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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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December 24, 2009

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE by Perry Miller, Editor


Peace and Joy"- although a rarity for most of us, can break into our lives for fleeting moments. Our lives might actually be transformed or at least made bearable.

The Christmas season is one that both comforts and disturbs by our awareness of what is but yet mindful of that which our heart yearns.

I wish you the gift of "Peace & Joy" but also the noble gift of "Courage" - the courage to forge ahead even when the winter of life is hard.

Merry Christmas!

Perry Miller, Editor

Perry Miller is Editor of the Pastoral Report. He lives in Chapel Hill, NC and is a practicing psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. To contact the author, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:40 AM

December 22, 2009

A Christmas Story: "Ah, I can see a little sparkle now” – by Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.


She is a small, 91-year-old white patient sitting on a chair by her bed, with her daughter in another chair reading a book. “I’m Rev. Alberts, Hospital Chaplain making my rounds,” I said with a smile. The patient, not relaxing her stare, ordered, “Sit down and talk to me.” Her daughter responded by immediately giving her chair to me, and then sat on the bed. I pulled the chair up closer to the patient as my aim was to possibly establish some closeness with her.

“You’re listed as a Christian,” I said. “What does that mean?,” she demanded. “Whatever it means to you,” I replied. “I don’t go to church,” she said. Her daughter then explained, “Mom was a Catholic, and my dad was an Episcopalian, and my sister and I were raised Episcopalian. So I listed her as Christian.” I responded to the patient, “I assume that is what it means to you then.” She continued to stare at me.

I moved to the patient’s condition: “How are you doing today?” “Not good at all,” she replied. I hate hospitals. I don’t want to be in this damn place.” I answered, “If you hate hospitals, I can see why you don’t want to be here. My father hated doctors. But the hospital is a good place to be when you need the treatment it provides.” Her look indicated my common sense was neither informing nor comforting. <img

The patient’s daughter was again very helpful: “Mom has lived alone for 20 years, ever since dad died. And until now, at age 91, she has never been in a hospital. Three days ago she fell and broke her hip in three places, and is in a lot of pain. And now she is sitting in a chair, which is remarkable.” “I can see why you don’t like it here, with your pain and what you’re dealing with,” I said, and added, “But it’s still a good place to help with the healing.” She replied,” People who don’t like hospitals want to get better just to get the hell out of here.” I acknowledged with a smile, “People have different reasons for getting better, and that’s probably one of them.”

Thinking about the patient’s age and living alone and taking care of herself for twenty years, I said, “You have a lot of grit.” “No I don’t,” she answered. I continued, “The fact that you have lived alone and provided for yourself all these years, and are now sitting here three days after breaking your hip in three places tell me you have a lot of strength.” “What do you mean by strength?” she challenged. “You have been able to deal with a lot in your life and in living alone too, I’m sure.” Her daughter followed my words with, “Mom has a lot of grit.”

I moved to the patient’s challenging questions: “I appreciate your questioning of me. Words can be empty. You want them to having meaning and not words that really don’t say anything. You ask good questions. I appreciate that. You come across as cranky in ways. But I believe any crankiness helps you deal with things and is part of your strength. May you continue to be blessed with it.”

I began to end the visit by shaking the patient’s hand. As she held my hand, she said, “Oh, your hand is cold,” and she continued to hold it. My reply was trite: “Cold hands warm heart.” But my smile filled in the meaning. She then continued holding my hand with both of her hands, and I could feel the tenderness of her fingers. Then she gently cradled my right thumb with her fingers and asked, “How does that feel now.” I replied, “Much warmer. Thank you.” Such kindness and power in the hands of this 91-year-old woman with a broken hip. At that moment her daughter looked into her mother’s eyes and said, “Ah, I can see a little sparkle now.” I looked into the patient’s softening face and hint of a smile and said, “So can I.”

Christmas is about thawing each other out.
Bill Alberts is a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Alberts is a nationally known writer and an occasional contributor to Counterpunch. In addition, he is convener of the New England Chapter of CPSP. He can be reached

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:03 AM

CPSP PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Changing Society: A Social and Spiritual Vision for the Year 2020 and Beyond by Robert L. Menz, D.Min.

<imgGiven the state of the world and the vast amount of change in all sectors of human life, Robert L. Menz's new book appears to have hit the mark in its relevance to the current issues we all face. Here is some of what is being said about Changing Society: A Social and Spiritual Vision for the Year 2020 and Beyond:

Changing Society: A Social and Spiritual Vision for the Year 2020 and Beyond addresses the five traditional social institutions (marriage & family, religion, education, politics, and economics) as well as other important social institutions (health care, race/ethnicity, and technology). Dr. Menz and the other authors provide keen social insights as they consider the current dynamics as well as the historical and future issues of each of these social institutions. Changing Society is unique in that each of these writers approach their topics not only from their vast professional expertise but also from their great spiritual awareness (that is, such things as values, essence, meaning and purpose). With the intention of focus and clarity, and by projecting into the year 2020, one can appreciate how Vision 2020 in the title captures a double-entendre. The reader will find this book enlightening and inspiring.

“Changing Society reveals some of the real complexities we face in the twenty first century. Readers will be forced to reflect on some of the more contemporary issues, such as marriage, healthcare, education, race, religion and politics as these issues affect our lives.” – Senator Tom Roberts, State Senator, Columbus, Ohio

This informative book was written by professionals (theologians, attorneys, mental health professionals, and college professors) with dedicated social insights and devoted spiritual awareness. Two of the authors are CPSP’s own - James Gebhart, past President of CPSP and Robert Menz, the book’s editor.

The book may be ordered from The University Press of America or call: 1-800-462-6420

Perry Miller, Editor
Robert L. Menz, A CPSP Diplomate in Psychotherapy, is the Employee Counselor and Corporate Employee Assistance Director for Emerson Climate Technologies in Sidney, Ohio, Director of the Shelby County Chaplaincy Board in Sidney, and is an adjunct faculty member at Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio. Menz is the author of A Pastoral Counselor’s Model for Wellness in the Workplace: Psychergonomics, and A Memoir of a Pastoral Counseling Practice (both from Haworth Press) as well as a number of articles that have appeared in professional journals.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:55 AM

CPSP Changing the Face of the Pastoral Care Movement


National Clinical Training Seminar Reflection by
Maria Scaros-Mercado

It was to be my first conference with my new found colleagues and mentors. I was shifting into a new role and looked forward to being with same minded people who truly believed in the integrity and grace of the human spirit. Though anticipation was undeniable, I consciously shifted into my Buddhist self so as to be comfortable in the place of “not knowing”. This I felt was the only way in which to truly prepare to meet people who, in my mind, were to be my gurus. Entering the Carmelite Retreat Center I immediately felt the serenity. I drove up to a full parking lot without much activity and entered a room swirling with the colors and shapes of diversity and the music of chatter, laughter and comradery. I soon became aware of a smile that spontaneously came across my mouth along with a sense of belonging.

As everyone introduced themselves I found myself listening intently to each and every one. It was at the picture taking segment that I met an Orthodox Christian priest. He recognized my prayer bracelet. I was thrilled to meet him in this community. I had been feeling somewhat lonely in that my particular tradition was not well represented. I felt that that those in my Orthodox Christian community needed to show more of a presence in the NCTS. My prejudices were shattered and I was pleased. Though I felt a strong connection with my fellow chaplains in training, meeting an Orthodox Christian priest was the piece de resistance.

The first day’s program on Bioethics proved to be very cerebral. An important component to our work, it poses intriguing challenges in chaplaincy. The second day’s program was one in which I looked forward. Spontaneous prayer was the subject. The idea of spontaneous prayer for an Orthodox Christian is as difficult as it is for a Jew. I felt redeemed. Thank you Rabbi.

I was also blessed to have been assigned to a small group that included an extraordinary group of people. We shared not only our case studies, but a bit of our souls. As we concluded our second day, we felt as if we knew each other much longer, for indeed, we knew each other much deeper. The mutual respect and familial love was manifest between us all.

Most, but not all was sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. The Tavistock group was plugged in to the program on the second day. The process of this “encounter group” was a surprise to me and to many of the new comers. Most were befuddled. Others were disturbed and confused. Those who took it in stride were familiar with the process. It seemed to be an incongruous component to the conference. But that is from a new comer’s perspective.

All in all, I left the conference yearning for more. Questions arouse yet hope and comfort were clear. Upon driving beyond the retreat center I realized that I had embraced a new community in which I felt proud. I left looking forward to the next meeting and praying that a third day be added next year. To those with whom I shared and to those I meant to share, many thanks and peace to you all.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:51 AM

First Indigenous CPSP Diplomate in Malaysia by Chor-Kiat Sim


(Left to Right): Revs. Richard Liew, John DeVelda, Francine Angel, Steven Abbarow, C. Alejandro, and Chor-Kiat Sim who represent Malaysia, China, USA, India, Porto Rico, and Singapore respectively.

Rev. Steven Abbarow, an Anglican priest who is the archdeacon in Ipoh, Malaysia, was certified as the first Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor/Diplomate of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) in Malaysia. The certification committee of the New York/New Jersey Chapter consisted of an international group of CPSP Diplomates who applauded Rev. Abbarow’s vision and desire to become a clinical educator and to join the U.S. CPSP Indigenous CPE Team in mentoring the remaining Supervisors-In-Training in Malaysia.

Rev. Steven Abbarow who was supervised by the Rev. Dr. Richard Liew, brings a rich Indian cultural background and Anglican heritage to the work of pastoral education in his developing nation. His native culture and his learning experiences derived from his diligence in his father’s tea house when his family struggled to survive in hard times, his theological foundation based on his understanding of the parables in the Gospel (such as the widening influence of yeast and caring experiences of shepherds), including his decades of ministering to his parishioners in Malaysia, places him in a distinctive supervisory vantage.

Steven's CPE supervisory training consisted of intensive training with his supervisor, following the path set by Annie Wong, acting coordinator for Malaysia Indigenous CPE (MICPE). Further, he used both clinical education and experiences of his chapter and CPE groups in Malaysia to formulate his theories and practice.

Looking ahead, he wrote: "One of the most important challenges is to address the Indigenous component." He is determined to ensure "the clinical process of engagement" be done sensitively in order to earn the respect of his elders. Moreover, he is aware of communicating and teaching his trainees with clear understanding of the nuances among the Malaysians (Chinese, Tamil and others) in their varied languages. For clinical areas his students visit community hospitals, churches, rehabilitation centers and other welfare services in peninsula Malaysia. These varieties of culture and faith present challenges and growth to MICPE, but he is undeterred. A vital step in Malaysia’s indigenous CPE has been taken.

This marks another milestone in the CPSP global CPE program. Thus, it continues the globalization of CPSP in fulfilling the indigenous features of CPE. Moreover, this “empowerment of the indigenous community” (p. 27, Our Proclamation) in Malaysia aligns with our covenant of “offering a living experience that reflects human life and faith within a supportive and challenging milieu of fellow pilgrims.”

Rev. Dr. Chor-Kiat Sim, D.Min, BCC, CPE Supervisor/Diplomate (CPSP) of Baltimore Chapter. Click here to contact the author.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 5:48 AM