At the dawn of social media, friends sent me a lot of selfies and pet photos. Nice. Now they add a few words to them or call, and I feel better in touch. You may have had a similar experience.
This presumed march from self to thou may teach us something about our field: the value of reaching out more thoroughly and often to colleagues and chaplains-in-training. This reaching out can be personal, as with maturing social media or mentoring in the old style of my generation; formal, as in speaking or writing; and strong or subtly persuading others to tell what they have learned or felt during chaplaincy. Continue reading
I revisited an older verbatim that I wrote back in 2011. It’s interesting to go back and review older visits and interactions with the lens of history and experience. I don’t remember this particular case, but it reminds me of several other cases. I do remember that it was rather frustrating for me, which will be evident in the interaction. Continue reading
An issue that comes up frequently in chaplaincy training is pastoral authority. This area of ministry tended to trip me up at first, and I expect it does for others as well. It’s one of the key areas where we need to grow and develop as chaplains though: it’s one of our core competencies for a reason. Continue reading
anyone having flashbacks to their CPE supervisor’s office?
If you Google “CPE” chances are pretty good that it will start autofilling “horror stories” in the search box. It seems like there are much more stories about bad experiences in CPE than good. Perhaps this is just bias toward the negative, but it certainly does seem to be that CPE is not a good experience for many.
If you follow that search you’ll see why. I read stories about supervisors that destroyed boundaries and exercises designed to tear people down in front of their peers. One person even wrote that “Clinical Pastoral Education is nothing more than a systematic ‘weeding out’ of orthodox seminarians through a process of enforced radical leftist indoctrination.” It’s criticized as being unnecessary, unhelpful, “navel-gazing”, pseudo-psychoanalysis. So why is it still required for those entering ministry? Is there something wrong with the program? Are supervisors adequately trained and supervised themselves? Or are seminarians missing the point of CPE entirely? Continue reading
perhaps we need to drag the shirt out again
So I’ve written several times on the topic of board certification for Chaplains, especially regarding APC/BCCI and CPSP. Those weren’t the only players on the certification game, though. There are certification programs through the National Association of Catholic Chaplains and Association of Jewish Chaplains for example, as well as a smattering of other groups and agencies. Some have been around for a while and are well recognized, while others you will probably never hear of unless you look for them. The newest group to organize and enter the board certification mix has caused controversy though. Continue reading
The question of the necessity of certification is common today among chaplains, especially those who are already working as a chaplain in the field. During my CPE experience all of us were encouraged to go on to be certified. It was the “gold standard” and would put you ahead of someone who isn’t certified. After completing my four units and having all of the paperwork I needed mostly done (verbatims, theology papers, biography) I didn’t bother getting certified for several years. It just didn’t seem necessary. Continue reading
(watch the video above before you read on: it’s funny, creative and has cute doggies)
I wanted to share my most recent verbatim which I’m also using for my certification. It’s in a bit of a different format and is definitely longer than most of my posts. Read on and I hope you benefit from it. You’ll catch why I included the video at the end of the paper. Continue reading
I’ve been reading the excellent book Simply Sane by Dr. Gerald May, primarily for my personal benefit but secondarily for professional benefit. It wasn’t recommended to me by anyone, and I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but I’m glad I did.
Dr. Gerald May
It’s an excellent book for those doing pastoral care as well as teachers and educators. I recently read a passage that struck me as to how well it spoke to the position that many Chaplains find themselves in: wondering what to do.
I had an older woman come on service a few days ago who appeared to be greatly depressed. When I introduced myself and gave the usual opening “how are you today?”, her response was “I want to die. Can you give me a shot?” Continue reading
Rabbi A. James Rudin recently wrote about the growing need for clergy of all faiths to be prepared to help those dealing with tough choices related to end of life care. He asserts that often the questions being asked at the bedside of the dying are not as much related to deep metaphysical questions but are much more pragmatic and ethical:
Rather, [the] questions, usually asked in a hospital room, go like this. “My beloved family member is gravely ill. The doctors are recommending some extraordinary and complex medical treatments. I am confused and I am being asked to make a decision. As my spiritual leader, please tell me, what should I do?”
Unfortunately many clergy are not provided much opportunity for education in medical ethics and how it relates to their particular faith. Some denominations require some clinical pastoral education which, depending on the training center, would provide invaluable insights into the day-to-day decisions encountered in trauma units and hospices. But this represents only a very small group of those in ministry training, and an even smaller percentage of those currently in ministry. Other seminaries offer courses in medical ethics, but these are almost always elective. Because of these deficits, Rudin concludes:
Medical science and technology will move forward with or without the religious community. Major decisions about health care in the U.S., including the staggering question of withdrawing and withholding life support systems from desperately ill or comatose patients, will be made with or without the “benefit of clergy.”
If the best thinkers within our faith communities do not address these issues in a thoughtful and informed way, others will decide for us, and that would be an abdication of religious leadership. If that happens, rabbis, priests, pastors and imams will have no one to blame but themselves, and worst of all, desperately ill patients and their troubled families will be the losers.
What has been your experience as a minister or as a chaplain? Did you have adequate training to help others cope with complex end of life issues?
I came across this excellent post regarding CPE verbatims that I wanted to link to. In it, Allison Kestenbaum writes about how she asks students to present their “worst work”, that is the cases in which they have been stumped, messed up, or feel that they otherwise didn’t do their best. This goes against the grain for many of us especially in areas where we feel that we are being held up to critique. However Kestenbaum shows us that the real growth happens in the margins and troublesome areas of our lives.
“Vebatims also teach seminary students to develop more balanced assessments of their strengths and weaknesses. I have encountered many seminary students who are achievement-junkies who seek to master every academic task put before them. One of my students, an experienced Lutheran pastor and D.Min. candidate, told me that, “I am taking a leap of faith with writing verbatims about encounters I feel least secure about. This is a completely new pursuit for me; I have not encountered this directive anywhere in my schooling so far.”
A rabbinical CPE student who was required to do CPE with no intention of becoming a chaplain told me that verbatims “have helped me not be so scared of my mistakes” and to learn from them. For those going into a ministerial—really any—profession, the ability to have a nuanced perception of one’s strengths and weaknesses can help prevent burnout.”
I highly recommend that students and supervisors review the article as I think it’s insightful for all.
And I know that I’m not the only one who’s hyperactive mind went right to this scene after reading the title: