God’s Word is a ‘Lifeline’ for COVID Chaplain

By Bethany Peterson – BSF Editorial Assistant

“I don’t know if I could do another year of what I just did,” longtime BSF member Kevin Deegan said. “I feel like, especially one year later, we need new words to describe how we feel. We used words like crazy, unprecedented and exhausted way too early in the pandemic.” Now, Kevin and his colleagues are simply out of words to capture the intensity of their experiences this year. 

A little over a year ago, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. made the unimaginable decision to close their hospital doors to all visitors. Kevina chaplain in the Step-Down Intensive Care Unit at Providence, found himself taking on an unexpected role as his floor was transformed into the COVID unit. 

“I became the COVID chaplain,” Kevin said simply. “Since then, we’ve had COVID patients on every floor of our hospital, and so every chaplain has become a COVID chaplain. But I like to say I was the first.” 

Before COVID, Providence averaged about 50 deaths in a month, but this January alone, amid the height of the COVID crisis, the hospital reported 127 deaths. A chaplain is required to not only be at every death, but also all other crisis events, including code blues (when a patient’s heart and breathing stopand trauma cases, to support suffering patients and anxious families. 

This year, to say Kevin and his team of chaplains are stretched thin is an understatement. Their roles have changed drastically, their hours increased, and the emotional toll is exponentially higher.

But through the exhaustion and pain, God’s Word has steadied this team, and Kevin has personally experienced God’s guidance in desperate moments.

Kevin Deegan, "COVID Chaplain," pictured comforting a patient

Courtesy of Mario Tama, Getty Images

Creating Connections

Early in the pandemic, when a daughter was told that her father would not recover, she immediately drove to the hospital, hoping for a chance to see him. When she arrived, her access to the COVID unit was restricted. Walking to meet her, Kevin spontaneously decided to FaceTime the doctor, who turned the camera to her dad. In that moment, Kevin watched a daughter find healing and closure as she said goodbye to her father. 

“I’ll cherish this,” she told Kevin. 

With this experience in mind, Kevin took an idea to his manager — to purchase iPads for the department. The chaplain team pivoted their ministry to a virtual setting.  

“For almost a year now, I’ve walked the halls with the same iPad every day, and I’ve been inundated with these video requests and keeping families connected. A lot of my job has changed to that,” he explained.  

Chaplaincy, as Kevin views it, is a ministry of presence, meant to embody compassion, empathy and support in times of crisis. “To take that theological foundation of my work as chaplain and translate it to a virtual setting, where I’m not technically in person, is that still going to have the same impact? Is it still going to resonate?” Kevin worried. 

To their surprise, adapting to virtual chaplaincy has opened their eyes to previously unreached patients and family members.  

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center serves a lower socioeconomic, and high immigrant, population. Once Kevin began doing video calls with family members, he realized that many of them lived out of the country or would have been unable to come into the hospital because of other factors such as work schedule or caring for children. 

“So even if we completely go back to normal where visitation is back the way it was, I still think there’s a way for us to keep families connected virtually that we weren’t thinking about before,” Kevin saidI still want to be able to offer that because I think it’s part of the whole person healing that we’re seeking. 

Equipped for Innovation

Having been in BSF for 17 years as a class member, Group Leader, Children’s Leader, Class Administrator and, most recently, online group member, Kevin had a head start in translating spiritual support and discussion into a virtual environment.   

“In the same way that BSF has had to translate the intimacy of a group [online], I’ve had to learn the intimacy of connecting with the family virtually,” Kevin said. In fact, Kevin reported that his online group experience has “actually been the deepest group discussion that I’ve been a part of at BSF.”  

Kevin attributes his ability to adapt to new circumstances and lead others spiritually through crisis to the framework he learned throughout his BSF experience.  

When Kevin first joined BSF in a Young Adult group after high school, his life was on a different track. He had never been a great student and was pursuing a career in acting, never expecting to return to any sort of higher education. However, through learning to study God’s Word each week with the daily lesson questions and discussion groups, Kevin had an epiphany:  

“Maybe I’ve just been studying the wrong things. … Maybe I have a passion for God’s Word,” he realized. “That [passion] really evolved through my participation in BSF and certainly my participation in leadership. Through BSF and a few mentors in my life, I discerned a call to ministry and went back to school because of the foundation or the experience of having done some studying with BSF,” Kevin shared.  

For Kevin, BSF was the place where he built a foundation for learning to do ministry well and to be in spiritual leadership. “I feel like I’m equipped well to do this work. Even when we’re going to uncharted territory as we have this last year, because of BSF, because of that strong foundation that was built, I feel confident to continue to meet those needs,” he said. 

Bringing God’s Word to Life

Through this year’s Genesis study, Kevin has seen God’s Word come to life as he minsters to patients, families and medical staff.  

“As a longtime member of BSF, I have come to believe that God’s Word is ‘alive and active.’ So, I expect whatever we are studying in BSF to come up in my week,” he shared. “I have been impacted by all the family and relational dynamics throughout Genesis. Managing family dynamics is part of my work as a chaplain, but I have also been encountering difficult relationships in my personal life. God is in the business of transformation and reconciliation.” 

Secure in God’s Word, Kevin and his team approach each day with confidence in His direction and provision. 

“There is another presence with us, that’s the Spirit of God with us, protecting us,” he said. “We will come out of this whole.” 

COVID Chaplain Kevin Deegan pictured facilitating a virtual spiritual meeting

Courtesy of Jae Hong, Associated Press

Learn more about BSF at https://www.bsfinternational.org/

Bethany Peterson

BSF Editorial Assistant

Bethany Peterson is an editorial assistant at Bible Study Fellowship Headquarters. She is third generation BSF-er and a native Texan. She joined BSF after graduating from Wheaton College where she studied spiritual discipleship in a digital world.


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  1. Truly enjoyed this article and I can certainly relate to those wanting and needing to see their loved ones in those hours of sickness and for many those last hours. My father passed at the first of 2021 and I had the pleasure of working long distance with a Hospice group and a chaplain of theirs. They also used the face time with me and my Dad and it sure was comforting. The hospice group were so very kind and willing to work with you and the chaplain was very comical and I enjoyed and needed a laugh or two. Keep up the good work as God continues to protect you and bless all that you come in contact with. Blessing my Brother in Christ.

  2. Kevin – I am amazed at your strength, resourcefulness, and compassion which comes through the Holy Spirit working through you day by day, week by week, month by month, and now year by year through these Covid times. But this to shall pass. My son, who was in BSF from pre-school through high school went into the ministry and is a pastor in Covina, CA. He said his most challenging time in seminary was during his chaplaincy for 3 months – he never knew what was going to happen on a given day, and how patients or family members were going to react to his presence – but he came away with wonderful accounts of the peace of Christ working amidst the chaos. Stay strong in Christ and my prayers are with you.

  3. I just retired from the Chaplaincy hospice as a In Home

    I just retired after working 20 years as a hospice RN. Covid stress sent many of my coworkers to find new jobs. For me it was time to say goodbye to a profession I loved. I worked closely with chaplains and love them dearly! Thank you for all the bedside care and comfort you bring to patients and their families. Helping families and patients connect during COVID times is such a blessing! I’m thankful you are strong Spiritually because without Gods help how could we do this job? BSF helps builds a strong foundation to share with others. Loved the photo of you at a patients bedside. Truly mercy is a blessing and a gift.

  4. This is the first time I’ve been on this blog. This is a group of people I hadn’t thought of during this time the Chaplains, who were faced with death in the same way as the doctors and the nurses. You were and are a pretty forgotten group. Seeing double the amount of deaths you normally would see must’ve been hard for you, but on the other hand being able to minister at the time you did is a blessing. I pray that you all are safe and the Lord blesses you in a very special way!! What a wonderful testimony of showing God’s love to those who need it!

  5. Thank you for posting such a beautiful article and illustrating how Kevin faith allowed God to define and work through these past years to bring families the peace and closure they desired vs allowing the situation to define how we view God and the circumstances.

    • This is such a great story. I recently lost my brother to COVID, this September. I would have liked someone like Kevin, to have been by his side. I never got a chance to say goodbye. My brother was a Christian, who loved God, and believed in Jesus, our Lord. I know he wasn’t alone, but it would have been nice to know there was someone in the room with him, that believed like he did, to cheer him on, to the end of his race. Blessing to you all, and thank you Kevin. May God continue to bless your ministry.

  6. Kevin (and Bethany!), thanks for sharing the impact that God’s word had on your life, and the direction it provided. I’m sharing this story with my men tonight – God’s word powerfully moves us from darkness to light!


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