We are thrilled to welcome you to our Q&A series, where we will be shining a spotlight on our extraordinary chaplains at Cassia. Through their unwavering support and compassionate presence, our chaplains provide comfort and guidance to our residents, their families and our staff.
In this installment, we are honored to feature Pastor Gordon Gathright, chaplain at Hastings Health & Senior Living in Hastings, MN. Join us as we delve into Pastor Gordon’s approach to chaplaincy and explore the vital importance of spiritual care in our communities.
Q: What inspired you to become a chaplain? Tell us a little about yourself.
I was a youth pastor for many years and served the Hastings community for 18 years. I did interim work for several years before knowing the chaplain ministry was open here.
Q: What led you to become a chaplain at Hastings Health & Senior Living?
I started out in an interim position before being hired full time as chaplain. I started in August, 2013. I have been in the Hastings building for many years, bringing students to volunteer and spend time with the residents. It has always been a great place to be and one of the best kept secrets in the Cassia care centers. It is a wonderful place to serve and there is a strong sense of family among staff, residents and their families.
Q: How do you provide spiritual and emotional support to residents?
Hastings Senior Health & Living has an active faith community. We have Sunday services each week and communion is shared with all those who desire to have communion. The Catholic community provides weekly services and shares communion with Catholic residents.
We have Bible study each week and a big favorite of our residents is our weekly hymn sing. The hymn sing is easily one of our residents’ favorite times of the week. They love singing hymns they grew up with and look forward to that time each week.
I share 1:1 visits with our residents each week and always available for special needs residents may have. I also provide grief care for residents, their families and for our staff.
Q: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 5:1-5.
Verse 5 says: “Hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.”
When I visit with residents, my goal is always to leave them with hope. Jesus came to give us hope in our daily lives and I want to share that hope when I visit with residents, their families and our staff.
Q: How do you provide support to residents who may not have a specific religious or spiritual belief system?
When residents come to Hastings Senior Health & Living, I meet with them and find out as much as I can about their lives and their spiritual connections. Often, our residents do not have church affiliations for many different reasons. I ask them if I can be their pastor while they are here and many residents say “yes.” Some of these relationships grow quickly and sometimes residents can reconnect with their church and, more importantly, in their relationship with God.
Q: How do you collaborate with other staff members to ensure residents’ spiritual needs are being met?
Collaboration with other staff members is important. We meet daily for our morning meeting and staff share spiritual needs with me at that time. When I am in the halls, staff will often ask me to visit with a resident who has a need. Our staff is always on the lookout for residents who have needs beyond the physical and I am glad to visit with those residents. I am always available when residents are nearing death to be with them and support their families.
When our residents come to Hastings Senior Health and Living, they come with a lot of emotions. Some are experiencing fear, others are lamenting having to leave home, while others are dealing with deep sadness about having to leave their homes where they have lived their lives for so long. My role is to help them see beyond their current circumstances and give them hope their lives will be better.
Q: Can you share a particularly memorable experience you’ve had as a chaplain?
One of our current TCU residents has lived in her home most of her childhood and adult life. The time has come for her to move into assisted living and we have had many conversations around this move.
When we first started talking emotions ran high. As we have had more conversations, it is easier for her to talk about this new transition in her life. She knows it is for her safety and this will allow her to see other people daily in her new home. I want to give our residents the confident assurance and hope that everything will work out well for them and they will thrive.
Q: How has your work impacted your own spiritual and personal growth?
I love my ministry at Hastings Senior Health & Living. I have the privilege of working with an amazing staff of loving and compassionate caregivers. I am grateful for each resident and their families and the support they share with me each day.
Thank you, Pastor Gordon, for everything you have done for our residents, their families, and our staff at Hastings Senior Health & Living!