David Peacock ministers with music at St. Vincent’s

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2020

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By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

BIRMINGHAM — The crisp, rhythmic strumming of an acoustic guitar and the primal, sometimes mellow, notes that reverberate throughout a room have a strange tendency to calm one’s nerves.

There’s even a biblical account of this power of music—in 1 Samuel 16:23, King David played a harp to soothe Saul, who was afflicted by an evil spirit.

Perhaps that’s why David Peacock sometimes carries a guitar with him as he walks the corridors of St. Vincent’s Birmingham, where he serves as a full-time chaplain. Peacock, also the pastor of Hickory Hills Church in Alabaster, recognizes the power of music to satisfy one’s soul.

“I would call music my spiritual pathway,” Peacock said. “That spiritual pathway leads me toward my Creator and the world around me. In a hospital setting, it’s my way to encourage and assist people as they go through their struggles.

“I see music as an avenue of hope.”

Hope is certainly something most would agree is needed as the world struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Peacock’s role in providing spiritual and emotional care to the staff, patients and guests of the hospital has not changed, he is following additional guidelines and processes to help ensure everyone’s safety.

“It has been wonderful to see our hospital staff work as a united and effective interdisciplinary team,” he said. “We are continually trusting God to guide us through this day by day.”

Peacock’s journey to the ministry started at Auburn University where he majored in speech communication, minored in journalism and religion, and ran on the track team. The Vermont native became a Christian at age 13, but it was at Auburn that he really felt his spiritual calling. It was around that time Peacock started playing guitar—and he would always play by ear.

“Music was my outlet for running, my escape. Music can communicate things that human words can’t sometimes,” he said. “All music is spiritual.”

Peacock served over 20 years in different churches through various roles. This often involved funerals and hospital visits. The draw to becoming a chaplain seemed to grow organically out of a combination of these and other experiences.

“My heart was drawn to it more and more. I felt like I could impact more lives in a hospital setting and a diversity of people and greater utilize my gifts here,” Peacock said.

Of course, becoming a chaplain isn’t a walk in the park. One doesn’t just decide one day they are going to be a chaplain and get a job. Chaplains must be board certified through the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Peacock earned his Master of Theology at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. He previously served as a chaplain at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, and he is currently in his fourth year at St. Vincent’s Birmingham. He serves among a team of five full-time and several part-time chaplains.

“We all bring our different gifts,” he said. “As a chaplain, our job is to read the situation. Sometimes music is required, sometimes I just bring it. I want to find out what somebody’s need is and help them with it.”

The music doesn’t have to be overtly Christian, either. Based on the audience, he uses different kinds. You might hear him play Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” At Christmastime, he loves to sing Christmas carols and fun songs. Other times, he simply walks into the lobby and starts playing.

And music is not the end-all, be-all—just a tool, Peacock said.

“I’m not a music therapist. I’m a chaplain that uses music. I just happen to use music as an avenue to reach certain people,” he said. “I just want to help people discover hope where they are.”

On Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings, you’ll find Peacock at Hickory Hills Church in Alabaster where he serves as pastor. He said pastoring “scratches my itch” to be in music ministry and do community outreach in the Alabaster area.

“The people at Hickory Hills are like a family. I love being at Hickory Hills and the people I serve as well,” he said.

At the end of the day, Peacock said his job is not to “fix” people but to listen, suggest, pray, minister. And that some of the most unbelievable people he encounters are those who seem to be most ignored by society.

This is where Peacock’s ministry goes hand-in-hand with the mission of St. Vincent’s:

“Our mission is rooted in Jesus’ loving ministry,” he said.

For those who are interested, Hickory Hills’ regular church service times are 10:30 a.m. Sundays and 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays.