During his career as a telecommunications executive, Hiram Brett might not have believed that one day, he’d be an ordained minister serving as a hospital chaplain during a global pandemic in which meetings are held over fiber-optic cable rather than in-person, and tele-health has become all the rage.
But although his tools have changed, his mission has remained the same. For Reverend Brett, the new chaplain of Connecticut Mental Health Center, meaningful work has always been about connection and collaboration—as he puts it, "bringing disparate groups together in a synergetic way, to provide and do more than we can do separately.”
A Connecticut resident for the past 25 years, Reverend Hiram Brett lives in New Haven. He grew up in the small town of Murfreesboro, North Carolina and in Norfolk, Virginia. He graduated from Williams College and Stanford Business School, then spent decades in the telecommunications business. After a while, he found that “trying to sell more telephone lines, cell phones, and count more widgets” wasn’t very fulfilling anymore, so he ventured into the non-profit world.
He served as Vice President of Finance at Community Action Agency in New Haven, and during that time he enrolled at Yale Divinity School. He graduated from Yale in 2016 with his Master of Divinity degree. He completed the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at Yale New-Haven Hospital, then served as an on-call chaplain at Yale New-Haven and most recently as Pastoral Care Associate at Bridgeport Hospital. He was ordained in 2018; later this month, he completes his four-year term as the part-time pastor of Whitneyville United Church of Christ in Hamden.
As a hospital chaplain, Reverend Brett has encountered people whose experiences with religion and spirituality vary widely and can be both positive and negative.
“Some people, when they see the chaplain, they freak out,” he laughed. “They often think you’re the one coming to give news they don’t want to hear. I learned to see that face and diffuse it pretty quickly.”
Reverend Brett’s calling as a chaplain, he says, is “to walk alongside those who suffer.” For the walk, he brings with him a deep knowledge of contemplative practices such as prayer and meditation. At CMHC, he looks forward to sharing these tools with clients and staff and supporting them in developing their own spiritual practices. Virtually or in-person, he will be there to help each person explore their spiritual questions and longings and find their own answers.
“I’m very excited,” he said of joining the CMHC team. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with such high-quality members of the staff and community.” Reverend Brett is eager to collaborate with colleagues, learn about their work, and discover new ways “to use the unique gifts of chaplaincy and spirituality to give people a sense of comfort and a sense of connection.” Among his projects: expand tele-chaplaincy and build a new, open-access collection of virtual resources geared to clients and staff.
In addition, he said, “There are a number of things going on in the community and the world that call for the chaplain’s attention,” including the pandemic and issues of racial justice. Reverend Brett plans to participate in organizational initiatives from his unique role as chaplain, serving as a resource for the CMHC community as it works to address social problems.
“Spirituality is at the core of justice,” he continued. “Love is not a sentiment. Love is action. Recognizing the inherent value in everyone, lifting that up, and making sure we are all promoting justice, healing, and mercy—I think that is all part of spirituality.”
While he is clear about his identity as an ordained Christian minister, Reverend Brett is committed to serving everyone, regardless of their faith traditions (or lack thereof). He actively serves the New Haven community as well by volunteering on non-profit boards, including the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (he just completed a two-year term as President) and the Gateway College Foundation Board (he’s currently the Finance Chair).
“Just looking at the news, you can see that mental health is such an issue and a challenge now,” he reflected. “Providing those services to vulnerable and marginalized people is so critical. There are times when we talk about the ‘civil rights issues of our time’—I really think that mental health is there at the forefront, something that needs our critical attention.”
To contact the CMHC Chaplain, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.