BANGOR, Maine — Charyl Chandler-Stevens on Wednesday came one step closer to becoming a hospital chaplain when she was awarded a Master of Arts degree in biblical studies from Grace College & Evangelical Seminary in a service held at Bangor Baptist Church.
“This degree marries the two things I love most — nursing and God,” Chandler-Stevens, a registered nurse who hopes to become a hospital chaplain, said Thursday. “As a chaplain, I can spend more time with patients. As a nurse, I’m under pressure to get things done in a certain amount of time. If you are forced to push people through like cattle, you can’t give them the loving care they need, which is the reason you went into nursing in the first place.”
That became clear to her several years ago when, after nearly three decades in the profession, her supervisor criticized her for taking too long to admit a patient.
“I was admitting a 23-year-old mother of two who had bilateral breast cancer and was about to have both her breasts removed,” the nurse said. “I started asking her questions and she burst into tears and started crying and couldn’t talk. She was scared to death.
“I finally said, ‘Would you like me to pray with you?’” Chandler-Stevens of Bangor said. “So, I put my arm around her and prayed with her and she was able to compose herself.”
Shortly after that experience, Chandler-Stevens was laid off from her nursing job and decided to follow a different path. She went to Grace Evangelical full time for two years to earn her master’s. She still must complete a yearlong internship at a hospital before she can become a chaplain.
“Grace is just this hidden gem in Bangor,” she said of the 12-year-old seminary located on Odlin Road. “We have people from almost every denomination you can name sitting around a table having lively discussions with love. We respect and honor each other and share wonderful concepts about God and the Bible and promote unity in the body of Christ.”
Chandler-Stevens was one of three women who earned degrees this year from Grace Evangelical.
Kathleen C. Smith, administrative assistant and registrar at the school, also earned a Master of Arts degree in biblical studies. Deborah J. Nadeau, director of Women’s Ministry at Bangor Baptist Church, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in biblical studies.
“My studies broadened and deepened my understanding of God’s word,” Nadeau said Thursday. “I took five semesters of Greek and I compare it to having a decent TV and, then, getting one of those big, high-definition TVs where it’s so realistic you can almost feel the wind blowing. Earning this degree has deepened my experience with God’s word and enriched my life overall.”
David M. Chenoweth of Dover-Foxcroft and Craig M. Lawrence of Limestone earned Associate of Arts degrees in biblical studies. Lawrence is the first student to earn a degree through Grace Evangelical’s satellite campus in Presque Isle.
“You graduates have made a life-changing, ethical decision that will prompt a radical change in your lives,” the Rev. Stan Moody, pastor of the Meetinghouse Church in Manchester, said in his address to graduates. “It has been a decision to seek first the kingdom of God. What may surprise you, however, is that you are now faced with two choices.
“The first is to apply for a position in the existing church culture and assume that you can slap a little duct tape on the old ecclesiology and fix the church from the top down,” he said. “The other choice is to pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus, the suffering servant, fixing the church from the bottom up.”
Moody, who recently founded a program to train people to minister to inmates in the prisons and jails around the state, on Wednesday urged graduates “to lay hold of the kingdom of God outside the city gate and get dirty doing it.”
For information on Grace Evangelical College & Seminary, visit http://www.gecs.us.