In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:23-24

Saying goodbye is hard. If it were easier, I think the bunch of us would have been out of the hospital sooner today. But as it is, we lingered until after 4:30, and said goodbye several times. And that was just to each other.

It was a whole day of goodbyes. Goodbyes to the nurses, doctors, techs, staff chaplains, and other staff. We might not mind saying goodbye to on-calls until 2:30 in the morning or Level 1 Traumas, but saying goodbye to people you’ve come to care about and love is a way different thing. Saying goodbye is just hard.

So we will have to dwell on the many blessings:

  • The times we supported one another in prayer and in word and in deed during the intense 11 weeks.
  • The prayer and liturgical experiences we were able to do together as an ecumenical group.
  • The referrals we passed back and forth with great confidence in the rest of the group’s ability to care for the sick and their families.
  • The sharing and challenging that was done in group with real concern for the growth of the other people in the group.
  • The mentoring from the staff chaplains.
  • The mentoring from the nursing staff and other staff members.
  • And so many more…

But what makes it so hard to say goodbye is how the whole experience came together. The hospital atmosphere, the staff chaplains, our supervisor, the group … I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Out of that milieu came all the really awesome things that I got to “see” as Luke’s Gospel is saying: The times words came out of my mouth that I never would have thought of on my own; the sense of peace after sitting with a dying patient; the intimate personal stories shared so freely by patients and families alike; the really intense times of prayer; our group’s morning devotions; the incredible grace of growing with a supportive group and the incredible grace of getting to watch them grow too; the many opportunities to debrief from intense experiences with fellow students, staff chaplains, and our supervisor; all the stuff that got sorted out in weekly meetings with our supervisor; the times we were just silly and all the laughter; the many tears of joy and sorrow; the intense atmosphere of the emergency room that helped me past my fear of it.

There’s more, I know. But all I can say at this point is that I’m incredibly grateful for this experience. Truly blessed are my eyes for having seen what I have seen.

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.

CPE: More info…