New hospice chaplain Leah M. Williams compares her job with being a scientist; determining what each patient needs is like doing a science experiment.
“Every patient is unique,” she said. “So, as a chaplain, the spiritual care that I provide must remain fluid in order to meet the needs of all we serve.”
Leah, who started in November, works with a second chaplain, Robert Ziehmer, to provide spiritual care for patients.
“In order to provide optimal care, we work in tandem with the nursing staff, social workers and volunteer coordinators,” she said. “For some, having a visit from a chaplain can be intimidating. However, we do our best to demonstrate a level of care that not only focuses on spiritual care, but also a high level of compassion.”
Leah originally hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and most recently lived in Arkansas because her husband moved for his job. In 2020, he got a new position in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so the couple moved to Lewisburg, where Leah served as lead pastor at Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church. Prior to that, she served on the City Council in Arkansas.
Leah decided to come to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown because she appreciated the different levels of care it provides. “From what I gathered, Masonic Village was very intentional in providing adequate care on all levels.” she said. “The patient and their family really don’t know you, but trust you in their sacred space.”
So far, her experience has been wonderful, especially working alongside the support services team. “Their main intention is to provide intense, deep care for the patient,” she said. “Each patient gets the same type of attention. I’ve never been part of a team that’s so concentrated like that. It’s exciting.”
Leah has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Memphis and a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School and the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia. She spent time working with the prison population and realized they had strong spiritual needs. That led her to enroll in divinity school.
“I realized how connected your soul is … I noticed some people don’t take care of their soul or have access to why they do what they do, and they make the wrong decisions,” she said. “When you spend time in the criminal justice system, it makes you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about. I felt like exploring the spiritual route was a good thing.”
Leah said she likes that Hospice puts the focus on the family and being able to “walk with them” during a very difficult time. “Being able to see some of the transformations happening is really powerful and intimate,” she said. “You’re like the ‘intimate stranger.’ They don’t know you, but you’re in these spaces you’re not usually invited to. It’s amazing to be in that space.”
Leah said her goal as chaplain is to be there to provide exactly what the patient needs. “You know when you get a massage and afterwards you say, ‘I didn’t know I needed that until I got it?’” she said. “I am hoping when I leave the room, my patients can have that emotional release or reflection.”
When she’s not working, Leah enjoys swimming, fitness activities, reading and getting her nails done. She is married to her husband, Michael. The couple has four children.