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December 22, 2011

CPSP PEOPLE in the NEWS: Susan McDougal, George Buck and George Hankins Hull<img
Being There: The Art of Clinical Pastoral Care is an article written by 
By Jon Parham for the Fall 2011 edition of the UAMS Magazine. It features Susan McDougal, George Hankins-Hull and George Buck, clinical chaplains at the University of Arkansas Medical Center (UAMS).

UMAS is an accredited CPSP CPE training center with a large number of CPE Residents and Interns. There is a lot of pastoral care and counseling taking place in this medical institution. The article speaks of how clinical chaplains at UAMS are integrated into the total care of patients and families. George Buck, CPE Supervisor notes that chaplains a supportive role to help the patient call upon their own faith or philosophy of life as a source of comfort...

The auhtor provides a graphic and touching snapshot of Susan McDougal, a CPSP Board Certified Clinical Chaplain at UAMS:

McDougal, a Quaker, is the newest full-time chaplain at the Medical Center, joining the team in June 2011 after completing the UAMS Clinical Pastoral Education program. Her interest in becoming a chaplain was kindled by 18 months spent in prison for refusing to answer grand jury questions related to the Whitewater investigation of then-President Bill Clinton.

“I was frightened in jail,” said McDougal. “These were women at the worst time in their lives, yet they embraced me and cared about me.

“It changed me and made me want to live up to that by offering a personal connection, comfort and caring to those who are in a time of trauma.”

From Left to Right: George Hankins Hull, Susan McDougal and George Buck

George Hankins Hull, director of the department and the CPE clinical training program, speaks of the unique role of chaplain as the "interpreter of "metaphors and connections":

Pastoral care at UAMS is primarily about relationships and the stories people tell about illness. “The least known role of the clinical chaplain is as interpreter of the metaphors and the connections people make while telling their stories that allows them to navigate their hospitalization.

Please read the full article that is in a very readable magazine format by clicking here.

Perry Miller, Editor
For more information about UAMS's program contact:
George Hankins Hull, Director
Director of Pastoral Care and Clinical Pastoral Education
University of Arkansas Medical Center

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:35 PM

December 20, 2011

It’s About Kindness---By Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.


(Presented at Boston Medical Center’s Spiritual Care Department’s annual Spiritual Care Week Award Celebration, November 30, 2011.)

I’m honored and delighted to be the speaker at your annual Spiritual Care Award Celebration here at Boston Medical Center, with Lorien Manns selected to receive this year’s Award.

On July 15, as you know, I retired as hospital chaplain on the Newton Pavilion, after 18 and ½ years. And I’m very pleased that Sam Lowe was hired to replace me.
I’m most fortunate to have been a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center. In a ministry spanning over 62 years, that has included certain challenging involvements, Boston Medical Center has been an ideal place for me to work and thrive. You made it so. Thank you.

The annual Spiritual Care Award offers the opportunity to recognize the invaluable contribution the Spiritual Care Department makes to Boston Medical Center, and also to recognize a staff person who has especially enabled the hospital’s chaplains in their work. This year the Spiritual Care Department has selected Lorien Manns as the recipient of the Award.

Lorien is a guest services staff person at the information desk at the Menino Pavilion’s Emergency Room entrance. She embodies Boston Medical Center’s mission of ‘EXCEPTIONAL CARE. WITHOUT EXCEPTION.’ That is the way I saw her interact with people at the critical Emergency Room intersection on Albany Street. And that is the way she had interacted with me as well.

I asked Menino Pavilion hospital chaplain Jennie Gould to tell me a little about why the Pastoral Care Department selected Lorien for this year’s Award. Jennie responded, “She is a very warm and caring person.”

I thought, my goodness. That’s right out of the Bible. I Corinthians 13 states, “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but” am not “warm and caring,” “I am nothing.” I know I omitted the words “but have not love.” But what is “love?” Lorien puts flesh and blood on “love” by being “warm and caring.”

And that’s what I want to talk about today. Being “warm and caring” is about kindness. Boston Medical Center’s mission of ‘EXCEPTIONAL CARE. WITHOUT EXCEPTION’ is about kindness. Whether one is an Emergency Room staff services information person, or a doctor, or nurse, or chaplain, or housekeeping person, or security person, or an administrator, kindness is the indispensable human element that makes hospital care exceptional. It’s about kindness. Here’s an example.

One day, during my chaplaincy work here, as I entered 8E on the Newton Pavilion, a 59-year-old black Catholic patient was sitting just outside her room crying. She looked at me from a distance, and, in her desperation, repeated what she asked everyone she could lay her eyes on: “Would you walk me down the hall?” I told her that I could not do that, then went over to her and said that she should request that of her nurse. Apparently assuming that I was a chaplain, she said that she would like to receive communion. I told her that I would share her request with any Eucharistic Minister I might see. “And I hope you will be feeling better,” I said. “Thank you,” she replied.

When I returned to the unit’s center after visiting another patient, I observed a black staff person in her fifties stopping and talking with the patient, who was now crying. I was struck by the staff person’s kindness toward the patient. “Look here, girl,” she said in a sisterly way, “I want you to stop crying. I’m going to come back and comb your hair. Okay? I’ll check what is down the hall, and come back, and we can talk. No more gray eyes. Bright eyes and a smile,” she added, with a smile of her own, seeking to bolster the patient’s spirit. “Alright,” the patient said appreciatively, and stopped crying.

Shortly, a longtime, caring, white, Catholic Eucharistic Minister, who had been a nurse all her adult life, entered the unit. I told her that the patient was upset, and had requested communion. The Eucharistic Minister walked over to the patient, introduced herself, and asked, “Would you like to receive communion?” “Yes,” the patient replied. The Eucharistic Minister served her communion, and said, “I hope you will be feeling better.”

No sooner had the patient received communion than the staff person returned from down the hall with breakfast on a plate for the patient. The staff person then proceeded to bend over and cut the patient’s food for her. From spiritual food for the soul to physical food for the body—both of which evidently warmed the patient’s heart.

The staff person’s kindness led me to introduce myself to her later, and say, “I really appreciate what you are doing for that patient.” “Well, thank you! Thank you!,” she replied, with a big smile. “Anytime!”
Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye had people like this vulnerable patient—and her care givers, and all of us—in mind in her poem on “Kindness”:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
I was privileged to observe these acts of kindness by a staff person and a Eucharistic Minister. Kindness that may go unnoticed but may be seen anywhere “anytime!” Pastoral and spiritual care are about embodying and facilitating and revering kindness.

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

During my chaplaincy here, a son, who is a minister, had just lost his mother, who died suddenly. He said to me, “I have never lost anyone close to me. How will I feel tomorrow? Can you tell me?” “You will still love your mother tomorrow,” I said. “Yes,” he replied. “And tomorrow you will still feel the pain of your grief,” I continued. “In time, the grief will still be there, but the ache will lessen.” “Have you ever lost anyone?,” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. “My father and mother, and four brothers and a sister.”

“Will I be able to continue my ministry?,” he asked. “Yes,’ I said, “And your grief will help you understand others even more. And you will have an even deeper love, and for more people. For all people lose loved ones and grieve. It is part of who all of us are as human beings.” He nodded with an understanding smile.

I stayed a long time with this son and his family, which included being with him during his extended telephone conversations with his grandfather and then with his father—both in their native country in South America. Love of a father and grandfather that affirms and remembers and comforts and strengthens. Pastoral and spiritual care are about giving grief a hearing so that it does not become bottled up and beside itself.
As Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “kindness” is what the whole world has “been looking for.” Here’s another example about kindness, taken from my work as chaplain here.

I visited a 60-year-old white patient, the owner of a cranberry bog, who was sitting behind a metal table, with a pencil laying on a paper that had writing on it. He began to tell his story: “I had this burning sensation in my chest, and thought it was from the medication I was taking for acid indigestion,” he said. “But it persisted and got worse. I finally went to my doctor,” he continued. “He told me how foolish I was, that I needed open heart surgery right away, and referred me to the hospital for surgery. Suddenly I went from indigestion to open heart surgery. And I’m wondering, ‘How did that happen?’”

The patient then said, “Little things mean a lot.” He explained: “I’m here, and I’m scared. I didn’t know what to expect. They wheel me down to the operating room. And the doctors there are warmly greeting me, calling me by my name, asking how I’m doing, and joking with me—as if I have nothing to worry about. They made me feel a lot better.” He went on, “And I’m doing well. So, I’ve been thinking about writing a letter thanking them,” and with that he held up the paper laying on the metal table. I responded that such a letter would probably be very much appreciated by the doctors and the hospital.

There Is more to his story. He said, “The doctors would come into my room and sit down and talk with me. They took the time to explain everything to me, and asked if I had questions, and answered them.” His next words put flesh and blood on Boston Medical Center’s mission statement ‘EXCEPTIONAL CARE. WITHOUT EXCEPTION’: “For them, it was not routine.” (Italics added) Being “warm and caring” is about discovering the little things that mean a lot to patients and their loved ones.

Being “warm and caring” is about kindness. One more example from my experience here. It is difficult to be kind to a person whose behavior reminds you of abrupt, angry-looking and -behaving persons in your past. A particular white female staff person presented that kind of a challenge for me. Her abrupt and angry demeanor and responses were a turn-off for me.

In time, I made it a point to transcend my own negative perception of her. A key element in moving beyond my own guardedness towards her was remembering and saying her name—and taking time to talk with and listen to her. There was the sharing of experiences and a story or two. She then began to share her conflicted religious beliefs, talking and asking questions about her issues with religion. I began to enjoy seeing her and to make it a point to talk with her. I grew to like her.

One day, she told me that she stopped going to church because she did not agree with certain beliefs held by her denomination, which evidently led her to ask me, “Can you tell by looking at people whether they are good or bad?” I replied, “I can tell by looking at people that they are human beings.” She looked at me for a few seconds, and then a smile crossed her face.

There is far more to people than what meets our first impression-- or second impression. The challenge is to go beyond what meets our eyes and experience what is actually in their eyes.

It’s about kindness. ‘EXCEPTIONAL CARE. WITHOUT EXCEPTION’ is actually about The Golden Rule. Christianity teaches, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Jesus, Matthew 7: 12) Judaism teaches, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.” (Hillel Talmud, Shabbat 31a) Islam teaches, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” (Imam Nawawis Fourty Hadith, n13)
‘EXCEPTIONAL CARE. WITHOUT EXCEPTION.’ It’s about kindness. It’s about being “warm and caring,” like Lorien Manns.
Bill Alberts was a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center from December 7, 1992 to July 15, 2011, when he retired. Dr. Alberts is a nationally known writer and an occasional contributor to Counterpunch. A diplomate and member of the recently named Dover, New Hampshire Chapter of CPSP (formerly the New England Chapter), his e-mail address is

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:32 PM

December 14, 2011


The Wall Street Journal on December 6, ran an article “Bigger Roles for Chaplains on Patient Medical Teams, by Laura Landro. On the face of it the article strongly touted chaplaincy services in hospitals, and the reaction from a number of chaplains was quite positive. But they neglected to read the fine print, so to speak. No competent chaplain or pastoral clinician should be deceived by the hype in the Wall Street Journal piece. While it purports to promote pastoral services in hospitals, it actually discounts the genius of properly trained chaplaincies and pastoral services, however subtly the discounting was done. The article is in fact a damaging assault on clinically basis of pastoral care and counseling.

The blessing of cells and ‘positive spiritual guidance’, whatever that means, no doubt brings comfort to some people, but most competent well-trained chaplains will cringe at hearing their roles thus epitomised. Friendly companionship and familiar religious rituals, such as the blessing of this or that, undoubtedly bring comfort to some people. But such services hardly require years of rigorous clinical training that many health care chaplains have these days.

An unbiased and uninvolved reader of this Wall Street Journal article would certainly conclude that all those clinically trained chaplains who invested two, three, and more years developing their clinically skills in internships and residencies wasted a lot of time and money. They could have better spent a few weeks learning to say prayers and the art of friendly conversation.

Most competent clinically trained chaplains do not consider prayer a major therapeutic tool. Many, perhaps most pastoral visits by chaplains do not and arguably should not include prayer at all. The point here is that clinically trained chaplains offer a therapeutic ear for persons in trouble, an ear that is somewhat removed from the scientifically-oriented medical team, an ear that is trained both theologically and psychologically.

Anton T. Boisen, the man who in the early twentieth century inaugurated clinical pastoral training for clergy was not the proverbial prayer warrior. He did not promote prayer with patients as the central tool. What he did promote and emphasize passionately was that chaplains should be trained to listen to patients with a sensitive and psychologically informed ear. “It’s not what the chaplain says to the patient, but what the patient says to the chaplain.” And the corollary is of course, that competent listening requires a considerable amount of intensive psychologically based training. Boisen also taught that ministers must have a basic knowledge of psychoanalytically psychology, without which no competent listening can take place.

The Wall Street Journal has turned Boisen’s teaching and the clinical pastoral training movement on its head. In emphasizing chaplains’ prayers it is now claiming that what is important is what the chaplain says to the patient. Furthermore it is also highlighting the trivial or tangential dimension of clinical chaplaincy in its inflation of the benefits of prayer. And finally, the category ‘spiritual’ itself is a category yet bereft of definition. It seems to mean everything and nothing.

The kind of chaplaincy work touted by the Wall Street Journal can be done by persons with no clinical training. Such work would require only the ability to mouth prayers, remain friendly, and profess to know something about the blurry concept of spirituality, a concept about which everyone seems to be his or her own private expert.

Health care institutions across the country could save a considerable amount of money if they follow the Wall Street Journal. They could terminate their highly trained and well-paid chaplains and hire untrained prayer warriors to do friendly visits and by request pronounce their blessings on this or that. No well trained chaplain or pastoral counselor could be happy with such a prospect.
-Raymond J. Lawrence, CPSP General Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:18 AM

December 11, 2011

What in the World’s Going On? By Daryl L. Meyers, D.Min.


Though years have gone by, and the old-time circus has faded away, who can forget the hall of mirrors we kids of yesteryear enjoyed. Eerie images, spooky and weird, with little bodies and big heads or big bodies with little heads stared back at us … and we loved every minute of it.

Like a hall of mirrors, ours is a world of illusions, where truth is often discounted or ignored, replaced by images, reflections of the real. All of us are affected by this Alice in Wonderland syndrome whether we realize it or not. Through entertainment and advertising, multimedia experts allure millions into accepting the superficial as norm and appearances as real.

Across the centuries, great minds from almost every tradition have affirmed the truth of the oneness of the human family, yet we still imagine ourselves to be separate from one another and have demonstrated this illusion by creating a world more fragmented than ever. We are no closer to healthy relationships now than when warriors from the past showed their military might by throwing stones at each other. All that’s changed is the size of our stones. We still can’t get along. Separatism has become our mantra and unity a mirage.

What is it about our lifestyles that cause us to ignore the obvious and accept the imaginary? Who cast the spell that has imprisoned us in a land of make-believe? What in the world’s going on?

Perhaps it’s time we took a closer look at the truth behind our illusions, re-examined the distorted images we’ve put in place, the processes and thinking that deepen the rifts between us, that give mixed messages and continue to move us and our children in directions that are unacceptable and jeopardize our future.

t’s obvious we’ve made progress in science and technology, but our advance as a human race is questionable. Ways of thinking that put in place inconsistent and convoluted systems within our lives and communities; that limit expression and opportunity, giving advantage to some while withholding it from others, is not a sign of progress.

To hold on to systems of belief - social, political or religious - that promote an “ours is the only way” mind-set, disregarding or disrespecting the traditions and cultural values of others, that deepen a sense of isolation and separation, is not progressive.

To stand behind facades, under a guise of confidentiality as individuals, organizations or as a nation, intentionally withholding, or giving incomplete or inaccurate information to those dependent upon it in making important decisions, is not a sign of progress.

To seek profit through questionable policies or business practices that take advantage of those with limited resources, jeopardizing their ability to meet daily commitments and undermining their future security is not progressive (nor “profitable”).

To be sensitive, even indignant at the inhumane treatment of some animals, while ignoring billions of others, simply because they are food on our tables, is not a sign of progress.

To undermine the delicate balance of nature, exploiting earth’s limited resources, bringing comfort and opportunity to some while the majority have little or nothing, is not progressive.

To enrich entertainers or sports heroes at the expense of those who seek to strengthen the values society is based upon is not a sign of progress.

Few would challenge our standing among nations as a superpower. We are the richest, most powerful nation on earth, yet the poor and homeless continue to suffer, and we seem incapable, or unwilling to do anything about it. As a nation our contributions to the less fortunate nationally and worldwide are significant. Compared to our resources, however, we give little of what we could to relieve the desperation and poverty around us. Caught in the “bigger, better, more” syndrome, greed has superseded generosity, and getting and saving has become the measure of success rather than giving and sharing.

We spend millions – make that billions - on diets, health food fads, and on research to “find a cure,” and have a health care system second to none, yet our health issues are among the most critical on the planet and we die of diseases almost unheard of in less affluent parts of the world.

We have strict standards set by regulatory organizations that prohibit the use of unapproved drugs. If, however, the drugs are popular, and financially viable, such as alcohol and tobacco, their use, with some restrictions, is generally accepted and often encouraged in spite of the thousands of lives lost each year, children neglected and abused, or families destroyed.

We are a nation that prides itself on records and have recently moved into first place ahead of China and Russia with a new record. We now have the most citizens imprisoned of any country in the world. Given the apparent ineffectiveness of our rehabilitation programs, we are continuing our emphasis on control, and containment by expanding our judicial services and constructing more detention centers.

We are extremely concerned about our children and their future, yet we allow them to sit in front of computers, TV screens, watch movies and provide other forms of entertainment that expose them to influences and behaviors opposite our values, then wring our hands and shake our heads in disbelief when violence erupts in our schools and communities and the more vulnerable act out what they have learned.

We are concerned about global warming and yet, according to reliable sources, there are technologies available today, and have been for decades, that could completely transform our dependence on fossil fuels. Were it not for special interest groups and their economic agendas, and the conflicts that result from both, these advanced technologies could have been on the market years ago, providing us and our world with energy systems more efficient and less contaminating then anything we are presently using.

We are strong in our support of human rights and hold other nations accountable when those rights are abused. If asked, however, to help end the misery of someone whose condition has become unbearable through disease and suffering, we are told it’s against the law. It’s called a “criminal offense.” If, on the other hand, it meets our political or economic agendas, (or policies of “non-interference in internal affairs”), the taking or allowing of thousands of lives to be taken against their will through judicial or military action, even if it means some unfortunate “collateral damage,” is not only permitted, but encouraged. We call it “protecting our freedoms.”

We use force to control force, violence to fight violence, and terror against terrorists and seem surprised that our methods fuel discontent and madness instead of the peace and calm we seek. In the midst of the chaos and noise of battle, we honor our fallen heroes, while the “enemy” honors theirs. Dreams of a better world have fallen prey to our inconsistencies and illusions.

Our religious traditions hold places of honor in our hearts and in our society and so they should. When “truth” however, becomes disconnected, an end in itself and takes on an aura of superiority, disregarding the rights and liberties of others, some of the most hideous crimes against humanity, as history has proven, have been instigated and carried out by religious organizations. Even today much of the strife we see in war torn countries of the world is religiously motivated.

Concerns for our children, our children’s children and future generations are more apparent and more urgent now than ever before, however, these concerns are being undermined by patterns of behavior that continue to move us in directions that compromise their future. Many of our financial institutions are collapsing with our economy at home and abroad weaker than it’s been in decades. Standards of education that have for years made us leaders internationally are declining. Our health care system is becoming more difficult to maintain financially with millions unable to afford even the basics of health care coverage. The inequities between the “haves” and “have not’s” is becoming greater. Third world countries are doing more with less while more advanced countries are doing less with more. The affects of global warming is no longer the territory of misguided minds, but a reality. Terrorism, internal, external and imagined is taking away our freedoms. Intolerance of others views and ways of life, cultures and traditions is no longer the exception but the norm. The mechanisms of war are becoming more sophisticated and international conflicts more common.

The unrest and strife around us are not the results of some preordained or predetermined outcome, but of the illusion we have embraced and lived out … the imagined idea that we are separate from one another, separate from our environment and from the very source of life itself. Over the centuries and millennia this illusion of separation has become so dominant in human thinking that thoughts to the contrary appear abnormal.

To think we can have the advantage of an abundant life and optimum health, while others know nothing but illness and premature death, is an illusion. To suggest we can succeed while others have little choice beyond failure, is an illusion. To assume we can be safe and secure in our nation or community while others are constantly at risk is an illusion. To believe ourselves to be free when others are abused and enslaved is an illusion. To seek peace in our corner of the world, when the world at large is in turmoil and conflict is an illusion. To think we are separate from anything or anyone and can act irresponsibly or disregard the needs of others outside our cultural circles without it impacting our lives is an illusion.

Lost in a world of shadows and make-believe, we seem oblivious to the signs that point us towards peace and keep throwing over barrier after barrier meant to protect us. Slowly … systematically we are destroying the very support system that makes life on earth inhabitable. As if mesmerized by some sinister force, we continue dream-like on a journey to nowhere, moving ever closer to the edge of existence.

Visionaries from ancient times and indigenous peoples from traditions and cultures all over the world, many of whom are outside traditional circles, warn of coming events brought about by an obsession with the material, greed and disrespect for human life, and a disregard for our environment, that could be cataclysmic in nature, of a magnitude beyond our ability to anticipate much less prepare for. Soon, so they say, mother earth will discipline her unruly children.

Our civilization has now reached a crossroads. Wonderful possibilities and opportunities lie ahead for us and our children if we make the right choices, but if we continue moving in the direction we are now, life as it is on planet earth will be unsustainable.

Dreams of a better world are not enough. Now is the time to re-examine the traditions, political ideologies, religious persuasions and racial prejudices that separate us. Now is the time to replace our cultural and traditional differences with an appreciation for the richness of diversity, removing all barriers that separate, tearing down all walls that restrain and isolate. Now is the time to put our energies and resources into creating peace in place of war, of uplifting instead of tearing down, sharing instead of hoarding, contributing to life rather than exploiting it, cooperating rather than competing, giving advantage rather than taking it, serving rather than subduing or suppressing. Now is the time to experience and express higher levels of consciousness, a deeper understanding of life, and a renewed sense of the interconnectedness of all living things. Now is the time to give expression to the overwhelming desire of the human heart to know and experience unity, peace and oneness with all others.

Now is the time to create the grandest version of the greatest vision we’ve ever had. Now is the time to move beyond the boundaries that separate us, into a new experience … a new age … … a new world; a world of compassion and peace; a world that respects the rights of all peoples and gives equal opportunities to all … “One World … under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Daryl Meyers, Chaplain and Community Relations Director at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton, Colorado. He has served in this position for twenty-eight years and he also presently the senior Councilman (ten years) for the City of Brighton.
He can be contacted via Email.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:20 PM