By David Deming
Member, St. Andrews Baptist Church, Columbia
My testimony is that God was preparing me for this career for my entire life. As a youth, I began playing guitar. I received my undergraduate degree in Music Education from Carson-Newman, and there learned how to use my voice properly.
I always have had a special place in my heart for Senior Adults, and this led to my singing in nursing homes throughout my career as a pastor.
Even the time I spent as a Teacher Assistant connected with my work with patients who have dementia and other communication challenges.
I was enjoying making regular visits to patients in a number of Assisted Living, Skilled Care, and Memory Care facilities. I was performing monthly musical programs with my guitar in most of these.
At holiday time, I was called upon to dress the parts of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Uncle Sam. I was thriving as a member of a caring team of nurses, social workers, nursing assistants, and myself.
Then the Corona virus struck. I, who always have been a hugger and a hand-shaker, had to practice social distancing. The music programs that I loved to prepare and perform were eliminated out of an abundance of caution for the residents in the facilities.
I am trying to be content with what I am able to do.
I have not been able to make visits to my patients unless there is a case of end of life, and that only with the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment.
Since I have been unable to conduct my usual bimonthly visits to patients, I have instead made weekly phone calls to their family members who, like me, are unable to visit their loved ones.
Besides not being able recently to show affection, my greatest challenge has been to cope with the sense of loss when a patient with whom I have built a relationship has passed away, and I can’t be with them or their family members.
One of the social workers and I have discussed the meaning of the word “imminent.” We have decided that this term is very imprecise. Some patients that I have thought were at death’s door have rebounded, and others that I had no idea were close to death have passed on.
My most satisfying achievements have been working as a member of a caring team of caregivers. I have thrived in an ecumenical and interfaith environment. I have sat in amazement with dementia patients who do not know who I am and may not be sure of who they are, but know every word of “Jesus Loves Me” and “Amazing Grace.”
Occasionally prior to Covid, I had the rare honor of sitting at the bedside of a patient as they departed from this life.
I do not know how long the Lord will allow me to have the privilege of serving in this capacity. I have told some people who have inquired that I am not a retired pastor, but a former pastor. I do not see myself retiring any time soon. But my times are, and have always been, in God’s hands.
For now I am trying to be content with what I am able to do while waiting and praying for the next chapter. God has shown me time and again that God’s timing is perfect. I choose to trust God for my present and my future.
For the past two years, David Deming has been a Hospice Chaplain with All Seasons Healthcare in Irmo, just outside of Columbia. He is endorsed by CBF. He says of his involvement with CBF:
“There never was a question of where I would look for endorsement.
I have loved my relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship since my seminary days.
I appreciate that the Fellowship was founded on the question, “Who can we work with?” instead of choosing to be alienated from those with whom we may disagree.
I went through the process of being endorsed by CBF and had the wonderful experience of being commissioned at a General Assembly.
It was deeply moving to receive a CBF ministerial stole, be anointed with oil, and have a group of attendees gather around me, lay hands on me, and pray for me.
Some of those who did so are members of St. Andrews Baptist Church in Columbia, where I was elected a deacon and currently am serving as Deacon Chairman.”
David’s transition from pastor to chaplain
You might be inclined to ask what prompted my transition from serving as a pastor to becoming a chaplain. My one word response to this is “God.”
I was serving as pastor of Swift Creek Baptist Church between Darlington and Hartsville when Carolina Pines Hospital in Hartsville started a volunteer chaplain program.
I volunteered and the more I participated in this, the more my passion seemed to move in the direction of chaplaincy.
I felt a need to participate in Clinical Pastoral Education to prepare for my potential shift in careers.
As God would have it, McLeod Regional Medical Center resurrected its Clinical Pastoral Education program at that time. I participated in two extended units of C.P.E. there. Then it was as if God said, “You are going to do this full-time.”
I was accepted into a C.P.E. residency program with Palmetto Health (now Prisma) in Columbia. I resigned as pastor of the church in Hartsville, and we rented a house in Cayce during the residency.
At the conclusion of this residency, I was disturbed to discover there wasn’t a chaplain job waiting for me. I applied for a number of positions during a two-year period, while working as a substitute teacher and then as a Teacher Assistant for students with special needs.
When God’s timing was right, the door opened for me to begin my work in my current position.