Dr. Walter Spears entered the ministry in 1988. Two years later, he enrolled at Morehouse College as a psychology major. He was beginning a long process of discerning his call.
“When I was licensed in the Baptist church,” Dr. Spears says, “I only knew of pastoring or serving as an associate as being opportunities in ministry.” But, Spears adds, he always felt comfortable providing hospital visits. During his time in ministry, he grew increasingly interested in medicine.
“With much prayer and reflection, seminary and chaplaincy became my opportunity to serve in the clinical setting,” Spears says.
In August of 1994, Spears became a student at Memphis Theological Seminary. Spears completed a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) residency within the Methodist LeBonheur system, and received board certification from the Association of Professional Chaplains.
“I graduated in 1997 and in 2000, I took on my first roll as a board-certified staff chaplain at what was then the Regional Medical Center. Before leaving that post, I provided leadership for Pastoral Care, Volunteer Services, and Guest Services. In 2007, I was offered the opportunity to serve as staff chaplain at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.” ‘
“Early in my ministry, I did not know chaplaincy to be an opportunity for me. I did not have any examples of what it looked like to be a chaplain, nor did I appreciate the academic and credentialing requirements. One of the significant thoughts I often share with students of all types is to get as much education as you can stand. Likewise, I always encourage students get all of the credentialing required. Both of these have opened doors for me.”
Spears graduated with a Doctor of Ministry from MTS in 2020.
“MTS afforded me all I needed in order to serve as a chaplain and help others toward chaplaincy.”
“After serving at the trauma center, I was offered an opportunity to return to bedside care. I have been at St. Jude for thirteen years. In that time, I have served the Leukemia clinic, HIV clinic and Solid Tumor clinic.”
“Providing care in a pediatric cancer center is humbling,” Spears says. “It makes me sad to see children on their journey with a catastrophic diagnosis and yet it is a pleasure to provide a spiritual presence in their time of need and get to know patients and families over time.”