I just finished Day Three of the Interfaith Seminarians' program at City of Hope hospital. It's a huge, miraculous, holy place: not only do they do bone marrow transplants, stem cell procedures, and other medical miracles, but they take exquisite care of patients. City of Hope is surrounded by gardens. The hospital food does not look or smell like hospital food. Every effort is made to support the dignity and healing of patients and their families. In that effort, I just finished three days of orientation for a two week chaplaincy program! They are serious about crossing every "t" and dotting every "i."
I was scared silly of the place, which is why I signed up for the program. Cancer has ended the lives of so many of my family and friends that I can't bear to count them. It brings up the spectre of my own mortality like nothing else. I knew I had to come to terms with my feelings about it -- at least become more comfortable with my discomfort -- if I wanted to be a decent rabbi someday.
The second aspect of the program, also exciting, is that we are an interfaith group. Friday a Roman Catholic colleague and I will lead a morning prayer service we are writing together. One of my supervisors is a Reform rabbi; the other is an American Baptist minister. It's a wonderful group for learning and discovering one another.
I'm learning things hand-over-fist, about myself and about the world of City of Hope. It's a place of life and sickness, learning and pain, sometimes a place of death and sometimes a place of rebirth.