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A new Rea of ministry

For the Rev. Woodie Rea, the verse that best defines his ministry is found in the Holy Bible’s book of Romans.

Romans 12:15 tells Christians to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” — and that’s exactly what Rea does daily in his new position as the chaplain at Lake Prince Woods continuous care retirement facility.

“Lake Prince Woods has been the most affirming community,” Rea said this week. “I’ve found this to be a very alive place. This is not your grandfather’s old folks home.”

Rea came to the retirement facility in February after previously working as a chaplain in the Riverside health care network in Newport News. Lake Prince Woods offers a variety of living facilities, including cottages, apartments, assisted living, skilled nursing and a memory unit.

Because of the range of living options at the facility, Rea finds himself ministering to people with a wide array of needs, both physical and spiritual.

“Spiritual life is a very important component of healing,” Rea said.

Rea answered the call to ministry early in his education, receiving his bachelor’s degree at Mid Atlantic Christian University, his master’s degree in counseling at Old Dominion University, and his doctoral degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He then became board-certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Rea sought to become a clinical chaplain because he has always had a strong interest in both theology and psychology.

“This particular branch of ministry merges those two fields,” Rea said. “I was really looking for a niche of ministry that’s fitting to my personality.”

In his position as the director of spiritual life, Rea provides one-on-one spiritual guidance with residents and their families, organizes the worship service held each Sunday, and provides other faith-based services as needed.

Rea preaches at two Sunday services each month, but invites ministers from community churches to preside during the other services. Doing so gives him a break and gives residents who aren’t able to attend their home church the opportunity to hear their own pastor speak.

“It gives our residents a chance to see their minister,” Rea said. “They take a lot of pride in that.”

Rea especially enjoys the individual ministry that is involved in his job.

“I’ve always had a huge interest in how people use their faith in times of crisis,” Rea said. “I enjoy helping people as they’re going through a life transition. That’s where faith and Christian ministry really hit the road.”

Rea frequently meets individually with residents and family members.

“You get to hear someone’s very personal and deep story,” he said. “You really feel like God has been present in that moment.”

Though Rea is ordained in the Disciples of Christ denomination, and the facility is operated by the United Church of Christ, residents come from all faith histories and denominations. Rea said he ministers through the resident’s faith, not his own.

“The goal is to use whatever faith is in that room to help that person fully appreciate their faith system,” he said. “That’s where the conversation starts.”

Through ministering to various denominations, Rea has learned that the many denominations have far more in common than the differences that separate them.

“It’s a very ecumenical ministry,” he said. “You focus not so much on what our differences are than what we have in common.”

Though the job becomes difficult sometimes, Rea acknowledges the responsibility that comes with helping people through their grief and helping them face the challenges associated with a new chapter of life.

“It’s a privilege, but it also carries some responsibility and weight to it,” Rea said. “I try to live a balanced life [to relieve stress].”

Even though he sometimes has mournful days at his job, Rea says he can always find somebody to cheer him up.

“You might have a tough visit with somebody, but then you walk down the hall and somebody picks you up,” he said.

To contact Rea, call 923-5531.