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August 13th, 2020

lma meeting irbySouthwest Medical Center’s Elizabeth Irby talks about the need for clergy for hospital patients at this month’s Liberal Ministerial Alliance meeting at Central Christian Church. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times


The need for hospitals is universal, and along with that need comes the need, for some, to have a minister pray with them during their hospital stay.

For many years, the Liberal Ministerial Alliance has been doing its part by having local pastors on call to pray with patients. The number of clergy available, though, has somewhat decreased recently, and though that number may be on the rise again, LMA President Chuck Scroggs said the need is still there regardless.

Scroggs talked briefly about the qualifications at this month’s meeting of the alliance.

“You don’t have to be ordained minister to do this,” he said. “What happens many times is somebody comes to the hospital who doesn’t have a church here in town or a pastor, and they’ll call us. Whoever’s on call for that time will go out and pray with them or just meet them at their needs. We have three people right now who aren’t ministers who are helping in that area. It’s a one-week commitment. You just have to be on call. You might not get a call at all. It’s a Tuesday-to-Tuesday commitment.”

Southwest Medical Center’s Elizabeth Irby was also at the January meeting, and she talked about the need to have more clergy available at the hospital.

“We have a variety of people who need health care throughout their lifetime,” she said. “They come to our community hospital. We’re so thankful we have the services we can provide at Southwest Medical Center, but one of the things we often will see are people who come in who don’t have a designated church. Maybe they’re traveling through town and something happens that they need medical attention.”

Irby said patients may request a specific denomination, and if this is the case, the hospital would seek out the pastor and guidance from that church.

“If they do not, but they request someone to come and they don’t request a certain denomination, we would refer to the listing we have in our house coordinators’ offices, and they would contact whoever would be on call,” she said.

Irby said getting more clergy involved at the hospital would be ideal.

“It’s been a minimal number of people we reach out to, and if they are out of town by chance, even though they’re on the call schedule, it puts us into a situation,” she said. “Who else can we get? It turns to, ‘If I’m working with that patient, I know where my pastor can be reached.’ If we can add more people to the clergy list at Southwest Medical Center, it would benefit all of us, not just the patient.”

For clergy to become involved, Irby said, is somewhat easy.

“It’s not a difficult process, but there are a few steps we want you to take,” she said. “Even though you have had background checks and we know you are safe to be with patients, we still have to do our part by our accrediting agent to make sure you are good standing people to come in and be with our patients when they’re in their time of need.”

Irby said she encourages all of the local clergy to reach out to her at SWMC and to the hospital’s human resources department.

“I hope you will take advantage of this because it is something I think our community needs,” she said. “It’s a good resource for our patients, for our providers throughout the community.”

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