A new calling: Rev. Eileen Smith Le Van of Peace Lutheran Church to pursue a new path
August 2, 2018
The Rev. Eileen Smith Le Van has retired from ministry at Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley to pursue a long-time interest in chaplaincy.
In September, the woman who had been pastor at Peace for three years will start the Clinical Pastoral Education program at John Muir Medical Center in Concord, California. After completing a packed, one-year residency program that includes serving hospital patients, she will receive a certificate.
Meanwhile, the Grass Valley congregation has entered a transition period. Members will take stock of who they are as God's people, and what God is calling them to be and do as a congregation. Out of that discernment process, they will call a new pastor. They will be shepherded in that process by a transition expert from the local Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
During that time, local ordained ministers will lead Sunday morning worship services until an interim pastor is called.
For Smith Le Van, the move "into chaplaincy seems like a very natural progression," she said. "It's a natural blending of my past history."
That history includes being a registered nurse, a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy, and volunteering as a chaplain in a hospital and police department in her parishes in Pennsylvania.
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Smith Le Van first felt a call to ministry in a hospital setting early in her nursing career, when she attended a young mother in labor. The teen's premature baby could not survive, and she asked Smith Le Van to baptize the child — something that nurses have a long tradition of doing, Smith Le Van added.
"It was like lightning hitting me," Smith Le Van said.
She was ordained as a minister in the ELCA in Pennsylvania in 1998, and she took the helm of the Grass Valley congregation in 2015. This latest move comes after much reflection, self-evaluation and introspection, she said.
As a hospital chaplain, Smith Le Van looks forward to special opportunities in her ministry, she said.
"When people face a crisis in their lives, those moments are often when they are most open to the hope of … a God who created us and loves us and cares about us," Smith Le Van said.
Of her previous volunteer chaplaincy, she said, "When I asked people if they wanted me to pray with them, I don't think anyone ever turned me away!"
At 65, Smith Le Van has too much energy and good health to stop working. She continues to feel the call to ministry, she added.
Next steps could include working with law enforcement, nursing homes or hospice care. Whatever form her ministry takes, Smith Le Van said, she trusts that God will use her to "plant seeds."
Trina Kleist is the youth & outreach coordinator for Peace Lutheran Church. More at http://www.PeaceLutheranGV.org or 530-273-9631.