Why I Went to Seminary

When I was in seminary, we would frequently be asked to identify ourselves by our “social location.” When it comes to my social location here at Anoint, this is who I am.

I am a justice seeker, peace maker, and ally, who knows grief like the back of her hand. I have worked as an interfaith hospice chaplain caring for LGBTQ patients, people with HIV-AIDS, homeless people living on the streets. As a hospital chaplain, I cared for prisoners who were incarcerated, patients who died in the ICU from random accidents and newborns who died in their parent’s arms. I have seen tragedy in the most horrific human experiences.

I grew to trust that the rituals of life, of making meaning in dying, for loved ones and the ones dying includes anointing oil, prayer, breathing deeply the aromas of lavender and rose, of rosemary and thyme, silence, and tea drinking, and pausing in the tough days with smelling salts, sprays, and the importance of self-care found in the everyday with meditation, or yoga, or in the stillness of walking. Or just the stillness of getting out of bed when we profoundly grieve.

I went to seminary after working at Denver’s oldest historic cemeteries, as executive director of a historic preservation organization preserving 19th century buildings and mausoleums, caring for an extensive heirloom rose collection, coordinating 65 volunteers, and guiding thousands of children through the cemeteries each year.

It was there that I helped lead families to graveside services as well. And this is what I saw…. Many families would come with a minister, hold hands with the family of the deceased, pray, preach, and sometimes sing. I knew these families would have a repast at the church or temple afterwards, and people to check in with them over the long haul of grief. But by far and away, I saw the vast majority of families who came to the grave with their loved one, without a spiritual leader, whose grief was heart wrenching, whose children were confused, where grief wailed, tears were shed, and goodbyes were never possible.

I went to seminary because I wanted to be with people who needed someone to help them with end of life rituals.

Since those days at seminary, and now with a stint as a hospice and hospital chaplain, I’m ready to put all of this wisdom, these amazing experiences, and intuitive trust, into Anoint, a place for those wanting pastoral or spiritual care around death, dying, grief, or loss, or want to explore spiritual direction around grief, or who needs someone to officiate a memorial service or funeral.

Or wants to ritualize the ancient practice of anointing in a 21st century way with products made exclusively for those who are grieving, and those at the end of life. Or is a health care professional and wants to learn how to midwife death with essential oils. Or who wants to take a workshop on ritualmaking.  Anoint is for you.

And because to own your own grief, you have to be transparent and vulnerable (sometimes) I have a history with grief in my own life. My dad was killed in a helicopter accident when I was 23 years old. It’s a story of abandonment, estrangement, and loss and trauma. When I say families are complicated, I know it from experience.

Elizabeth Webb