Spiritual Life

The Chaplain’s Voice: Q&A With Our Chaplains- Rev. Sarah Karber

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 Rev. Sarah Karber, Chaplain at Augustana Apartments in Minneapolis, MN. Join us as we dive into Rev. Julie’s approach to chaplaincy and explore the vital importance of spiritual care in our communities.

A: “Being a chaplain is the center of the Venn diagram of all of my favorite parts of ministry. Working with people one-on-one, providing care through ritual, helping people reflect on what makes them tick and why they get out of bed in the morning.

There is so much of my passion that intersects with the world’s need that is covered in the role of the Chaplain. I was working in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian moving jars of specimens to an offsite storage facility when I put all those pieces together and finally went into ministry.

I then attended Vanderbilt Divinity School, working at a church in Nashville, TN, at the time, and received my MDiv. From there I went back to Iowa, where I am from to work in church ministry as a pastor for 4 years. When my husband got a job in Minnesota, it was the perfect time to jump into chaplaincy full time. I now also have two adorable kids, age 5 and 2.

A: I started my journey at the Augustana Health Care Center in downtown Minneapolis, MN, in September 2017. I had just finished up my CPE residency (a year of chaplain-specific training) and was excited to work with senior adults on a team of chaplains who were well-known for providing excellent care. I moved down the hall to the Augustana Apartments in June 2019.

A: Each week, we offer Bible study, 1:1 visits, mindful doodling, meditative chair yoga, a memory-storytelling group, a Bible reading group and a Sunday worship service. We also have a Catholic priest who visits with our residents once a week to provide communion.

A: I have several that come to mind. Today, my favorite is “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14) because, at the end of the day, I want my actions, thoughts and intentions to be judged based on whether I love well.

A: Residents of Augustana Apartments vary in their beliefs. If they need spiritual care that is outside my scope, I am happy to connect with others who can provide it from their tradition. However, what many people need most is to be listened to and heard on a deep level. Having someone listen to your story, your heart, your challenges, your history or your passions helps us to feel connected.

We all have a spark of the Divine called the imago dei, that is, the image of the Divine, which is a light and connects us on a human level and a spiritual level. Having a moment where that shines between us is a beautiful support to us both.

A: Collaboration is essential. Our caregivers see the residents most frequently and are the ones most likely to notice a change. The staff then communicate to me that they may need a visit. On other occasions, it is the staff who do the spiritual care. It isn’t uncommon for one of our dietary workers to offer a blessing and a hug to a resident they have grown close with, too. Or one of our maintenance department workers may pause to listen to a resident talk about their most recent struggles. We all work together for the spiritual well-being as well as the physical.

A: In one recent visit, a resident was having a tough time with pain management. She was at the maximum dose of what she could take from the pharmaceutical perspective, but she was still in agony. As we talked, I used a few scents in my office to ask her pointed questions about what they brought up in her memory.

The floral scent of lavender quickly brought her to a memory of lilac bushes she played around as a child, and as she told me the story, her face lightened, and her shoulders dropped slightly. She started to come up with other memories that had helped her to leave the pain she was experiencing and focus her mind elsewhere. At the end of her visit, she was able to say her pain was more manageable and was able to relax her body a little more.”

Thank you, Rev. Sarah Karber, for everything you have done for our residents, their families and our staff at Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis!