Field education at Union provides an opportunity for students to bring together their education, skill, and religious commitment in a way that can help them discover their call. Students do their fieldwork in a wide variety of locations, from churches to shelters to non-profit organizations.
Shelby Johnson, a 2nd-year student at Union, is currently working as a chaplain intern at SAGE Bronx, which is an organization and community center that serves and advocates for LGBT elders.
What does an average day look like?
Members come to the center for community and enrichment activities ranging from art and cooking to healthy ageing workshops and book clubs. I am present with them during the day, partaking in activities and also leading yoga classes. Soon we will introduce spirituality groups that I will facilitate in English and Spanish to formally hold the rich stories and meaning-making that folks share in their informal conversations over cards and coffee. As chaplain intern, I hold space for the laughter, love, and loss of SAGE elders and provide structure on which to hang and reflect upon the vibrant canvases of their lives.
What have you learned about yourself through this job?
I am affirmed of my belief in God-as-Love/Connection, and confident in my vocational call to chaplaincy. I am reminded that I love to do what I do best: love, through attentive listening to, gratitude for, and presence with others.
How has your field education shaped your faith?
I believe in the divine in the everyday and in everything, and the joys and struggles of SAGE members beautifully demonstrate this sacred spectrum. I’m touched time and again by their stories and see God in them, between them, and in the community at large. I witness the power of “beloved community,” and appreciate the importance of such spaces especially for the elderly and especially for LGBT folks.
How has your field education deepened your experience at Union?
I’m oriented toward why I attend Union, why I engage in classes and why I take my education seriously: so that I can hone the skills necessary to sensitively serve the world. This internship brings alive the contents of my coursework and infuses academic study with a heartfelt humanity.