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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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April 27, 2010

"Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord!" by Robert C. Powell, MD, PhD


“Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord” 1

– Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. John Edwin Harris –

delivered in Columbus, OH, on 11 April 2010 at the Plenary of

the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy

– on the 85th anniversary of the movement for a specifically clinical chaplaincy

– on the 75th anniversary of H[elen] Flanders Dunbar’s article:
“The Clinical Training of Theological Students”

– on the 60th anniversary of the final edition of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s hymnal:
Hymns of Hope and Courage 2

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

Each year the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy presents “The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training.” Many of those new to this world of clinical pastoral training, education, and transformation may not know who this mysterious Helen Flanders Dunbar was – so let me make several prefatory comments.

In a nutshell, she was the one who translated Anton Boisen’s thought-provoking ponderings about an intimate relationship between religion and medicine into a movement – a now world-wide movement – that has forever changed the definition of “chaplaincy” and of what constitutes “pastoral care,” “pastoral counseling,” and “pastoral psychotherapy”.

Dunbar was brilliant – and sincere.

To some extent just noting that she finished her first magnum opus in April 1927, graduated cum laude from seminary in May 1927, and finished her first year of medical school in June 1927 says it all.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1935, her second magnum opus was published
and she added a third doctorate to those bestowed in 1929 and 1930.

Seventy-five years ago, in 1935, having solidified during the previous decade the foundations of the clinical pastoral movement, she launched the psychosomatic movement – viewing these as broad parallel programs for “healing and wholeness”. 3

Past presentations have explored some of the anguish in Dunbar’s life. Today let me suggest a possible source of her confident drive – her hope and her courage.

Dunbar was born in 1902. Four years earlier, her mother published a translation of a French novel – her only translation of a French novel – the easy-to-read story of a distinctive eighteen-year-old young woman, Colette. It is not hard to imagine that this romance lay somewhere around the Dunbar home and that Helen read it sometime during her pre-adolescent or adolescent years. In brief, the heroine is described quite positively as having “extreme individuality,” “extreme originality,” and “freshness” – as being “very unlike the rest of the world”. With Colette as the role model endorsed by her mother, perhaps it is no wonder that Helen Flanders Dunbar moved into the world establishing two enduring patient-centered movements for “healing and wholeness”. 4

Now let me focus on the situation at hand – the annual bestowing of the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award for Significant Contributions to Clinical Pastoral Training.

On this occasion last year – 2009 – we examined several heady questions: “How is wisdom lived? How is understanding grasped? How is knowledge gained?” Yes, “How is knowledge gained?” We will come back to that. “How is it that conviction, commitment, and covenant help foster life’s meaning?” Yes, “covenant”. We will come back to that, too. 5

The year before that – 2008 – our honoree’s words advised that “if the Spirit wants … [us] to do something … , the Spirit will not mind repeating the instructions.” That is, once the guidance “has been repeated so that it is clear,” and once we have “had time to check it out in the community of faith,” we “do not need to act impulsively” – we “only need to act obediently.” Yes, we are called upon “to act”. We will come back to that. 6

The year before that – 2007 – we considered “how to function as a knowledgeable professional AND retain one’s soul” – how to “start with engaged service, move toward active inquiry, move on to contemplation, and move still further toward guiding a future generation.” That is, how we might transcend any concern for
“the axioms of faith, the art of ministry, and the laws of the spirit” – to focus on what actually takes place – and needs to take place – in “the serious interaction of one human with another”. Yes, what “needs to take place”. We will come back to that. 7

The year before that – 2006 – we considered an amalgam of these concerns – “having strong feelings, taking bold action – without being self-righteous” – recognizing that we are “called to act in the face of uncertainty, knowing that we are inadequate – but probably the best available – knowing that we do not know the end of the story or even where it lies.” We considered while it might be “easier to fulfill the exact command – obsessively tithe of mint, anise, and cumin – the minutiae – to act as if we know with certainty what to do” –more likely we are called upon to accept that it is “harder to fulfill the inexact command – faithfully perform mitzvah – gut level acts of justice and mercy – to accept that we do not know for sure what to do – that we must act but in a world of unknown unknowns, with minimal reassurance that what we do is right.” 8

Anton Boisen rightfully is remembered for his faithful working out of his received “conviction that one must break ‘a hole in the wall’ – the wall ‘separating religion and medicine’.” Flanders Dunbar rightfully is remembered for her steady “commitment to removing that wall forever.” 9

Our honoree today wandered in a manner reminiscent of Boisen, and he established in a manner reminiscent of Dunbar.

Boisen, Dunbar, our honoree – I doubt that they ever met. Oddly enough, they symbolically share a meaningful date. Boisen spoke of the “cutting loose from the beaten path” of our lives – the “starting forth into unknown territory”. Boisen’s three decades of wandering – living within over three dozen communities before settling down – began self-consciously at age 25, in 1902. Dunbar was born in 1902. Today’s honoree’s two decades of wandering – living within about a dozen communities before settling down – began self-consciously at age 25, in – 1966. You thought I was going to say “1902” – right? No, the connection here, odd as it may be, is that our honoree’s favorite “congregation” of sorts – a touchstone in his life – was first dubbed “The Volunteers” in – 1902. 10

The plenary’s focus this year is on the journey – literally “the pilgrim’s progress” – toward recovery of spirit and soul. Now, by “recovery of spirit and soul” I am not sure that we need to imply that either is something we had just last week and then somehow lost. Rather, I think we might consider that the situation is somewhat like that proposed by Plato – that we have been wandering about UN-whole, wandering about searching for a missing something – a missing something that we somehow know must exist and the recovery of which we sense might make us more whole. 11

I know that sounds vague, but I suspect it does come close to describing how today’s honoree wandered, slowly living within others’ wisdom, slowly grasping some measure of understanding, slowly gaining the requisite knowledge – to act, within a community of faith – to act, within a covenant of peers – to act, both on the level of here-and-now relationship and on the level of providing for future sufferers’ needs.

Today’s honoree wandered into the military, then wandered into the railroad world, then wandered into a Methodist college, then wandered into a Baptist college. This is sounding a bit like Boisen, isn’t it? 12

While Dunbar knew exactly what she wanted to do – attending medical school, graduate school, and seminary simultaneously, it was Boisen who wandered from foreign language teaching, to career forestry, to social activism, to battlefield chaplaincy, to psychiatric research, becoming what he himself called a “Presby-gationalist” along the way.

Today’s honoree, blessed with a beautiful voice, finally realized that he wanted to become a Minister of Music. For reasons not entirely clear, he ended up taking a unit of clinical pastoral experience with Chaplain Walter Jackson, in Louisville. As today’s honoree phrases it, “that one unit .. made me question my chosen path … .”

He took off a year from his pastoral duties in Sullivan, Indiana, to work with Chaplain Joe Boone Abbott, in Birmingham. He was hooked. Now his path was entirely clear. As today’s honoree tells it, “That year … was the start … , and I knew that CPE would be my destiny. I learned so much about myself that year … that I knew I wanted … the same for other men and women.”

He went back to his home congregation for a year – but only a year – before heading off to work for two years with Chaplain Ken Reed, in Indianapolis, and for six months with Chaplain John Galloway. From there he went to work for three years with Vern Kuehn in Richmond, Indiana, before becoming a player in Rush Jordan’s conglomerate of interlocking directorships at Dayton, Ohio.

That’s quite a collection of mentors: Abbott – a Baptist student of depression, Reed – a Methodist student of grief, Galloway – a Presbyterian student of “The Gospel According to Superman!” – and Kuehn – another outspoken Presbyterian. That was only the start.

To begin making this long story short, today’s honoree ended up in southwest Ohio, convinced of the value of pastoral care, counseling, and psychotherapy, but needing to invent an enduring conceptual structure for making competent services happen. He felt called upon to act – to create something from nothing – to do what he had to do – to create a new model for which there was no guarantee of success.

He brought together a diverse array of congregations – and non-congregations – into an entity called “The Covenant Society for Pastoral Counseling,” within which, through institutions’ payments of an annual contribution, each member gains access to pastoral care, counseling, and psychotherapy on a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week basis – at one-half of whatever would have been the member’s out-of-pocket cost. 13

Today’s honoree saw the problem and acted – on both a one-to-one and a systems basis. He made services available to a wide-spread patient population, made collegial support possible for isolated clinicians, and made a structure for nurturing the next generation of clinicians.

Eventually his became one of the largest programs in the country for the clinical training, education, and transformation of a new generation of pastors. Eventually he and his colleagues around Dayton decided that the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy’s comfort with individuality, originality, and freshness – with being “very unlike the rest of the world” – was attractive, and that becoming the “Miami Valley Chapter” of CPSP would best meet everyone’s needs.

Please congratulate the ninth recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training, a proud son of Tennessee, a Tennessee “Volunteer,” a man of hope and courage, The Rev. Dr. John Edwin Harris.
The fully endnoted version of Dr. Powell's, ""Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord!" can be downloaded as a PDF socument. See below:

Download "Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord!"

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Many of his published writings are posted on the Pastoral Report. Readers can use the PR's search engine found on the left side-bar to locate his articles. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients. Contact Dr. Powell by clicking here. Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:24 AM

April 24, 2010

UPDATE: National Clinical Training Seminar


Francine Hernandez, National Clinical Training Seminar Coordinator, informed the PR that Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D will be the guest presenter for the NCTS held May 3-4, 2010 at the Carmel Retreat located in Mahwah, New Jersey. As the NCTS presenter, Dr. Alberts will explore the subject, The Humanology of Pastoral Care
Pastoral and Prophetic Dimensions
. Below you can download a file containing several of his article. Participants are encouraged to read the articles as preparation for the NCTS.

In addition, one can download the file containing the NCTS Schedule.
Download file: William Albert's Articles

Download 2010 NCTS Spring Schedule file

-Perry Miler, Editor

If you have questions about the NCTS, contact Francine Hernandez, NCTS Coordinator.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:53 PM

April 22, 2010


The deed is everything, the glory naught.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

CPSP has taken a small step toward a genuine beginning to honor our covenant – that we become mutually responsible to one another by creating a scholarship fund.

To this end, we created this fund for the following purposes:

- That money raised and/or donated to this fund be utilized in sponsoring our members, here and overseas, to attend our Annual Plenary Gathering.

- That each chapter be encouraged, in accordance to their means, to consider assisting in building this fund and to maintain it on an ongoing basis. Requests will be posted yearly for donations.

Barbara A. McGuire & Cesar Espineda have taken responsibility to oversee and manage the fund in close collaboration with the CPSP Treasurer, General Secretary and current President.

We will respond and acknowledge any and all donations by individuals and groups, if they wish to be known. In addition, we will provide the community a regular update to all Chapters and an annual report to the Governing Council.

- Currently, $1,000 has been pledged to this fund.

- Partial and full scholarships will be granted.

- We invite you as individuals and chapters to consider; according to your means to assist us with this fund.

As a tither you automatically become solution-oriented
rather than problem-oriented
. ~ Mark Victor Hansen

For further information contact: Barbara A. McGuire & Cesar Espineda

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 3:02 PM

April 20, 2010

A Blessing from Myron Madden Sent to the 2010 CPSP Plenary


In Myron Madden's absence he sent the following message to the gathering of the 2010 CPSP Plenary held in Columbus, Ohio:

A Blessing be upon you, my brothers and sisters.  As you gather together, in this meeting of CPSP, keep in your minds and hearts all those of us absent in body, but present in the Spirit along with those who have vacated this earthly tabernacle. 

Allow this meeting to be a blessed time of sharing your stories, both of victories as well as defeats, of winnings and losses, of good health and bad.  

Let it be a time of exploring and renewing your mind about what God had in mind in bringing you into the creation.  Also find a way to share that with others.

Be open to share your struggles with others, and be open to listen to those whose struggles are more than they can bear alone.  And remember that when you are heard, you are blessed.

God, we believe that you stand ready to bless us and to forgive us and protect us from all evil.

Let his blessed name hold you close in a love that never fails.  Amen.

Contact The Rev.Doctor Myron Madden by clicking here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:56 AM

April 19, 2010

“You could have written my name on a blackboard and I wouldn’t have known it” – by Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.


The Jehovah’s Witness patient was not trying to get me to subscribe to his denomination’s magazine, The Watchtower. Nor trying to convert me to his religion. He was like other Jehovah’s Witness patients, whose humanness shows up once their religion is affirmed with, “May the blessings of Jehovah be upon you.” This Jehovah’s Witness patient told me his story, sharing a message that has implications for any religion.

An 83-year-old black man, in an intensive care unit, suffering a stroke, the patient engaged me as soon as I introduced myself and answered his questions about my chaplaincy and the kinds of patients I visit. “I was a Methodist until 30 years ago,” he began. “I listened to ministers preach from the Bible, and believed what they said. I didn’t know anything different. I was uneducated. I couldn’t even read or write.”

He continued, “Then this Jehovah’s Witness came to my door. He taught me how to read and write. He came to my home every week,” the patient went on. “And he used the Bible, giving me passages to read, which we would go over. It took a long while, but in time I began to read and understand the Bible for myself.”

The patient ended, “You could have written my name on a blackboard, and I wouldn’t have known it. But I know it now. And the man who taught me couldn’t read or write at one time himself.”

Religion is about teaching people how to read and write their own name—and learn for themselves. It is also about the messenger becoming the message.

Chaplaincy is about helping people tell the story of their name.

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 at

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:35 PM



We are heartened by this public expression of concern by the Religious Endorsing Body representatives (REBS) meeting in Nashville last fall. They have the interest in the wider religious and therapeutic community at heart in this call to reconciliation.

There is plenty of work to be done in the field of clinical pastoral supervision, chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and psychotherapy. No one organization can respond to the current public needs. The expenditure of time and money in efforts to undermine each other is wasteful and disgraceful.

We in CPSP hope that this letter from the REBS signals the end of hostility between the various clinical pastoral organizations, and the end of triumphalism on the part of any one organization or group of organizations.

Raymond J. Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

Responses to this open letter can be sent to Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary by clicking here

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:32 AM

April 18, 2010


Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies
P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-007

January 11, 2010

From: Association of Religious Endorsing Bodies (AREBS)

Dear Colleagues in Pastoral Care Ministry,

We have been fortunate to be in conversation with all of the cognate groups in Nashville.

These meetings have helped us to clarify our identity as endorsers. That search for identity continues to drive us to more clarity and to deepen our relationships with all the cognate groups. We thank you for your patience with us as we have learned about your organizations, your organizational requirements, and also, your help in clarifying our understanding of your identity.

What we have discovered is that we share one thing in common and that is our dedication to the goal of providing the best in pastoral care. We all strive for excellence in that process and we understand your dedication in training and certifying our constituents. We have ironed out some of the difficulties and removed some of the obstacles to provide excellence in pastoral care.

One of the public issues that deeply concerns us is the chasm between CPSP and ACPE. We are working to understand the history of each of your organizations so that we can understand some of the identity issues that you face. As Miroslov Volf says in his early work, “Exclusion and Embrace”, the establishment of identity gives a kind of confidence that allows us to look at otherness and at others without the fear of losing our own identity. Volf says that an exploration of identity issues and otherness issues are prerequisite of reconciliation. We have prayed that reconciliation might happen between your two organizations because we feel that some of our constituents are suffering due to the rift between your organizations. We are troubled when our people become vulnerable to this rift. We are also concerned about the face of pastoral care that is presented to our institutions and endorsees.

We confess to being somewhat protective of our constituents, but our major concern is that we remove barriers to a pursuit of our shared goal of excellence in pastoral care. It is important that we find ways to be transparent and to seek each others’ healing. In the meanwhile, we, as endorsers have covenanted to be in prayer for reconciliation.

Prayerfully Yours,

Susan Galasso
AREB Chairperson

Responses to this open letter can be sent to Raymond Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary by clicking here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:16 PM

April 10, 2010

Recovery of Soul: What can it be?” by The Rev. Dr. Belen Gonzalez y Perez


With the selection of the 2010 Plenary theme as “The Recovery of Soul,” the Governing Council drew inspiration from CPSP’s foundational document we call the Covenant.

The CPSP Covenant boldly states that among our chief tasks as a community of pilgrims is the recovery of soul. We are on a journey together.

Explicit is that “recovery” means that something has been lost in the training of ministers

Perhaps the easy portion of this task is the training itself. The passing forward a discipline of values and depth of theological understanding concerning the human condition from supervisor to trainee. The context of our learning is often the human plight of crisis and moments of great distress and depleted personal resources of those to whom we offer pastoral care.

But “of the Soul:” Does a soul exist? What might the soul be a reference to in our Covenant? Is the soul an amorphous energy and entity invisible to the human eye? Even if you should be so inclined to believe, I am inclined to say that our clinical pastoral tradition would say no.

The “soul” that we are seeking to recover is the soul of meaning, the soul of meaningful community freed from the self-absorbed shackles that kill the human drive to be more than a commodity in our current consumerist and market-driven society. In some ways recovery of soul speaks to an emancipation of the minister from the herding mentality and cog-forming numbness of the institution.
In CPSP recovery of soul takes many forms. One is immersed in the giants that constitute the classics of clinical pastoral education. It is a journey to discover together the often displaced and forgotten pioneers of the clinical pastoral education movement like Anton Boisen and Helen Flanders Dunbar. These two human beings emulate and incarnate in their personal and professional stories the spirit and tradition we celebrate as the CPSP community.

Recovery of soul is the reclamation of ‘spirit’ in the process of clinical pastoral education and collegial professional chapters. As a community CPSP values the gift of the individual, the self, and the many individuals that discover the unique qualities they have, bring, and can share as persons in relation to others at work and play.

Recovery of soul is about being authentically present to self and others in our everyday living. It echoes something of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where Polonius speaking to his son Laertes gives him advice for living and tells him, “to thine own self be true.”

The Governing Council’s wisdom for choosing the theme of Recovery of Soul for the 20th anniversary of CPSP was insightful and serendipitous. It remains for each of us to engage what recovery of soul means to our community, our work, and our vocation. I, for one, welcome the conversation and look forward to the healthy and dynamic exchange of ideas at the Plenary in Ohio.
The Rev. Dr. Belen Gonzalez y Perez,
Director of Pastoral care and Education
Long Island College Hospita

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:40 AM

April 8, 2010



Already packing for the 2010 CPSP Plenary celebration? If so, I'm sure you are wondering about the weather and what to pack. It is one of those pesky human dilemmas knowing that once you arrive you will know what you forgot to pack while regretting you packed some items you never used.

Friendly advice: Check the weather and pack about half of what you thought you might need.

It will be good to see all of you at the party, rain or shine. -Perry Miller, Editor

Click below for up-to-date Columbus, Ohio weather.

To contact the Editor, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:58 PM

April 7, 2010

2010 PLENARY BULLETINS ---Jim Gebhart



The forecast for our Plenary at Columbus is good: Mostly sunny and pleasant, Highs of 69-72, lows of 45-48.


A volunteer will be on duty at the Columbus International Airport to facilitate sharing taxi services. This person will have a list of incoming flights from CPSP bases. After departing go downstairs to baggage claim and ground transport. Look for the desk which reads Group Information Desk. The volunteer will assist you in sharing cabs. Cab fare is $15-20, but if shared will be $3-6.

To Contact Jim Gebhart, especially if you want to order up even better weather, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:44 AM