Which Role Am I Playing?

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Ministerial Madness

Often times in my ministry, I have to consider which role I’m playing. Am I mother or pastor? Pastor or friend? Worshiper or leader? 

Tonight, I had to choose: pastor, or EMS responder?

I am on our local volunteer rescue squad and fire department, and taking the class needed to prepare me to become a licensed EMT. I am learning assessment and emergency care, how to respond quickly and effectively to provide medical care to those who need it.

This evening, one of my parishioners had a medical emergency. Because the location was near where I was, I was one of the first ones on the scene. While I was immediately paying attention to the symptoms and what was needed in that area, I was also pulled toward spiritual needs and the pastoral presence which I felt I was at an advantage to provide. At most calls, I’m trying to get as much experience as I can, but tonight, because of the medical experience and expertise of the other responders, as well as the number of other people there, I just automatically went into “pastor-mode.” I had little interest in what needed to be done medically, except as how it affected the person’s spirit and emotional state. Someone handed me a blood pressure cuff, assuming I’d be happy to do something and practice taking vital signs, but it was somewhat jarring. No, actually, I didn’t want to take a BP (though I did). I was there offering comfort, presence, and a familiar and reassuring face. I was there being a pastor.

I know I won’t always be able to do that. There will be many times where I will have to lay aside the pastoral role and take up the EMT role, but tonight I was able to choose. I only wish I had asked if a prayer might be ok before transport occurred, but I said one myself just before the ambulance left. Next time I will not be so timid.

My plan in joining the rescue squad and fire department has always been to eventually become the chaplain. While I’m glad to learn EMT and fire-fighting skills, I also see that there are many instances where a pastoral presence would be helpful. This is not only when I know the person and have a pastoral relationship established, but also to provide spiritual care to people in need and responders both.

The Author

I'm a pastor. I believe in radical love and ridiculous grace. I love to sing and sew, and have a shop on Etsy. I'm trying to make my ecological footprint smaller. I have chickens who provide endless entertainment. Oh, and I'm a formerly single mom by choice, son E (born 6/00, placed 11/23/11, adoption finalized 11/21/14) and now making a life with The Dude and his two kids, Girl-E (12/02) and C (9/04). Baby Bumpy due to arrive around 5/25/15! This blog chronicles my thoughts on faith, family, and the wild adventure we call Life!


  1. When filling several roles concurrently, it is difficult to remember which is the priority at a given time. Yet, if we are part of a team it is important that we play the role we are assigned at that time. If you’re functioning as an EMT, perform that function with focus even as you subconsciously the note the need for a chaplain. Perhaps later you will be able to ask they need to talk or want to pray, after the team has stabilized them. I’ve ministered in a trauma room and have felt that inner conflict, too, of having to wait to minister (I was there as a chaplain). Serve well.


    • I think that is why in this particular instance, I felt comfortable taking the pastor role, because there were plenty of other people attending to the person’s medical needs. Had we been at a car accident, say, or if there had only been one other person responding, I would have prioritized medical treatment, of course.


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