Chaplain Darren Schwartz heads off to duty
Welcome Eric Robbins as new KRH Chaplain
As you may know, Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s chaplain Darren Schwartz is temporarily leaving for a military deployment to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. He has been selected for a 12-month mobilization to serve as the chaplain to the Military Mortuary Affairs team stationed there. The Military Mortuary Affairs team supports soldiers who died overseas and their families. To better understand the ministry to fallen service members, Schwartz highly recommends watching the movie “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon. Schwartz is a chaplain in the Montana Army National Guard and has previously served in Afghanistan. Unbeknownst to Schwartz at the time, a former Army supervisor of his saw the opening for a chaplain with both military and hospital experience and recommended him for the position. “When I heard about it, I thought, wow, what an honor!” he remarked. “It would be a privilege to serve.”
Schwartz started working at KRH in the summer of 2014 and has really enjoyed the ride so far. “A lot of great people, a lot of great experiences here,” he declared fondly. “I think I have the best job in the hospital most days." As much as Schwartz loves working here, the community loves having him even more. His loving presence and calming demeanor have made him adored amongst patients and staff alike. Many remember earlier this year when he officiated an expedited wedding in the hospital chapel for a terminally-ill patient and his fiancé just 11 days before he died. That act of kindness drew praise from the media, but Schwartz’s everyday compassion has been done for one purpose only: to provide comfort to those who need it. Schwartz’s friendship will be dearly missed this next year by all those who have known him.
Schwartz has assured, however, that he’s leaving the role of chaplain in great hands. Eric Robbins has been named as Schwartz’s replacement. Robbins, an Iowa native, served for nearly ten years as the lead pastor for a church he and his wife started in Seattle. Prior to that, he served as a youth pastor and in a variety of humanitarian and nonprofit roles. Robbins originally came to Montana four years ago to assist a relative with a newly acquired business. While doing that, he never lost his nonprofit roots and began volunteering on the Kalispell Business Improvement District Board for the city of Kalispell and also as a volunteer chaplain for the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department for two years. From there, he found his way to KRH. Since Christmas Eve, Robbins has shadowed Schwartz in preparation to take over the job at the start of the new year.
Robbins has always been attracted to the hands-on approach that being a chaplain allows. “There’s something in my heart that leaps when I put my hand on the plow,” he said. “On the front lines, you get to truly use your gifts and your talents in more of a tangible way.” That hands-on approach was quickly put to the test as Robbins immediately dealt with some intense situations during his first days at KRH. In a hospital setting, high pressure situations can be frequent occurrences, whether it be with patients, families or even staff. Fortunately, Robbins thrives in those types of situations. “I operate really well under intense moments,” Robbins continued. “I’ve had a lot of traumatic support and counseling experience in my past as a pastor and so I’m really looking forward to using my gifts to bring hope, peace and love.”
The chaplain’s role is to address the spiritual aspect of the patients’ lives during their time in the hospital. They are committed to helping the patients and their families meet their religious or spiritual needs in any way they can, no matter their belief systems. For Robbins, his work revolves around spreading love. “Love is a bridge that can span every religion and those with no faith,” he explained. “People like to know that there’s somebody there they can call, have them swing by, pray with them, tell them they’re doing ok.” That humanistic characterization is what makes the chaplain’s services universal regardless of faith. Often times, the chaplain will simply serve as a liaison for patients, getting them in touch with their pastor, spiritual advisor, or whomever they could use to help the patient at a religious or spiritual level.
Robbins is most excited about being able to use his gift to promote hope, peace and love at KRH. “I’m really looking forward to being one of those who can help calm the waves for those that need it most,” he responded. He’s especially grateful to fill in for Schwartz. “I view this as a great opportunity to serve those who serve,” Robbins said regarding Schwartz’s military absence.
The Spiritual Care Office and the chapel are located on the first floor of the hospital directly across from the gift shop. Eric will be in the office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Monday through Friday. However, a chaplain is available 24 hours a day to provide spiritual services. Robbins can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 752-1776. Make sure to swing by to say hello and to give him a quick welcome!