Tuesday, July 15, 2008
In his more than 20 years as a pastor and chaplain, Harry Burns has shared laughter, tears and words of comfort with many. Although humble and shy, Burns has a passion for bringing healing to individuals and families that has not gone unnoticed. Recently tapped by the North Carolina Chaplains’ Association as 2008 Chaplain of the Year, Burns has been repeatedly recognized by his peers for his commitment and service to others.
In addition to this recent honor he calls “one of the most pivotal points in my career,” Burns currently serves as a clergy representative for Health Ministries Association, a national organization to raise awareness for chaplaincy work. He also received a recent nomination to be a part of the national board of the Association of Professional Chaplains. Burns, who was nominated for each of these leadership roles by his peers, also works with a number of local, state and national groups to advocate for diversity in pastoral care, as well as equity among communities that face health disparities.
Chaplain Burns, who was the first African American campus minister appointed at the Citadel, is also Reverend of St. Paul A.M.E. in Lancaster, S.C. In his spare time, Burns and his wife, Reverend Vara Smith-Burns, recently established a charity, Ministry of Reconciliation and Equality. Through M.O.R.E., LLC, Burns and his wife have set up a water supply for a village of 5,000 in Nigeria, and next they plan to put a health clinic in place for the population.
When he’s not providing comfort to patients and families, Chaplain Burns offers training and encourages his colleagues to pursue professional development. In his year and a half with Presbyterian Hospital, Burns has trained 145 people to be congregational health promoters in Mecklenburg County. By bringing healthcare to the community first, congregational health promoters are able to educate people on important issues before they ever reach the hospital doors.
Chaplain Burns summed up his passion for chaplaincy by saying, “It’s rewarding to know that the skills you learn over the years and the passion you have to make things better for people can open doors you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to be open.” With a smile he added, “My heart really is in what I do.”