Forrest General Pastoral Care Staff Contributes to Healing Process
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (August 25, 2020) When it comes to ministering to the sick at Forrest General Hospital, Chaplain Rodger Moore and the Pastoral Care staff have learned to think outside the box in caring for clients, their families, and their faith.
The latest outreach they’ve begun is the use of a prayer cloth, something that’s not new to the religious community, but actually dates back to Biblical days. In Matthew 9:21, the verse tells of the woman plagued by a disease -– “For she said within herself, If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.”
A prayer cloth is about the size of a man’s handkerchief and in most instances is white. Some are embroidered or marked in some other way with passages of scripture. Some are tailored toward women with scalloped edges or lace and a more feminine touch. The cloth may be unfolded and placed over an individuals’ hands, beside or underneath their neck or head or used in other ways. Anointing oils can also be used while the chaplain has prayer over the individual or family. “It’s a symbol for the family -– a unifying, connecting source to the Lord,” said Moore.
Moore is quick to point out that the prayer cloths are not unique to any particular denomination. “We don’t go in and ask if they would like a cloth, but we listen to the story and what’s going on, if they have a special need present within them, or something that might make a prayer cloth meaningful,” said Moore. “There’s a certain amount of evaluation we do as we provide these also. In every instance where they’ve been given out they have been received positively, and at times, it’s very emotional.”
“We’ve never done this here at the hospital before,” Moore said. “We wanted to do something to get ourselves in front of the people and make a positive impact for the patients, medical teams, and others at Forrest General.”
The pastoral team started working on the program in March, then COVID-19 hit. Since then, they’ve slowly been building it up and only started handing out the cloths in mid-July.
In recent weeks, the Pastoral Care staff has joined with two groups who are providing the cloths but distribution has been limited. “We could go through 30 or 40 a day if we had the supply,” he said. The pastoral team is hoping that as more people hear about them they will become interested in helping produce these prayer cloths, much like people did with the masks.
According to Moore, these prayer cloths are not a magic potion. “It’s a vivid reminder of the Lord’s presence in the middle of all aspects of life,” he said. “This becomes a symbol of the Lord and can be designed in a variety of different ways.”
The Christian Women’s Fellowship at Moore’s home church, Christian Fellowship, in downtown Hattiesburg, was the first to sign on. The outreach project is being headed up by Carolyn Clemons with the congregation providing the funds to buy the needed supplies for the group. Clemons said they found that vinyl lettering on the handkerchiefs worked best. “We tried embroidery, which took time, and fabric ink, which sometimes ran. We liked using the handkerchiefs, because they are soft and worked well with the vinyl,” she said.
Joyce Rogers, mother of Bob Rogers, a part-time pastoral care chaplain, and members of her Bible study group at The Claiborne, an independent living facility in Hattiesburg, have also reached out to help. Rogers leads the Bible study and plays the piano for their weekly worship services. Once the cloths are completed, they are washed, placed in individual plastic bags along with a prayer of healing card and a brief note of encouragement. For those community members not handy with a needle and thread, Moore said supplies can be donated for others to craft the prayer cloths.
A resource brochure created by Pastoral Care gives some history of the cloth, guidelines for making them as well as prayers to be used in conjunction with the cloths.
“These cloths enable us to have greater reach and ongoing relationships with our patients,” said Moore. “This hospital is not just focusing on illness, but caring and comforting the whole aspect of a patient’s life, whether spiritual, mental, physical, or social. All of these are little pieces of the same puzzle. When they fit together, they do something much larger. We can start small and can make a difference.”
If there are groups or individuals who would like to help with the prayer cloth project, contact Moore at 601-288-4222.
About the Pastoral Care Program: Chaplains promote the spiritual well-being of patients, relatives, and staff at Forrest General Hospital. A hospital chapel is available along with confidential counseling. The Pastoral Care Services department actively seeks partnerships with local faith communities in an overall program of clinical pastoral care and community education.