Dave Peckham is a red headed, red bearded man
with a South African accent. His voice is sensitive,
calming, and peaceful apropos to his role as chaplain
at Simi Valley Hospital. As a chaplain, he’s a
clergyman without a congregation. His job is to
provide spiritual care to patients, families,
Although Chaplain Peckham is a Seventh Day Adventist,
his job is not to impose his own religious beliefs.
He must meet the needs of all denominations.
Recently he dealt with the death of a Tibetan
Buddhist. The Tibetan family’s beliefs held that
the body must be left undisturbed for 48 hours.
No tubes were to be removed, no clothing changed.
They wanted the body left in the hospital bed
while its spirit or soul passed. The chaplain’s
job involved negotiating with hospital staff,
usually intent on moving the dead promptly, in
order to have them leave the body in a room for
two days. He bridged the conflict between hospital
policy and religion and provided for the spiritual
needs of a grieving family.
Born in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, his parents
were missionaries. In 1991, seeking to remove
his family from the political strife in South
Africa, he moved to the United States. For four
years he had his own congregation in Oregon. But
while working part time at a local hospital, he
realized he had a gift for compassion and chose
to change from pastoral work to chaplaincy.
“If someone wants a Catholic priest or a Jewish
rabbi, my first endeavor would be to get one of
their clergy to come minister to them. I know
I can’t do everything. I can’t be all things to
all people. But I try.” He has no agenda but to
simply be helpful, to be present with a patient
or family in their time of need, to pray with
them if they choose. “Obviously, I have to pray
in a non-sectarian way, with language that is
not offensive to anyone.”
The chaplain does not view prayer as a “magic
wand” of healing. He believes that God has provided
man the potential creative skills to allow healthgivers
to cure. “But I do believe prayer plays a very
significant role in helping doctors and nurses
to heal and in preparing our minds to accept whatever
final outcome is to be.”
In 1966, Dave Peckham’s brother, an honor student
with a scholarship to medical school, was involved
in a tragic car accident and left quadriplegic.
Seeing his brother paralyzed, threw him into a
crisis of faith. But he eventually came to realize
that somewhere in all of life’s challenges, God
must be there, must have some plan.
“I knew at that point in my life I wanted to
be part of God’s plan. I wanted to do something
what would be meaningful to people. I wouldn’t
just make money, use my life for self-indulgence.
I would use it to bring some comfort, some hope,
some difference in the lives of people.”
Dave Peckham feels very fulfilled today in his
role as chaplain. He’s not a saint. But that may
be only because Seventh Day Adventist’s don’t