Rev. Randall Trego almost didn’t become the new director of spiritual care for Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital. When he was first approached about the position his answer was simple: No. He was already committed to his job with a local parish. But working in the hospital is where his skills, and his spirit, belong.
“I’m passionate about hospital care,” Trego said. “To me, this is home.”
He enjoyed his work at the parish where he was providing pastoral care and teaching others how to do the same, challenging them to do it well. Here at the hospital, where he officially started as the director of spiritual care in June, he gets to put those skills to use himself.
“Care giving is very, very demanding. Care givers, because they’re so compassionate — which means they suffer with whoever they’re taking care of — for our staff, they’re just on the front line where the rubber hits the road,” Trego said. “I really care deeply to be with people who are willing to admit it hurts. And I really am very, very keen to be with the care givers who are right there at the bed side providing that healing touch.”
Houston Methodist convinced Trego to take up the position by showing that same compassion. Trego had told the parish that when their pastor left for another position he would take over as interim pastor, starting in October, until a full-time pastor could be found. Houston Methodist assured him that he didn’t have to walk away from his promise to take the new job. He could continue to walk with the parish at the same time.
As the director of spiritual care, Trego oversees a full-time staff chaplain and two residents who are there to learn about pastoral care. He wants to be where he is wanted, doing what is needed. It’s his job to make sure that patients are seen by someone on his staff within 48 hours. They are often called at the time of death.
His is a ministry of presence and listening. If someone on his staff is doing more talking than the patient, something is wrong. He takes the same approach with staff.
“In the midst of all of the responsibilities they have I want them to know they have the invitation to hear how beautiful they are,” Trego said. “We work hard, but at the end of the day isn’t it nice to know that somebody really cares and appreciates you for who you are, and not for what you do.”
Trego’s office is exactly what you would expect from a man in his position, with a few interesting personal touches as well. Crosses and photos adorn the walls. Several Union Jack pillows cover his chairs, a reminder of his pilgrimages in the United Kingdom. On his desk is a small statue of Jesus, identifiable only by the holes in his hands and feet, faceless under a blanket. He points out a special sign near the door: Bidden or not bidden, God is present.
“That means that we don’t have to pray or anything else, God is with us regardless,” Trego said. “We are God’s creation. It’s not about how we show devotion at church, or what we do, it’s just because of who we are.”
Recently, a special commissioning service was held inside Rose Chapel at the hospital for Trego where family, friends and community welcomed him. Soon, he and his wife Lois will be moving to the area to be closer to the hospital and the community. Trego received his master of divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1987, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest a year later. For 13 years he was a chaplain and director in the St. Luke’s Health System. Throughout it all he likes to think he’s been a bit of a rebel, rejecting the idea that faith and Christianity is confined within a church.
He sometimes wishes his office was more accessible. While he is willing and eager to go where he’s needed, he wants people to know they are welcome to come to him as well.
“I want people to know there’s nothing — nothing whatsoever — that separates them from the love of God,” he said. “You can name God by many different names, but the God of all creation loves us deeply. I want them to know they have great worth.”
We all struggle, even Rev. Trego knows what it is like to feel broken. His motto, he said, is “To see what is truly essential and to live with authenticity.” For those looking for spiritual care, compare tattoos, talk about their day, or pray, Trego is there.