Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Jenny Clamon.
Jenny, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.
I am currently serving as the chaplain for KershawHealth Hospice in Kershaw County, South Carolina. I knew since high school that I felt called to ministry but I had no idea what that would look like. Church ministry was all I had really seen, but that just didn’t feel like where I was being called. Even throughout divinity school I struggled to figure out exactly what I would do when I finished. It wasn’t until my Clinical Pastoral Education internship after I graduated that I found my calling. I felt deep joy bubbling up as I learned more about spiritual care and grew in my identity as a chaplain. I felt a deep down, tears brimming in my eyes, overwhelmed feeling where I knew exactly what God had been calling me to do all along.
I still get that feeling as a hospice chaplain. I get to spend my days accompanying those who know they are nearing the end of their life. I get to help support an incredible staff who amaze me with their commitment and tender care for our patients and their families. I have the privilege of officiating funerals and honoring people’s lives. I also lead a weekly grief group which allows people to connect in grief, realize that they are normal, and work through their grief with a loving, supportive community. It has been incredible to watch this group form and grow together, welcome new members in and share their stories with touching vulnerability. I get to serve as a witness and journey with people at their most difficult and holy moments.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
I will never cease to be amazed at the way people allow a total stranger into their lives at their most vulnerable moments. My greatest sources of joy have come from the relationships I form with patients and their families. It is an incredible, sacred privilege to be welcomed into people’s homes and lives to journey with them at the end of their life.
I feel such joy at being a witness to people’s lives, getting to listen to their stories, learn about their own spiritual journey, and learn how to live my life from the ways they have lived theirs. I have grown so much as a person and in my own spiritual journey from getting to hear other people’s stories, their own struggles, joys, regret, grief, and love. I have been overwhelmed by the sense of peace and quiet hope my patients have at the end of their lives, and the small and quiet ways they show their love to their families and friends. It is a humbling, holy, and peacefully joy-filled ministry to keep watch with the dying.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Honestly, my greatest challenge has been to embrace my own sense of pastoral authority. It was a constant learning goal in my CPE residency and something I continue to struggle with at times. I think the qualities that make me a good chaplain can also cause me to be too passive and question myself. It is particularly challenging working in a rural county where many people I come into contact with have never met a woman minister.
Another huge challenge has been how to care for myself spiritually after caring for others all day. I receive so much joy from my job, but it is also draining for an introvert and I struggle to make the time and energy to care for my spiritual self. I am so appreciative of the Baptist Women in Ministry mentoring cohort and my Out of the Box Mentoring group for their community, accountability, and grace. They are helping me to better care for my own spirituality.
What is the advice you would give to a teenage girl who is discerning a call to ministry?
My advice would be to love and be open. At its heart, ministry is loving people—showing them that they are loved by God in the way that we listen, are present, and love them. Ministry is not always easy and some relationships are difficult. In those moments, I remind myself to try to see each person as a beloved child of God. Sometimes, I just have to pray for God to help me love them and know that love is enough.
God calls us each in our own way, to follow our own path and to practice ministry in our own way. I struggled in the beginning to take ownership of my own call, that it was ok not to be called to church ministry. There are limitless ways God can use us to show love in the world. Your ministry just has to be a reflection of God’s love through you, no one else.