- The ability to marry worship and woundedness with praise and patient care thrilled my soul! Being able to create safe spaces for people to heal and feel God extend His care to them in their lowest moments was a glimpse of the Savior that I never expected.
An international speaker, author, ordained pastor, hospital chaplain and renown…
It’s 2023 and I am so happy to be in the inaugural quarter of this New Year. While 2022 could not have been as painful as the loss of life and lifestyle during the Covid-19 pandemic, for me it was still a difficult year. My family experienced its own unprecedented and earth-shattering losses as we mourned the passing of our elders. In a short three-week span in May, my life completely changed! We experienced the passing of both my mother and father-in-love and my father was struck by a vehicle. These dual deaths and devastating accidents left us reeling as we mourned and rallied to my Dad. While my Dad was seriously injured, thank God he has recovered. Yet mourning bears remembering, and remembering births reflection.
So instead of evaluating everything at the end of the year, in the first quarter of this new year, I am reflecting on my life and its lyrics. I have learned that through tragedy God can bring triumphs that transform our lives and allow us to prosper. In 2020, I was in my seventh year serving as the pastor of worship at my church. Then I felt privileged because, after 20 years of being on an Abrahamic journey with Jesus, where I left my career as a healthcare executive and enrolled full-time in seminary, I believed this was it. I felt that I had reached my proverbial Promised Land. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever reached a place in your life where you felt contented? No matter how good that feels, I’m sure you know you should never get too comfortable when you are journeying with Jesus. So just when I thought that I had arrived… everything unraveled.
CHURCH AFTER COVID
The Covid-19 Pandemic upheaved and disrupted our world. My church along with all others had to close its doors. While we were a technologically savvy church that never missed a beat providing high-quality streaming services, we could not anticipate the toll years of isolation would take on us as pastors and parishioners. We learned to produce the best quality virtual praise and worship, we had incredible concerts and wrote songs for our season of sorrow. But the separation from my church members was shocking and overwhelming. For pastors, personal ministry is why we exist.
Triumph In Tragedy
Consequently, I had an existential crisis. The people were no longer in the pews…what could I do? What should I do next? Every day, I would see on TV that people are sick, broken, isolated, dying, physically and mentally wounded. So I began to change my prayers. Instead of praying for the pandemic to end, I started asking God to show me what I needed to do and how can I help during Covid. I was impressed that while God does not change (Mal. 3:6), He encourages us not to lose heart despite our difficulties and to be renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). With this in mind, God’s answer was obvious yet overwhelming. My mission is to pastor people. I would experience triumph in tragedy. So where are the people during a pandemic? In the hospital! God revealed to me to do a new thing. I must pastor patients.
New Ways to Worship
Hospitals make me happy. I know that sounds peculiar for a worship pastor, but it’s true. I graduated from undergrad as a licensed X-ray technologist, so the hospital is my first love and my happy place. I love to help people heal. However, at first, I was reluctant to return to my roots. For years my brother had encouraged me to explore hospital chaplaincy. But I thought I would be disobedient to diverge from God’s path to praise and worship ministry. But worship is a lifestyle. Praise has a purpose. Praise and worship is not about just singing songs and producing worship services.
“True worship is fellowship and communion with Christ. True worship is how we compose the lyrics of our lives to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost.”
Jesus’ ministry personifies this point. He spent the majority of his time not in the synagogue preaching, but in the streets teaching and healing. Why? Because people can’t fully worship when they are wounded. This epiphany changed my life!
CHURCH BEYOND THE WALLS
God’s Abrahamic journey began. I heard the voice of God say to me, “Go beyond the walls of your church, leave your house, and go back to the hospital that I will show you. Do not be afraid to minister there, I will be with you” (Gen. 12:1 paraphrased). So here’s what I did next. I contacted a friend who is a hospital chaplain and asked her how I could help. She shared with me about the process of applying to the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training course. I enrolled in CPE for what I thought would be only one semester. However, the ability to marry worship and woundedness with praise and patient care thrilled my soul! Being able to create safe spaces for people to heal and feel God extend His care to them in their lowest moments was a glimpse of the Savior that I never expected. It was so life-giving. My journey would never be the same.
Journey with Jesus
My journey with Jesus has had lots of winding roads. Yet, I will always follow Him wherever He leads. I have left my full-time pastorate at the church and now, I work as a part-time hospital chaplain. However, my role as worship pastor has not diminished. Since worship is an encounter with God, I help people who are sick and wounded encounter him daily. God has also created other new and exciting ways that I can provide worship ministry to the masses. But my point to you is don’t be afraid. Take your unpredictable journey with Jesus and learn to accept new ways and new expressions of worship.
“We may not always be in the church, but God’s church will always be in us!”
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An international speaker, author, ordained pastor, hospital chaplain and renown worship curator, Dr. Cheryl Wilson-Bridges has dedicated her professional career to illuminate hope and healing through innovation and proven strategies in leadership, healthcare, worship, wellness, and spiritual care. Cheryl educates, empowers and inspires individuals and organizations to identify their talents and purpose through leadership influence and wellness. Cheryl has served as a worship pastor for more than 20 years. Prior to that, she worked in healthcare as a licensed X-ray technologist and marketing executive for 13 years. Cheryl is a well-known, subject matter leadership expert. Her unique blend of knowledge, skill, and mastery in diverse fields is vital to help people maximize their impact, increase their effectiveness and achieve their goals.