Specific congregation/agency information:
Through a grant from the Lilly Foundation, Hyde Park Union church has provided chaplaincy services to Jackson Park Hospital for over a decade. From this experience HPUC is now ready to launch a new ministry in partnership with the hospital: The Gilead Project. Already, several academic and theological institutions have joined with HPUC in supporting Gilead—The Divinity School at the University of Chicago, The Urban CPE Consortium, The First Baptist Church of Chicago, the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago and now, McCormick Theological Seminary. The mission of Gilead is to provide quality pastoral care for those in need while providing a unique, hands-on learning experience for seminarians. We are deeply committed to both the spiritual needs of our patients and the learning needs of our students. Therefore, chaplains in The Gilead Project are professionally trained and supervised with the support and resources of both JPH and HPUC.
General geographic, population, ethnic make-up:
A Southside, urban community hospital, Jackson Park’s patient population is predominantly African American, with most identifying as Protestant Christians. The medical staff represents a varied ethnic and religious heritage from around the world. Roughly half of the patients at JPH are on Behavioral Medicine units, and many suffer from chronic mental illness, poverty, and/or substance abuse. JPH has a poor reputation within its own neighborhood, and bears a heavy social stigma from its neighbors. It is a hospital of modest means and resources, but with a hard-working and devoted staff who work with the chaplains to provide the patients with the best possible care they can.
Students will serve as chaplains, providing spiritual strength and support to the JPH community. Working with a variety of cultures and faith traditions, students will offer ecumenical ministry and pastoral care to patients, as well as fellow caregivers. Chaplains will find themselves providing care for those in acute medical emergencies as well as for those suffering chronic conditions—persistent poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, inadequate healthcare, and homelessness. The nature of the work offers our students the very unique opportunity to perform a variety of rituals and engage in liturgies from various traditions. Invariably, our students will minister to those experiencing grief and loss. Sometimes this means offering prayer or having a conversation. Sometimes it could mean holding someone’s hand while they weep. Other times, it could mean playing cards or commiserating over hospital food. Whatever the method, our ministry is to abide with our patients, helping them find meaning, and to restore dignity and humanity to those who suffer.
Chaplains at JPH develop superior skills in pastoral authority, theological reflection, triage, interfaith dialogue, and most prominently, pastoral care and the ministry of presence. The work of the chaplain is challenging, innovative, and often deeply emotional. As such, Gilead is committed to providing sophisticated and thoughtful supervision, both in a group setting and in one-on-one individual supervision.
Jackson Park Hospital is located at 7531 S Stony Island Ave, just a short drive away from Hyde Park. The hospital is easily accessible by car, with a free visitor’s parking lot and ample street parking nearby. Public transportation is also a convenient option via CTA Bus 28, which runs between Hyde Park and the hospital regularly.
Rev. Wesley Sun is the founding director of The Gilead Project. A licensed American Baptist minister, he has served as chaplain and department director to several homeless shelters and hospitals in this city, including a full year of service at JPH. Originally from sunny Florida, Wesley moved to Chicago to complete his MDiv at the University of Chicago before taking a position as a Lilly Resident at Hyde Park Union Church. Wesley has completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education and will begin ACPE supervisory training while overseeing Gilead. In addition to his keen interest in pastoral care and theology, Wesley enjoys comic books, martial arts, and really good food. He encourages his students to think creatively as ministers, and to bring their own interests, talents, and passions to their work.