Ministry essential to treatment at Methodist Family Health

By Jade Fitch

The Rev. Eva Englert-Jessen is a third-generation clergywoman in the United Methodist Church who has a heart for serving others. 

In the church, she serves as an ordained deacon, a position very important to her. “I have always felt a tug to service and ministry related to justice and alongside people who are often overlooked. The order of the deacon became home for me in embracing that call,” she said.

Her ministry work began more than 10 years ago, and during that time, she’s had the opportunity to work in environments including youth ministry, children’s ministry, ministry focused on justice and environmental stewardship, college ministry, and hospital chaplaincy.

Photo by Mike Kemp

You can also find Englert-Jessen serving in her newly acquired role as the director of pastoral care for Methodist Family Health (MFH). In this role, she has the opportunity to serve both children and families throughout the nonprofit’s continuum of care, including the behavioral hospital. “I began as the pastoral care director in November of 2021, so I’m still a pretty fresh face around MFH,” she said. “I am still learning more about [MFH] every day; they are doing much-needed work in the world and for the church.”

MFH is unique in the way it cares for patients because spiritual elements are integrated within patient care.

“Spirituality has been a critical part of MFH for many years. Much of this originated in the DNA of the organization itself, which has from the beginning been connected to Methodist leaders and church folks who wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who need extra love and support,” Englert-Jessen said.

Spirituality is incorporated into patient therapeutic programs in a number of different ways. For example, as the pastoral care director, Englert-Jessen leads weekly small group activities and Bible studies. She also provides resources to the children such as Bibles, coloring pages, and other self-care items. 

“The pastoral care program also supports summer camp programs, special volunteer outings, group homes, a grief support program, and other aspects of MFH, in addition to supporting the well-being and spiritual health of staff, who work tremendously hard,” she said.

In addition to her work at MFH, gardening is something she loves. “I’m also currently working on developing programs for kids that combine spiritual practices with gardening. This is a huge passion of mine,” she said. “I love that God calls and equips us to use our gifts in so many ways.”

As pastoral care director, Englert-Jessen works with patients, helping them sort out some of life’s big questions: “Who am I? What is my purpose? What gives me life? What do I struggle with? How do I make sense of life when things go wrong?”

As she reflected on her role, she said, “I see my role as journeying alongside people as they ask these questions, as a kind of chaplain who holds space for people to process their pain, joy, questions, and convictions. Sometimes this means I draw from my Christian tradition and scripture to offer lessons, guidance or support, and sometimes it means I simply listen, hear their stories, and let people ask questions and wonder about things.”

Even though Englert-Jessen has only been doing pastoral care at MFH for a short time, she loves it. “I love the direct engagement with kids, teens, and young women I get to lead conversations and activities with every week,” she said. 

Englert-Jessen comes from a family who loves God and serves faithfully. In 1970, her grandmother was ordained, even though this was not common practice during this time. “Even though ordination became open to women in the 1950s, it was still quite uncommon for women to be ordained, so she played a major trailblazing role in her early years in ministry, paving the way for many women,” Englert-Jessen explained. In the early 1990s, God called her mother to serve in the ministry, and she currently serves as a pastor in the Dallas area; she was ordained in 2004. Three generations with a passion for serving others!