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Sharing a moment of "Amazing Grace"

May 27, 2020
Micki Varner, PeaceHealth Oregon interim director of Mission Services, plays guitar and leads caregivers in song at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore.
PeaceHealth caregivers feel a sense of calm as they sing the powerful hymn

Renee Francis, an Emergency Department nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore.Singing calms Renee Francis. As demands have heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Department nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, sometimes takes her breaks in the hospital stairwell—and sings.

Aware of the wonderful acoustics in the hospital's lobby, Renee mentioned to her manager how incredible it be would if a few caregivers could meet there to sing “Amazing Grace”.

Springing to life

Soon her idea took on a life of its own. As part of National Nurses Week, dozens of caregivers—wearing masks and standing apart--gathered in RiverBend’s lobby and along the balcony to sing the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Micki Varner, PeaceHealth Oregon’s interim director of Mission Services, played guitar and led the group in song, as some caregivers swayed gently or clasped their hands in prayer.

It was a cathartic moment—a collective exhale of the breath the world has been holding since the pandemic erupted late last year in China, spread through Europe, then to the United States and other parts of the world.

“It was great to see a group like that come together at this strange time,” Renee reflects.

She chose the hymn “Amazing Grace” because it’s so familiar and its message resonates with so many.

“Whether you have faith or not, it’s about extending each other grace, receiving grace and giving yourself grace,” she says. The sing-along provided everyone an opportunity to reflect on and embrace that message. Caregivers left with a sense of calm as they returned to the demands of caring for sick, and often anxious, patients during this unsettling time.

An expression of values

John Scholl, executive assistant at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore., sings "Amazing Grace." This experience was an example of PeaceHealth living its values, says John Scholl, an executive assistant to RiverBend Administration.

“It was moving to have the support and freedom for so many of us to pause and reflect on the amazing grace that we don’t deserve, but that God gives us so freely,” he says. “It was encouraging to see people from all walks of life in the organization supporting it—caregivers from Environmental Services, nurses, doctors, directors and executive leadership.”

"Amazing Grace," our spiritual national anthem

In her remarks at the sing-along, PeaceHealth Oregon Chief Executive Mary Kingston and former ICU nurse, noted that John Newton and William Cowper wrote the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" in 1772, and the U.S. Library of Congress has 3,000 versions of the song. Why? “It inspires hope in times of tragedy and loss of life,” she said. “It represents the ability of humanity to transform itself for the better. The lyrics have the power to change our sorrows into grace. Our suffering into beauty. Our isolation into empathy and connection. The unspeakable held in our hearts into poetic literature. It is our spiritual national anthem.”

Through many dangers, toils and snares

We haPeaceHealth Oregon executives Micki Varner, interim director of Mission Services, Heather Wall, RiverBend chief nursing officer and Mary Kingston, chief executive PeaceHealth  Oregon in the lobby of PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.ve already come

T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far

And Grace will lead us home

Amid all the fear and uncertainty the world faces today, please join us in this moment of "Amazing Grace."

Photo captions: Top: Micki Varner, PeaceHealth Oregon interim director of Mission Services. Second photo: Renee Francis, Emergency Department nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. Third photo: John Scholl, executive assistant for PeaceHealth RiverBend Administration, sings with fellow caregivers. Fourth photo: PeaceHealth Oregon executives Micki Varner, interim director of Mission Services; Heather Wall, RiverBend's chief nursing officer and Chief Executive Mary Kingston

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