Christian Health Employee and Program Recognized for Excellence by State Association
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LeadingAge New Jersey recently honored Rev. Jim Knol, LCSW, Christian Health Director of Pastoral Care, with the 2018 President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Aging. Christian Health’s Faith & Grief Program was also recognized by LeadingAge New Jersey with the 2018 Excellence in Community Service. LeadingAge New Jersey is a statewide association of not-for-profit senior-care organizations that is dedicated to advancing quality aging services.
When Rev. Knol became Pastoral Care Director at Christian Health in 1991, only one other employee was in the department. The two-member team’s responsibilities focused solely on ministering to Christian Health’s residents, patients, and clients. Twenty-seven years later, Rev. Knol has expanded Pastoral Care to include five ordained ministers, two licensed clinical social workers, one administrative assistant, and, at any one time, five interns working toward advanced degrees in pastoral care and/or social work.
While Christian Health was founded by deacons in the Reformed tradition, care is offered to anyone, regardless of religion. Every person’s faith is respected and seen as a key asset in the healing process. Rev. Knol adheres to the philosophy that as a Christian organization, Christian Health is dedicated to welcoming and caring for people of all different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs.
As such, Rev. Knol has dramatically enhanced the breadth and scope of the department during his tenure. The staff’s responsibilities are extensive and encompass individual care and counseling; small-group experiences to explore issues of faith; bible study; bi-annual memorial services; regular worship services for CHCC residences and programs, and the Christian Health community-at-large; arranging visits from outside clergy and lay pastoral-care providers; and meeting with family members for comfort and consultation.
Providing pastoral care to address an individual’s belief system is a complex and vital component of Christian Health’s multidisciplinary Person- and Family-centered Care. Through a pastoral-care assessment tool developed with Rev. Knol’s guidance, all newly admitted patients and residents receive an initial assessment to determine their level of interest of incorporating faith into treatment. The staff considers the influence of religious and spiritual well-being on physical and mental health, and can help a person identify faith in the healing process, whatever that faith may be.
Under Rev. Knol’s leadership, an impressive and diverse roster of programs to nourish the body, mind, and spirt of area clergy has been developed. Clergy Days for religious leaders and clergy spouses often featuring national speakers. Half-day Pastoral Colloquiums, with local speakers, are designed for clergy with time constraints. Parish Nurse Ministry Forums, presented twice yearly in conjunction with Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, unite clinical and spiritual aspects of this church role. Oasis from the Office, offered twice yearly, is a luncheon/lecture series for religious administrative staff. Christian Health professionals provide hands-on training for business-related topics, such as improving computer skills and developing newsletters. Clergy and clergy spouse support groups round out Pastoral Care’s roster. By caring for the clergy, Christian Health further extends its mission into the community. Strengthening and nourishing the clergy, in turn, strengthens and nourishes the community. No other local organization offers the types of programs for clergy that Christian Health offers.
Also under Rev. Knol’s leadership, Christian Health began to offer monthly Faith & Grief luncheons. Open to all faiths, the free luncheons are opportunities for those mourning the loss of a loved one to gather together and be strengthened through sharing, scripture, prayer, and reflection. Christian Health is the only health-care organization in New Jersey and in the entire country to offer this bereavement support group.
Rev. Knol truly embodies an outstanding leader whose expertise, knowledge, and guidance continues to benefit those entrusted to our care, our staff, and the community.
Faith & Grief
Healing, comfort, hope, and strength.
Christian Health’s Faith & Grief program helps participants reconcile their sorrow in a unique format. Grief is both a leveler and a uniter, bringing together persons from diverse faith traditions and backgrounds to share personal stories which inspire and encourage.
Open to all faiths, Faith & Grief luncheons are opportunities for those mourning the loss of a loved one to gather together and be strengthened through sharing, scripture, prayer, and reflection. Here, participants can confront and explore the intersection of their faith and grief. Christian Health is the only health-care organization in New Jersey and in the entire country to offer this bereavement support group. There is no cost, and the luncheon is complimentary; free-will donations are accepted.
Now entering its fifth year at Christian Health, Faith & Grief has helped countless individuals through the bereavement process. When participants begin to gather at each luncheon, a Faith & Grief volunteer plays soothing music on a harp. After partaking in a light lunch, a speaker will share his/her personal experience with grief. A scripture verse is read, and participants, gathered around tables in groups of up to six, then have a discussion based on questions related to the scripture. Community members and Christian Health employees serve as speakers and table facilitators. Participants can attend monthly or whenever their schedule allows.
Faith & Grief’s impact is best illustrated through the words of attendees:
- “There’s no limit on the grief process. I’ve been attending Faith & Grief since my husband died nearly four years ago. You can come in the early stages of grief or you can come in the later stages. I stay with it because I continue to grow and learn and share. The faith aspect is important to me.” Jean McGarry
- “After we lost our son, our faith was crucial to our surviving. Sometimes in grief you get stuck, so to speak. If someone can put it in a different perspective, you can think outside the box.” Carolyn Balaam, participant and facilitator
- “There are no rules when it comes to grief. Each person is different. One man who attended Faith & Grief said to us one day, ‘This is my last one. I don’t need to come anymore.’ I thought, ‘Good for you! You’ve graduated from Faith & Grief. It served a purpose.’ That was tremendous. When you hear other people’s testimony of God’s faithfulness, you receive so much.” Derek Balaam, participant and facilitator
- “This September was one year since my wife Susan passed away. It was a heavy time for me, but I am much stronger now. I give a lot of credit to Faith & Grief, to the inspiration and the guidance that I receive. The faith-based ingredient is important. The thought of eternal life, of the chance to be with your loved one again, gives me so much hope and a reason to press on, and to be a good person and a practicing Christian. I didn’t lose Susan when she passed away. I lost her an earthly sense, but spiritually we are closer, thanks, in part, to Faith & Grief. She now loves the way God loves. How can you top that?” Frank Gasper
- “Faith & Grief luncheons are a blessing because they have given all of us who suffered the loss of a loved one the opportunity to share our experiences together and to encourage each other. It is important that we show respect for each other because we all handle grief differently.” Ruth Knyfd