Meet Sara Swinson, Chaplain at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
While attending seminary in St. Louis to pursue a degree in exegetical theology, Sara went back and forth contemplating a career in teaching or one in chaplaincy. Though she always had a heart for the suffering and for the sick, she had no experience with either of those things and recalls feeling “intimidated” by that field. It turns out, there was a very particular experience in her life that would lead her down such a spiritual path.
“About four years after seminary, I became desperately ill and ended up hospitalized for five months, so I faced my own mortality. I was really between life and death,” Sara says. But like many, she was touched by the emotional care and support she received in her own time of suffering, and was inspired to pay it forward. “I had so much support from the community, from chaplains, and even people who didn’t carry that title, but really acted as my chaplain.” That support led her to seriously consider becoming one herself.
Since 2005, she has been in the world of chaplaincy, providing comfort and more to those approaching life’s biggest transition. In this time, she’s experienced a wide range of needs from patients/clients, from deep prayer to light conversation, but the most rewarding part for Sara is simple: companionship. This simplicity is arguably a lot different than what people expect from the role of a chaplain.
“The title can carry some baggage, especially if you associate a chaplain with the ‘angel of death,’ or assume a chaplain is a walking conscience, where you’ll have to be emotionally confronted. If people don’t want to talk about spirituality, that’s fine. They can talk about the Cardinals, their dog, art - whatever brings them joy in life,” Sara says. “I would hope that it would be life-giving, without this shadow of doom. As a chaplain, I’m just about relationships and meeting people where they’re at. Just being a servant to them.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Sara and what she values about her role as Chaplain at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis.