A unique call to ministry: Chaplain serving at ACCAnne Carlsen Center Chaplain Lindy Holt has an unusual ministry providing spiritual care for children and families at ACC. “We also wanted our kids to know that they are beloved children of God … and that God’s always with them,” Holt said.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Anne Carlsen Center Chaplain Lindy Holt has an unusual ministry providing spiritual care for children and families at ACC.
“We also wanted our kids to know that they are beloved children of God … and that God’s always with them,” Holt said.
Unlike a conventional pastorate, Holt’s ministry is non-denominational, and her “congregation” has many faiths, ranging from Catholicism through the many Protestant denominations, but also Wicca and traditional Native American spirituality.
“What I feel binds us together is mission — doing the work of God,” Holt said.
Generally, she focuses on spirituality rather than religion.
“We obviously have a lot of diversity in our employees and our kids and our adults, and we need to be mindful of meeting the needs of everybody,” Holt said. “Part of my responsibility is to push for inclusion and independence.”
Heeding the call
Chaplaincy has always been a part of Holt’s call.
She graduated from Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., and then attended Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine. Holt has also done post-graduate work in spiritual direction and marriage and family counseling.
Before she became a minister, however, she was a life insurance agent and a financial planner. She also served as a classroom aide and center coordinator for a day care.
After graduating from seminary, Holt served two churches in the north Maine woods for four years, and then took some time off. She came to North Dakota when she received a call to a United Church of Christ congregation in Mayville.
Holt also worked in chaplaincy programs at nursing homes and in the Hospice of Red River Valley, and served as a chaplain in cardiac intensive care and kidney dialysis/transplant units, as well as in a boarding home for people who suffer mental illness.
She started at the ACC in June 2011, and works with children, families and her fellow employees.
“Most of our kids participate in all the chaplaincy events in the center,” Holt said.
Each Thursday afternoon, about 100 children and staff members participate in a chapel service in the gym. Holt wheels her portable altar in, and the group prays and sings songs together. Holt shares a Bible story, but she doesn’t usually preach.
“We have a diversity of abilities and challenges in our kids,” Holt said. “We use a lot of technology.”
Some of the children are autistic, and some are also nonverbal. One young man at the center finds the stimulation of the chapel service overwhelming, so Holt visits him individually for a sort of private mini-service every week.
Holt also coordinates the Sunday School-like Kid Sabbath twice a month, with arts and crafts.
The church at large
Part of her job is involving other churches from the community.
For example, the Jamestown Christian mimes are slated to visit the center on Maundy Thursday. Five Catholic students have just begun working on sacramental preparation classes. Once a month, the Rev. Joe Barrett of the St. James Basilica offers a Catholic Mass. A pastor from Victory Lutheran is working with a young man for his confirmation. Some medically fragile students attend church.
Holt tries to make the experiences positive for both the students and the local churches.
“When our kids leave here, where do they go next? Many of them are going into the community in some way — a group home or an apartment with staff,” Holt said.
The church is part of that community, and some parents especially want their children to have connections to the church.
Holt also represents the center in the community, including the faith community of Jamestown. She serves as secretary/treasurer for the local ministerial association.
Pastoral care is another important part of Holt’s job, and she spends much more of her time on that than on worship. She provides support to children and their families. She goes to many meetings just to make sure she knows what’s going on with the families she cares for.
If a child dies, Holt does a memorial service at the center.
“I’m available for staff and families to talk to,” Holt said.
Her work can be challenging, but Holt said she enjoys the blessings and gifts of each new day at the Anne Carlsen Center, and feels that every day is different.
“It’s really a pretty remarkable place,” Holt said. “I have a great deal of respect for people who try to make life better for children and families.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com