Connections: Deborah R. Damore
For the past six years, Deborah R. Damore has been director of pastoral care services and education for the nonprofit Summa Health System based in Akron, Ohio. Damore is a native of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and a graduate of Waterloo University, Zion Bible College and St. Stephens Seminary.
She is an ordained minister with the U.S. Assemblies of God/Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, serving as a chaplain for 16 years. During that span, caring for the caregiver and ministering to the minister have been foundational to her ministry. Damore, who is the first Assemblies of God woman chaplain to become a certified Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) supervisor to oversee CPE students, recently spoke with Pentecostal Evangel News Editor John W. Kennedy.
evangel: You supervise clinical pastoral education students. What exactly is CPE?
DAMORE: Students learn through providing ministry and reflecting on their pastoral practice and the feedback received from their supervisor and peers. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop interpersonal and interprofessional skills. It brings together a variety of theological students and ministers for a group learning experience. The goal is for students to develop a new awareness of who they are and the needs of those they serve to become the most effective ministers they can be.
evangel: As a supervisor, what are you trying to convey most to students?
DAMORE: I try to convey the importance of being authentic — with God, with themselves and with others. They are core pieces of the healing journey of patients and others whom they serve. It is important for students to be open to learning, allowing those they serve to be their teachers. Those we serve in a health care setting often feel vulnerable, and the student must “cross the street” to empathically meet their needs and not try to fix their situations.
I share the value of having an integrated, comprehensive pastoral practice that includes serving patients, their loved ones, the staff members and community of their institution in an alongside manner. I believe in transformative supervision, where all involved are changed through sacred and educational interactions.
evangel: Why does faith play an important role in health care recovery?
DAMORE: Faith plays an essential role in health care recovery because the experience of illness and disease awakens deep spiritual questions about life, hope, healing and wholeness that go beyond those challenges, such as: What is life about? Is there a God? Is there life after death? Why do illnesses and tragedies happen? What did I do to deserve this?
The chaplain listens to patients and families to help them make use of their spiritual resources, to cope and to be able to move forward. The strength of one’s faith is invaluable to the healing process.
evangel: What is the most common misperception Christians in the pews have about health care?
DAMORE: I’m not sure we realize what a great impact Christians can make on health care and those it serves. It’s a wonderful place to be salt and light during the difficulties and crises people are facing, and in the midst of the reality of health care changes. We can go alongside the patients, families and medical team as providers of incarnational ministry.
The Assemblies of God has a strong, well-organized chaplaincy ministry as part of U.S. Missions that provides accountability and endorsement for those who meet the requirements and who want to do chaplaincy work in a variety of venues. Quality pastoral care ministry is a valuable extension of local churches as they aim to minister to the needs of their ill and aging demographics.
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