Rule, “Answering the door is one of the arch activities of Benedictine life. The way we answer the door is the way we deal with the world.” Our response is to fling open the door and welcome the visitor, receiving the Christ in the other.
Community of Hope is an international community with over 1500 learning centers. The Episcopal Diocese has two learning centers training lay pastoral chaplains: Grace in Kirkwood and The Church of St. Michael & St. George. The training is intensive and trains lay chaplains in the ministry of presence. Members of other churches within our diocese along with other denominations take this training and are a part of our Care Circles. As with Benedictine life, there is the balance of work, study and worship. To distract and focus on only one aspect, does a disservice to the life of the community. Our ministries are as varied as the people in our community. Some have feeding ministries, some visit the sick or infirm, some walk with people in their final hours in hospice. Still others visit prisons. There are others who have prayers services in nursing homes, or group homes. We even have a person who uses her talent of music to bring joy and uplift people in a nursing home. We can be Eucharistic ministers bringing Communion to those in hospital or our homebound. The only agenda we have is to relieve the suffering in the world with the gift of our presence. We daily practice being the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
Our presence and our training allows us to have no agenda but to serve the Christ in others. We often are the only contact to our care receiver has who has no agenda, to only be there for this person, fully present and listening to whatever the care receiver has to say. This is where the balances of worship and study help correct us. We are reminded to be humble, this is God’s work, and we are lucky enough to be the hands and feet of Christ.
As I wrote earlier, we are the Community of Hope, but we do not live in a monastery. Ours is a monastery without walls. Because we live amongst you, we have no physical door; ours is a door of spirit. We must each become the porter at the door. We welcome you as Christ welcomes you!
Below are COHI testimonials from two of our church centers. This page is a great link to use to promote the valuable work we do.
We've also included a video from Bishop Sumani, an Episcopal Bishop from Malawi who's trying to grow our ministry throughout his country.
COHI Center at St. Cuthbert Episcopal Church, Houston, TX
COHI Center at St. James United Methodist Church | Little Rock, Arkansas