Elizabeth Hawkins

MDiv 2009Germantown, TN

When Elizabeth Hawkins decided she wanted to pursue a career as a hospital chaplain, she didn’t realize that she would be paving the way for future lay chaplains. While a student at Holy Cross, she was not sure what she wanted to do professionally, but did know that she wanted to study theology. Then she participated in the hospital ministry class and, through her volunteer placement at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, learned about hospital chaplaincy as a career option. She spoke with other hospital volunteers from other jurisdictions. “Ever since Christ walked among us, Christians have been called to visit the sick,” she says. “I think we are always looking creatively at what we’re taught [and asking] how do we apply the same spirit of truth to America in the 21st century? I didn’t realize that no one had asked that question before.”

After graduating from Holy Cross in 2009, Elizabeth began her Clinical Pastoral Education with a general residency at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in her first year. The next year she specialized in end-of-life care. This training was essential in order for her to be board-certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains, the highest level of chaplaincy. Throughout her training, her peers were always welcoming to her as an Orthodox Christian and interested in her perspective on various issues.

In June 2013, His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit commissioned and endorsed Elizabeth as a lay chaplain. This recognition set in motion a larger discussion that ultimately resulted in the formal approval of institutional chaplains by the Holy Eparchial Synod and the opportunity for lay people to work as chaplains. They would thereafter be respected fully in their institutional workplaces and fulfill their duties in accordance with the protocol of the Orthodox Church. In October of that year, on the Feast Day of St. Luke the Evangelist, Elizabeth became board-certified by the APC.

Currently, Elizabeth works in the pediatric palliative care and neurology units at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. “Getting to meet and walk with the children and families on their journeys and being able to offer hospitality and support…is always a learning process and always strength-giving,” she says.