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The College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy is a theologically based covenant community, dedicated to "recovery of the soul" and promoting competency in the clinical pastoral field.

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May 22, 2009

First comes love, and then comes the story, then comes the CPSP allegory . . . By Ronald David


First comes love, and then comes the story, then comes the CPSP allegory . . .

I did not attend the 2009 Plenary in Virginia Beach and, therefore, feel like an interloper having eavesdropped on the dialogue between Barbara McGuire and Ron Evans. Still, their observations and declarations made public in the CPSP Pastoral Report invite me to comment. In particular, I offer a meditation intended to deepen Barbara’s reflections on love of self so as to (hopefully) allay Ron’s ambivalence on the matter.

I am struck, first, by the lack of clarity regarding two pivotal words used—“love” and “self.” Should one infer from Barbara’s reference to Oscar Wilde that romantic love, as commonly understood and misunderstood, is the love about which she writes? And is that experience simply “to feel positive about oneself,” as noted by Ron? And to whom or what is “the self” referential? Is the collective membership of CPSP that “self,” and/or is that “self” the individual person?

Second, I am also struck by, and moved to challenge, Ron’s assertion that the story precedes the experience of loving one’s self—however love and self may be defined.

Allow me, then, to begin this story again with reflections on “love.” I would not choose the wild, not to say hedonist, Oscar Wilde as a spokesperson for love. Rather, I turn to the sacred texts of virtually any religion. I discern from these readings that love is akin to a gravitational force holding or drawing back into relationship the increasingly differentiated yet simultaneously integrated elements of the Cosmos. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described love as “the supreme unifying principle of life.” For me, God is that force or principle. God is Love.

Love is not an emotion but gives rise to a panoply of emotions both positive and negative; nor is love a romantic inclination though it may be manifest as such. Love, again, is a force field that holds all things in relationship, committing those “things” to differentiation and integration, autonomy and community. And the ongoing process of individuating and communing can be as discomfiting as it can be pleasing, as negative as it is positive.

The self is embedded in the relational context compelled by love. Karl Marx states the case plainly: “The self is an ensemble of social relationships.” F LeRon Shults says it poignantly: “My sense of self is called into being and formed through interaction with other persons within my particular set of overlapping communities. This mutual confrontation evokes an ambiguous transactional drama in which the boundaries of self and other are explored, negotiated, transgressed, or reified.” (Reforming Theological Anthropology, page 2.) Or, as expressed more poetically in the African idiom of ubuntu, “a person is a person through other persons.”

The words of an ancient admonish, indeed commanded; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Interpreted in the context of the meaning I make of love and self, and with the hope of luring Barbara and Ron to greater agreement with less ambivalence, this verse might read as follows: Be embraced, informed, and inspired by the force field that holds you [plural] as relational, interdependent selves; resist living the narcissistic illusion of the individual, independent self.

Contrary to Ron’s assertion, then, I argue that love and love of self are the beginning and end, the ground and destiny of our being. The story is in the middle and accessory after the fact. That is, love is a given. We know this viscerally, affectively, and intuitively before we have words for its gravitational effect on us. It is the inchoate experience of love that gives impetus to “primary speech.” (I think that this is the experience about which Ann and Barry Ulanov wrote in their book of the same title.) Our most moving stories are those told about the tragedy and triumph of love. So, when Ron is “feeling down,” and when his story “seems like so much junk,” it is perhaps the feeling of anomie and/or ennui that gives rise to his “junk” narrative. But when he meets his sisters and brothers “in the flesh” he then knows love again—for when two or three are gathered in God’s name . . . well, there goes love in their midst! It is the remembrance of love in that relational context that impels him to articulate a narrative of redemption.

The history of clinical pastoral education generally, and of CPSP specifically, is one of wounding and healing, of breaking and mending, of love’s triumphs and tragedies. At this moment it is a history that culminates eloquently in our covenant and our proclamation (short stories!) in celebration of our differentiating/integrating selfhood. We are a model or metaphor for covenantal community. Said differently and succinctly—First comes love, and then comes the story, and then comes the CPSP allegory.

The Rev Dr Ronald David
Department of Pastoral Care
The Hospital of the Good Samaritan
1225 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90017

To contact Dr. David, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:48 PM

The 9th Asia-Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling Congress


The 9th Asia-Pacific Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling will be held on August 24-28, 2009 in Taipei, Taiwan. The brochure and online registration are at

The Asia-Pacific region of the International Council of Pastoral Care & Counseling (ICPCC) hosts this congress every four years.

CPSP provides significant leadership and support to ICPCC ever since it became a member over a decade ago.

Contact Richard Liew for further details at 718-869-7419. Email:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:53 AM

May 11, 2009

Ron Evan Reflects on the 2009 CPSP Plenary


I welcome Barbara McGuire’s reflections on self love in the April Pastoral Report. It helps me to likewise sort out what I believe lies at the heart of CPSP.

I agree that to feel positive about oneself, to love oneself, is a vital piece of the equation. Most of us, regardless of tradition, can no doubt point to ways in which self has been negated, downplayed in ways that have been destructive. The alternative is to learn to love oneself. And this is where I become a little nervous. As vital as it is to come to a love of oneself I am not sure this is the starting point. Or the end either.

There is a story out of Greek mythology about Narcissus, the beautiful young man who in his beauty scorned the love of all admirers. A youth who Narcissus spurned in this manner prays that Narcissus might suffer a similar fate, that he might love unrequitedly. The god of retribution, Nemesis, hears the prayer and arranges that Narcissus stop to drink at a pool in which sees his own reflection. Instantly he falls in love with it. Unable to embrace the image in the water he lies there, unable to tear himself away, and dies.

I sense that, at times, CPSP runs the risk of lying by the water mesmerized by its own beauty. Again to love oneself is of critical importance, however I believe the staying power of CPSP, its origins and its beauty, lies further up stream.

Let me use Alcoholics Anonymous to illustrate what I mean. Surely AA has brought life to countless men and women, a life based, in part, on coming to treat themselves with respect. They are able to love themselves. The origins of this transformation, if I understand it correctly, lie in the AA story, in hearing it told. Somehow in hearing that story told AA members have their own broken, troubled tale redeemed.

I think that this is the genius of CPSP. When I am feeling down, when my story seems like so much junk, when I remember who I am and cannot bless it, my love affair with myself becomes difficult. How do you love the unloveable? Or, worse yet, as in the case of Narcissus, you become fixated on your own image. But then I go to a CPSP meeting and meet the sisters and the brothers. I meet them in the flesh. And I hear the story told, how the unwashed found hope, the unloved were changed.

At this past plenary in Virginia Beach I heard for the first time the details of how CPSP began, heard the story from Raymond of how he started a ratty little newsletter, how like minded folks responded, how it came to be that a few disgruntled brothers met and said let us be true to what we remember. I had heard a little of it before, now I heard it all again.

And behold it is the story I heard years before in Anton Boisen. It is the story I had heard from Jorjorian and Eichorn and Dollar and Madden. Each of you can name your own mentors, your own saints. I thought the story had been lost but 15 years ago I heard it recovered in CPSP and heard it again in Virginia Beach a month ago.

Luise Wienrick in the task force report on the future wrote: “Our unique history merits retelling and celebrating, and it is important that we keep telling our story and revisiting these roots, even as we continue to grow and change to embrace the future we are creating together.”

I couldn’t agree more and only suggest the task force spend more time elaborating on this statement as the very heart of what we are about and as a means of maintaining who we are.

I have no quarrel with the need to love oneself but I think it can be a deceptive image. So appealing you can stare at until you waste away. CPSP offers something more lasting, a story, one of brokenness and estrangement. But in the telling we hear our own story, a tale we can embrace as our own and feel again that all is well. That we are well.
Contact Ron Evan by clicking here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:18 PM

May 6, 2009

Hospital Chaplaincy in the Twenty-First Century: the crisis of spiritual care in the NHS


Dr. Christopher Swift, Past President of the UK's College of Health Care Chaplains (CHCC), is a friend and colleague of the CPSP. He was the Guest of Honor at the 2007 CPSP Plenary held in Raleigh, NC where he brought greetings from the CHCC and dialogued with the CPSP community. He sent us words of support and a prayer he had written following a shooting massacre at one of our universities.

Recently, Dr, Swift published his new book: Hospital Chaplaincy in the Twenty-First Century: the crisis of spiritual care in the NHS. The book is published by Ashgate.

Professor Paul Ballard, Cardiff University, UK provided the following comments on Dr. Swift's book:

Health care chaplaincy is currently undergoing a rapid transformation. An inherited and accepted service, embedded in the National Health Service since its inception, it is inevitably caught up in the changes that affect both the service as a whole and the wider social context. This invaluable book will stand the test of time. Health care professionals will find it a constant point of reference as they wrestle with the issues both locally and nationally. Many others will find this book a way of being informed about a key area of health care. Most importantly, there is a challenge here to the churches to take chaplaincy seriously as the frontier ministry it is. For practical theologians this is a welcome and accessible study of a vital sector of ministry, useful for reflection and teaching.

Dr. Swift is obviously addressing issues related to chaplaincy in the National Health Service. This does not mean his work is irrelevant to chaplaincy in the USA. We are also facing an evolving, changing, complex and challenging world within our health care services. We struggle to understand, inform and advocate for the unique role of chaplaincy within our health care systems. In fact, the description of his book found on Amazon.Com hits close to home:

Issues of faith and spirituality have been resurgent in the UK since the opening of the twenty-first century. This book charts the impact of shifting attitudes towards spirituality through the experiences of health care chaplains. Rooted in a new and challenging interpretation of the chaplain's work in the past, the book moves on to describe a current crisis in the nature of spiritual care. Using the tools of practical theology to analyze these experiences, fundamental problems are identified for chaplains as they work within the culture of 'evidence based practice'. As the National Health Service struggles to balance its books in the face of national economic uncertainty, chaplains will continue to come under increasing levels of scrutiny. Some chaplains have faced the prospect of redundancy or cuts to their budgets, while a growing number of NHS Trusts no longer offer chaplaincy to patients out of hours. In this context the nature of chaplaincy itself has come into question, and rival models of the profession have emerged. Is chaplaincy a new and distinct profession within health care, based on evidence and available to all? Or is it State-funded religious activity, theoretically open to all but in practice utilized chiefly by the faithful few? In responding to these questions the book concludes with a vision of how chaplaincy can both maintain its integrity - and be a valued part of twenty-first century health care.

A copy of Hospital Chaplaincy in the Twenty-First Century: the crisis of spiritual care in the NHS can be purchased on Amazon.Com.

Perry Miller, Editor

Contact Dr. Christopher Swift by clicking here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:31 AM

May 5, 2009

Music for the Soul

Check out TED.COM

Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:42 PM

May 4, 2009

CPSP People in the News: George Hull

<img George Hull was the subject of an opinion piece, "The lesson of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day" published March 17, 2009 on FOSTER.COM of the Foster's Daily Democratic newspaper.

The articles describes George Hull's meeting with Senator George Mitchell who helped negociate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Ireland:

George Hankins Hull had the opportunity to meet George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator from Maine who helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended the years of sectarian hostilities which George Hankins Hull felt he had to escape. Years later Hankins Hull would say that aside from the births of his own children, meeting George Mitchell was one of the biggest thrills of his life.

With affection and appreciation the writer continues:

{He} never tired of telling his story because he knew that being Irish was not about music, or poetry, or the color green, or knocking back a good stout or shot of Irish whiskey. Mind you he never objected to such things, quite the opposite. But he knew that one could not be truly Irish unless one was truly human — caring for yourself and caring for others, and trying to make life better.

If you click here, you can read the full article about George Hull.

Perry Miller, Editor
Click here to contact George Hull

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:11 AM