By Cynthia Laird
On Thursday, August 16, 2012, the Methodist Healthcare Foundation presented Chaplain Jesse W. Moore with the Living Award -- Inspiration in Faith and Health. The reception was held in the Continental Ballroom of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and the dinner and awards ceremony took place in the Grand Ballroom. Reverend Jerry Beam, who nominated Moore for the award, was present to honor him as were numerous others.
When Moore was in high school in Shuqualak, Mississippi, he found inspiration in the leadership of his pastor, Reverend Bowen Burt, who had been a World War II chaplain. Moore recalled Rev. Burt as being the most realistic and effective minister that he has known in his lifetime. While attending East Mississippi Community College, Moore felt the call to preach, and confided in Rev, Burt. With the guidance of his mentor, he accepted this challenge, which would ultimately lead him into service as a chaplain.
When Moore graduated in 1952, the Korean War was ending, but the draft was still in effect. Since Moore was in the top third of his class, his service was deferred through college and seminary. Also, as an ordained minister in seminary, he was not drafted because ordained ministers were not subject to the draft. However, he had a great desire to serve his country, and the army's emphasis on education and training appealed to him. Answering the call to serve, he began his twenty five years as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.
Moore served in Vietnam from July 1967 to August 1968, and was based twenty to thirty miles below the demilitarized zone. He was there during the Tet Offensive, and stated that "we won the battles, but the fact that they could get into every province, even though they were repelled, made the news media and public think that we were not winning". He said that the year he was in the war, he would go to sleep and wake up knowing that people were trying to kill him. He said that, "as a soldier, your life is in danger every moment."
Life as an army chaplain required flexibility and initiative. Moore stated that, "there is no congregation to welcome you, and you have to figure out how to get people to church." In Vietnam, he never held services inside a church building -- they were all in the field. When the troops stopped to eat, he would hold the church service. Sometimes they were attacked during the service.
He was a Brigade Chaplain, and was sometimes accompanied by a Catholic priest. They swapped out on security detail. While one was conducting service, the other would be in charge of security. Sometimes the services only lasted a few minutes, and thirty minutes was a long service. They sang six to 10 hymns, and there were no instruments. During an attack with mortars or rocket fire, everyone would run for cover taking their hymn booklets with them. For his bravery during the war, he received the Bronze Star for Valor.
Back from Vietnam, he trained in the Army Management System, and served as a chaplain in the military prison system. He held chapel services and did a spiritual assessment for each man. Moore began to explore the benefits of meditation while working in the prison system. He explained that meditation creates a relaxation response, helps with pain management, and helps you with emotional and spiritual needs.
Next he served three years at Tripler Medical Center in Hawaii, and began the first support group in the military for cancer patients, heart patient, and psych patients. The support groups worked very well, and he believes that success was one of the reasons he was chosen to go to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he created support groups for cancer patients.
Moore was a full Colonel when he retired from the military, and accepted the position of Director of Pastoral Ministry at Methodist Healthcare. During his twenty three years in the Methodist Healthcare system, he created the Employee Assistance Program, met the needs of patients and their families through support groups, and was known as the chaplain's chaplain as he provided support and training for the other chaplains. Moore said that when he arrived at Methodist, there were four chaplains, and when he retired, there were thirty two.
As he accepted the 2012 Living Award -- Inspiration in Faith and Health, Moore commented that he wished John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, could be there to see the advances made at Methodist Le Bonheur. John Wesley, who was interested in both spiritual and physical healing, practiced holistic medicine as he sought to heal the whole person. In like manner, Moore has also served to heal through his ministry in the chaplaincy. We honor the contributions that Chaplain Moore has made over his many years of service, and wish him many years of happiness in his retirement.