The Rev. Rod Seeger, ACPE Supervisor Emeritus
What is Clinical Pastoral Education and how does it fit with the work of Night Ministry?
At Night Ministry's 2012 Gala, I was the highest bidder for an auction item: dinner with Lyle Beckman. Over dinner we discovered that Lyle's desire to establish a program in Clinical Pastoral Education at Night Ministry dovetailed nicely with my experience as a CPE supervisor. and my willingness to get such a program off the ground. In February 2014, we inaugurated the first class of CPE students.
The path to ordained ministry for many denominations requires at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. (PE teaches the art of communicating with people who are in stress or conflict. are hurting. suffering. or needing someone who can be present with them, listen to them, and assist them in finding ways to solve problems. CPE helps caregivers to be less anxious with people in need or crisis. It teaches them to provide quality spiritual care.
Each unit involves 400 hours of learning both in the field, and in the classroom. Most CPE programs are situated in hospitals. We started this program partnering with Stanford University Hospital under their accreditation as members of ACPE, the national CPE accreditation organization. Many seminarians seek an alternative site for CPE training. Night Ministry is an ideal setting for this kind of learning.
Within a couple of weeks of getting the go ahead from Stanford and from ACPE, Inc., I had four students. Then I had thirteen more applicants from whom I selected two more to make our first CPE group a total of six. As I began the interviews I discovered about half of this group of thirteen actually were applying for CPE in the fall of 2014, so not only was I going to have a CPE program that started in February, but also enough to start a second one in the fall of 2014.
The method of teaching that CPE uses starts with learning by doing, then reflecting on what worked well, badly or not at all. These reflections begin to inform future ministry. One of the early leaders in Clinical Pastoral Education, Anton Boisen, coined a phrase, "Learning from the living human documents." From every encounter we have with other people, we can learn to communicate more effectively and offer better care.