As coordinator of pastoral care at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., the Rev. Nancy Adams is accustomed to receiving news that brings tears to her eyes.
But this time it was good news that moved her to tears — a call informing Adams that she had been selected to receive the 2012 Julius W. Varwig Award.
“I was very humbly shocked and very grateful,” Adams says. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for what chaplaincy is about, and to be recognized in this way is wonderful.”
The Julius W. Varwig Award is an annual honor given by CHHSM and the United Church of Christ Professional Chaplains and Counselors (UCC-PCC). It goes to an exceptional chaplain or counselor within the UCC and is named for the Rev. Julius Varwig, the first Protestant pastor in the United States known to have limited his primary ministry to public health-care institutions.
|The Rev. Nancy Adams accepts the Varwig Award on July 25.|
After graduating from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass., Adams was ordained by the United Church of Christ in 1987. Through her involvement in the early 1980s with both Judson Memorial Church and Presbyterian Hospital in New York, Adams felt called to care for those living with HIV and AIDS.
“I don’t want to be a part of judging or of fear,” Adams says. “I want to be part of witnessing to a God who cares about what happens to us in our lives, to be a community builder and a support person.”
Adams has been widely recognized for her advocacy efforts, earning honors such as AIDSNET’s Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2011, the St. Luke’s Hospital Trauma Division presented her with the Martin Cohen Humanitarian Award.
“For more than 25 years, Nancy has quietly offered her healing ministry to patients, families, colleagues and the wider community without reserve,” says the Rev. Bill Johnson, CHHSM vice president. "In her faithfulness, vocational commitment and exemplary servant leadership, Nancy reflects the very best virtues of United Church of Christ chaplains.”
Adams also specializes in trauma and end-of-life care, teaching trauma ethics to critical care nurses and leading workshops on the legal and ethical issues of end-of-life care. She says her teaching experience is one of the most rewarding elements of her career.
“It’s delightful to watch students who want to learn something and realize they understand how to do something and they get it,” she says.
“The many clinical pastoral education students Nancy has trained consider her to be the consummate teacher of pastoral care,” says the Rev. Randy Hachfeld, UCC-PCC president. “She inspires everyone she encounters with hope and the desire to be the best they can be.”
Adams encourages all chaplains, especially those starting out, to build a solid support system that helps them in their day-to-day work.
“Make sure you have a small core group of people with whom you can be honest,” she says. “People who will say you messed up and will love you anyways.”
Adams also suggests practicing an attitude of gratitude, leading with joy and practicing self care when it comes to spiritual health.
“I take things far less for granted than I used to,” she says. “And that’s a great gift, to live with intentionality, to tell people they matter to you and act accordingly.”