Remembering My Chaplaincy

On the path to ministerial fellowship, Unitarian Universalists who choose to become formally a part of the UU Ministers Association are required to complete at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE.  I finished my CPE this summer at the Portland Providence Medical Center, a rich and wonderful experience that has me considering additional CPE as well as a suggested professional path that I did not know about, that of CPE Supervisor.

Overall I really loved my CPE experience, the intense and balanced feedback on my personal intentions, beliefs and practices, and the community of peers and professionals who gave so honestly and fully of themselves.  It was remarkable how vulnerable we all became, and how unique this felt in a working relationship vs. strictly theraputic.  I felt myself grow in several ways – emotionally I gained new sensitivity to my own feelings connected to history and personal experience, pastorally I learned through practice and reflection the arts of listening, spiritual assessment and grief and loss support, and professionally I lived in an identity that for so long I have been primarily inhabiting academically.

I feel that the things that came up for me in my CPE experience are pieces of my life that will continue to be addressed at some level and with some intensity until my end of life.  In group I processed my story of adoption, of sexist behavior and identity power dynamics, of pace and speed, of being a lifelong UU.  In supervision I discussed feelings of marginalization within my faith home, questions about my place and purpose, the presence of my voice, and my commitment to inclusivity and accountability.  I grew to respect highly my supervisor who gave me such critical and careful commentary.  I felt amazed regularly from my interactions with her.  She noted several things which I am still astonished and trying to better understand – her impressions that I minimize my voice too much to make space for others in a way that both marginalizes myself as well as causes me to become or be seen as manipulative, that my reluctance to share my feelings for fear of projecting onto another still have the end result of coming across to another informally/subconsciously through my tone, language, non-verbals, in a way that can really frustrate and confuse another about my own intentions and meaning.

My chaplaincy work in the hospital was hard, but very rewarding.  Patient and family interactions grew more comfortable, familiar, and I felt more confident in my skills and my ability to assess/analyze situations.  I really felt so changed in myself by the end of the summer intensive.  I came to appreciate and even feel drawn to the 24 hour overnight shifts where the chaplaincy work centered on the most immediate and serious.

I was excited to hear that other professionals, such as doctors, teachers, organizers, are taking advantage of the CPE program and participating through their extended unit offering.  That is something I may consider upon return from my UU Internship in the Philippines.

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