Valuing ministry

Published 7:22 am Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Rev. Amanda Hayes-Bowman is the only chaplain at New Century Hospice in the Town of Farmville, but she said the role gives her a unique opportunity to provide strength and comfort to those who are struggling.

“I decided to pursue this type of ministry because I believe God calls us to be with people on the margins, just as Jesus was with the most vulnerable people in his society,” Hayes-Bowman, 27, said. “People who are sick are often pushed to the margins because we live in a culture that values healthy minds and bodies. When people face a serious illness, it can profoundly impact the way they are seen by others and the way they see themselves. In Hebrew, there is a word nephesh, which means something like “the breath of life”—that thing deep inside each of us that keeps us going and that cannot be taken away no matter what happens to us. I think my role as a chaplain is to help people get in touch with that life force that will allow them to find hope and courage to face what they are going through.”

Hayes-Bowman’s journey toward ministry led her to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from UNC Chapel Hill, a Master of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and a Master of Science in Patient Counseling from VCU School of Allied Health. She said working at hospice has allowed her to connect with the community.

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“I know people sometimes assume my job is depressing because I am around so much illness and dying, but hospice is not always like that,” Hayes-Bowman said. “In fact, there are plenty of days when my patients make me laugh or when we can celebrate some small moment of grace together. I also get to work with a wonderful interdisciplinary team.”

Hayes-Bowman has organized everything from book clubs to workshops to discuss grieving. She noted that she is looking to potentially lead a few programs in the summer, including a grief program with crafts and a hiking program that would meet at the High Bridge Trail State Park. Hayes-Bowman said she is fairly new to the Farmville area, but has been struck by the sense of community and unity.

“I am fairly new to small town living and to Farmville, but I appreciate the interconnectedness of the community,” Hayes-Bowman said. “Last year I attended an interfaith potluck that was held at the farmers market, and it really moved me to see the way that people from so many different backgrounds came together to share in fellowship.”

She said a perfect day in Farmville would include spending time at Uptown Coffee Cafe and the Virginia Tasting Cellar, and going for a run on the High Bridge Trail. Hayes-Bowman noted her go-to shows are those produced by Shonda Rhimes, including Grey’s Anatomy.

“Though I think they need a chaplain on the show to help them cope with all the crazy stuff they deal with!” Hayes-Bowman said.

Regarding her heroes, Hayes-Bowman noted Brené Brown, Rachel Naomi Remen, Letty Russell, Barbara Brown Taylor and young people involved in societal change as people who have inspired her ministry.

“I also am continually inspired by everyday heroes who work tirelessly to make the world a better place,” Hayes-Bowman said.