The End is Near

Well, the end of CPE is near anyway. CPE is clinical pastoral education – basically chaplaincy in a hospital setting – and that’s been what I’ve been doing with my summer vacation. It’s been difficult and grueling at times, but always profound and holy. I’ve had times of sadness and grieving, but also times of joy and blessing.

Some highlights for me:

  • Realizing I can work in an emergency room without throwing up.
  • Coming to feel accepted by the high-intensity staff that work in the emergency room.
  • Realizing that I worked with such a good group of fellow students that I didn’t worry about referring my emergency room patients to them when they moved to other areas of the hospital, because I knew they would be well cared-for.
  • The time I learned what pastoral authority means — a ministry that is authoritative and authentic without being authoritarian — and feeling that that kind of ministry really fit for me.
  • Learning the importance of self-care, so that I can care for others. I’ll never forget the time I said to the ER staff, WHOPAGEDTHECHAPLAIN???!!! and realizing it was time I had lunch and sat down in a quiet place for a while!
  • The two times I got to bless marriages on their anniversaries, one at 58 years and the other at 65 years. The wife in the 65 year marriage died the day after her anniversary. That was such an awesome experience for me, and I felt like I was totally on holy ground with those families.
  • Staff chaplains who treated me and my fellow students as equals, and partnered with us in our ministry rather than looking down on us.
  • A supervisor, AS, who worked with me from my gifts instead of the traditional CPE model of tearing a person down to build him back up. I went a lot further with AS’s adult learning model.

There are many more things for which I am grateful, too numerous to count. Maybe I’ll share more of them in the weeks ahead as I continue to prayerfully unpack this summer’s intense experience of ministry.

But one thing is clear for me right now. Priestly ministry really fits for me, and pastoral care is a huge part of my vocational call. Words can’t express how grateful I am to have known that.

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