Each week Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and this week we are thrilled to introduce Kim Chafee.
Kim, tell us about your ministry journey–where all you have served, what you are doing now.
It took me a while to get to where I was supposed to be–at least, ministry-wise! I was born and raised in a Southern Baptist church in the Deep South. Although I was involved in music within my church from a very early age, I never considered becoming a minister because there were no female ministers to emulate. None.
Over the years, my love of church music continued as I was involved in several churches, and then in the Baptist Student Union during my college years at the University of Montevallo, where I met my husband. Following graduation, we got married and headed to seminary. . .for him. Again, I had not considered that God might call me into ministry, even though I had participated in spring break and summer missions work and had an affinity for church work.
In 1993, my husband and I ended up on the mission field, in Zambia, where we served for five years. The agency that sent us gave the husband the primary call and designation, while the wife was always given the label of “church and home missionary,” no matter her gifts or abilities. But, while in Zambia, I was able to direct the seminary choir and serve on the board of directors for the seminary.
Following our return home, my husband continued to work in the missions home office, as I did, briefly. It was then that I felt led to apply for seminary. I began attending the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond–very slowly at first, again hearing the voices from my past that relayed a certain acceptable narrow role for Christian women. I graduated from seminary in 2005, the same month that my oldest child graduated from high school.
While I attended seminary, I was also on staff as part-time music director at a church, where I was later ordained. I had never felt such support for women in ministry. We eventually moved to Virginia Beach, where I worked in several churches as music minister while my husband served on staff with a different congregation. During that time I felt the urge to look into chaplaincy and was accepted into the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Sentara Norfolk General, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Norfolk, Virginia.
I am now a chaplain with Sentara Hospice, where I minister to end-of-life patients and their families. I am the primary chaplain at the Hospice House, a twelve-bed in-patient facility that serves hospice patients who are in crisis–perhaps dealing with uncontrolled pain or other symptoms–who can’t be cared for in their home or a nursing facility. Patients and families are facing intense difficulty and are often in need of spiritual resources. I consider it a privilege to play an active role in their care. End-of-life is, in my opinion, a sacred time.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest sources of joy have been those individuals who have accepted and encouraged me in my role as a minister, who happens to be a female. Before I became a chaplain, I served in four different Baptist congregations as a music minister and worship leader, and of the four pastors I worked with, only the two Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastors believed in the equality of the female minister (and females in general).
My greatest joy in ministry comes as I sit at the bedside of a dying patient, offering spiritual and emotional support by praying, singing, reading scripture, and conversing. Being present with someone who is standing at the door of eternity is an awesome privilege, especially in a society that does not do a very good job of caring for the dying. Hospice is an extraordinary gift to patient and family.
What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
The denomination in which I was raised–the Southern Baptist Convention–has been my greatest source of challenge in ministry. As my views regarding the role of women have evolved over the years, it has become one of my passions in life to encourage all Christians to understand and hold an accurate biblical view and understanding of their sisters in Christ; and to relay to them the message that God has invited us to the table–to an equal portion and measure of God’s grace and giftedness, and to an equal calling, as evidenced by a faithful, honest, and accurate theological interpretation of scripture.
In my role as chaplain, I am blessed to work with individuals who have that understanding, but every once in a while I receive feedback that infers, or blatantly states, that I am unwelcome at the table, at least in the capacity of a leader. Most recently, our church is in the process of seeking a new pastor. Rumor around the church was that we would take a turn to the “liberal side” by considering calling a female pastor. While I respect my husband’s call as a minister within this congregation, it made me very sad to think that I will probably never be a member of a church that completely welcomes me in my calling–although there are some individuals there who do. I am thankful that God has provided the ministry of chaplaincy to me, where I am free to use all of my gifts and abilities freely, for God’s glory.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
One of my favorite seminary professors, Dan Bagby, honored me by speaking at my ordination. He told the story of a musician conducting her greatest performance in a large, impressive venue. She knew that the author–the master conductor–who wrote the piece, was in the audience. Dr. Bagby’s encouragement to me, words that I have framed on my desk, and attempt to live by, was: “And my hope for you, dear singer, is that when the music stops, and the orchestra leaves, and the people are all gone, that you’ll hear the voice of the Master say to you, ‘Well done, Kim! Well Done! You played the music just like I wrote it–well done!’ May you play the good music in your heart, Kim–it’s there–and remember who wrote it!”
My prayer is that, as a woman in ministry, I would be faithful to God’s gifting and calling in my life, that I would present an accurate representation of God’s grace and faithfulness, and that I would represent Christ well–that He would someday say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
More of Kim’s writing can be found on her blog, Sometimes God Sings.