Mariners working from the Texas bayou to the Florida everglades to meet a new SCI chaplain
Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) welcomes Pamela Stephens as a new full-time chaplain based in the Port of Houston for its Ministry on the River program. In July, Chaplain Stephens joined Ann Mills in Paducah (KY) and the Rev. Jim Wilkinson in Louisville (KY) to coordinate SCI's pastoral care network along 2,200 miles of America's inland waterways.
"Pam's home base at SCI's Houston Center will mean that the resources of the Institute are available to her as she provides pastoral care to more river and coastal mariners working in this region. A ministry of presence in the Gulf Region will take her from the bayous of Texas and Louisiana to the everglades of Florida," said the Rev. David Rider, SCI's Executive Director.
Stephens' former position as an Information Technology expert for the past 13 years, supported her love of music and a growing ministry in the Episcopal Church. A church organist since her college days, Stephens became certified as a lay minister in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio and has served in several capacities over the past decade.
"A major conversion experience about six years ago seemed to kick into high gear my desire to do more as a lay minister," said Stephens.
She began the Masters program in Pastoral Care at College of Mount St Joseph in Cincinnati. That experience led to joining the Chaplain Residency program at MD Anderson in Houston 2006 where she ministered to cancer patients and their families.
"Pam has a particular grace in ministering with a wide variety of persons from various ethnic groups, faiths, and income levels. She seems to be at home wherever she goes," said the Rev. Michael Schirmacher, coordinator of clinical pastoral education in the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Stephens is adept to making herself at home in any location. Born in Montana, raised in California, and most recently from Cincinnati, Ohio where she lived for 13 years, she understands the challenges of leaving the familiar but looks for "the common chords."
She found those chords after completing her Bachelor and Master degrees in music from California State University, Chico, and Stanford University. Stephens is no stranger to following the beats of African, Latin American, Asian, Appalachian, American jazz and blues, and folk music.
"Music is a common denominator among people; we all listen to it and many of us play it, so it helps bring people together as well. I'm planning on taking my harmonica on every vessel visit—I should be able to find a tune for any kind of music," said Stephens.