Spiritual Care: What Does Coffee Have to Do with It?
When you ask Travis Jamieson about his role as Chaplain at Beacon Hill, you just might get a lesson in roasting your own coffee beans! What does coffee have to do with spiritual care?
“One of the things I love about roasting coffee is you always have to order the green beans to roast,” says Travis. “Online, I get a list of countries I can order from. I love that! Every country I order from has a different flavor. And within a country, every farm offers something different—a different kind of experience when you taste it. Different flavors. Different people. Different coffee farms with different stories. But at the end of the day, it ends up as coffee in a cup. It’s a unifying factor of diverse flavors.”
Can you hear a sermon illustration coming?
Different from What Most Churches Can Pull Off
“We have a really diverse community at Beacon Hill,” Travis continues. “People with different backgrounds, growing up in different places, with different experiences. At the end of the day, I’m always looking to know that story … to know what sets them apart but keeping in mind that this person is just like every other person. We all have emotional needs—deep spiritual needs. It really unifies us as a people. We’re all humans in the image of God.”
There is a wide diversity of religious viewpoints at Beacon Hill, from no faith to all kinds—Baptist, Catholic, Reformed, United Methodist, and more. “All tend to bring different flavors of their faith to our community,” says Travis. “Each of them brings something valuable to the table. It gives an opportunity to come together doing different services and events as a diverse faith community. That’s different from what most churches can pull off!”
Programs, Services and Events
Those events include a wide range of activities:
- Weekly chapel services in Independent Living and Assisted Living
- Monthly communion in Assisted Living
- Bi-weekly devotionals in Memory Support
- Monthly men’s groups in Assisted Living
- Weekly Bible study groups
- Weekly book clubs
- Weekly “Faith Seeking Understanding” lectures in Independent Living and Assisted Living, with topics like “Getting to Know the Church Fathers,” “Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit,” and “The Reason for God: A Study by Tim Keller”
- Quarterly lecture by local professors
- Seasonal events such as Veterans Day services and gathering Christmas gifts for the Salvation Army
But programs and activities aren’t the center of spiritual care at Beacon Hill. “We’re working to cultivate a culture of spiritual care,” Travis says. “It’s not just about programs or me going around to each resident’s home. It’s also interacting with staff and encouraging them to provide spiritual care—plus, helping residents provide spiritual care among themselves.”
For Travis, that spiritual care begins before residents even move in. “I see part of my role as supporting the sales staff. They may be working with someone looking at Assisted Living or Memory Care. I try to support the staff as they help those folks navigate their situations, helping them understand that moving to Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing or Memory Support isn’t a failure. It’s not giving up. And it’s not giving up on your parents. It’s trying to help them thrive in the best way they can.”
Travis also sees the spiritual care role as reaching beyond the walls of Beacon Hill. For example, he has invited local churches to attend Beacon Hill events and participates in a new chaplains’ network in Grand Rapids. He’s also inspired by the volunteer work residents perform for their churches and in the community. Just like those coffee beans that are sent out from their farms to bring rich flavors and aromas to the rest of the world!
Why Beacon Hill?
Travis didn’t originally set out to become a chaplain. “My mindset was I was going to pastor a church,” Travis explains, and he followed an educational path for that purpose. He earned a B.A. in Theology from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, following it with an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
When he came to Grand Rapids to study for his Master of Divinity degree at Calvin Theological Seminary, he started a part-time job working with Beacon Hill’s former Chaplain, Rich Verkaik. That turned into a graduate internship lasting 2 years. When Rich retired, Travis was brought on full time. “Once I got involved at Beacon Hill, and started doing chaplaincy work, I found that I really began to love doing it.” He joined the Beacon Hill staff full time in April of 2019. “It’s a healthy organization and a meaningful place to work!”
The Three-Mile-an-Hour God
Travis’s role model for ministry at Beacon Hill is Jesus. “Our mission statement talks about being ‘motivated by the love of Christ.’ When working with an aging population, it’s important to be following Jesus’ model of slowness. He’s always walking along with enough time for the people around him. On his way to Jerusalem to the cross—a big mission for him—he finds ten men along the way with leprosy. He stops his journey and takes the time to care for them.
“Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama talks about Jesus being a ‘three-mile-an-hour God.’ That’s the speed of a person walking. I’m trying to be a chaplain who is slow enough to see residents’ needs and love them the way they need to be loved.”
With a diverse community like Beacon Hill, that means different things at different times. “I’m comfortable being a chaplain to someone with faith or no faith. I try to go in with as little of an agenda as possible and ask questions so they can tell me what they need from me.”
So, feel free to stop by and tell Travis a little about yourself.
And maybe, just maybe, he’ll let you taste some coffee from freshly roasted coffee beans!