OSSINING, N.Y. The Rev. Sim Gardner ministers to two very different flocks as a Presbyterian clergyman. He is the Director of Pastoral Care at Lawrence Hospital Center in Bronxville and also serves as a volunteer teacher at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. In both places, he sees his mission as healing.
"Each is a different form of healing, but they are both challenging and rewarding.
Gardner teaches a college-level course on peer counseling at the correctional facility. The 15-session certificate program teaches student inmates how to listen and how to serve as peer counselors in the prison community. Upon release, the students can use these skills in the human services field.
One of the great joys of being a chaplain is being able to relate to all people who walk in the hospitals door, trying to meet their spiritual needs as people present themselves. says Gardner, who has been in ministry more than 36 years, including five years as Lawrence's chaplain.
When I walk into the prison, he says, I am honored to take a 15-session journey with them. I feel like a lot of the men in our prison system have not had the mentoring necessary to develop empathy and compassion, he says, adding that he is often the first mentor the inmates have. I feel like, if I can be a mentor like that, it is a privilege for me.
Gardner feels strongly about lending an ear and serving as an example. The students are motivated, bright, well-prepared, he says. I have them keep a journal so they can reflect on their dreams, the course and their own learning style. This course is not just for content, but for transforming a person into a whole individual.
The pastor points with pride to the strides students make and to graduation as a moment of success. Whether at the hospital or the prison, Gardner makes each person his focus. Caring for the whole personbody, mind and spirit [is the goal], he says.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.