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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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January 24, 2013

Report from India and South Africa: “Devotional Care”: Rethinking Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy Training Sites By Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


January 24, 2013

Report from India and South Africa: “Devotional Care”:
Rethinking Clinical Pastoral Chaplaincy Training Sites

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

Centers for Devotional Care:
Places to Take Shelter at
Times of Profound Transition

“providing even
one more hour,
one more person, and
one more dollar
to the caring can
make all the difference.”

Blessed be the Lord, the rock
wherein I take shelter –
my shield and champion,
my fortress and refuge!
II Samuel 22:3.

Seek refuge in the Lord
with all your being!
By the Lord’s Grace
will you attain …
the Imperishable Abode!
Bhagavad-gītā 18:62.

Departure from this material world is the major transition facing all of us. Perhaps more than most, however, those within the Hindu or Vedic faith traditions tend to view this life as preparation for the next, for the new. Thus, when thinking about the upcoming founding of the first fully-accredited North American Hindu seminary, sustained thought has been given to founding simultaneously the first distinctively Hindu North American hospice – as an initial protective and supportive clinical pastoral supervision site for the novice pujaris (“priests”) – some of whom might later pursue elsewhere full clinical pastoral chaplaincy training, education, and transformation. This idea of pairing of seminary and hospice arose out of recognition that students from non-Judeo-Christian faith traditions faced extra challenges in consolidating their theological identities while serving under Judeo-Christian supervision in Judeo-Christian clinical settings. The idea was that after three to six months of faith-specific mentoring, these novice pujaris would be better equipped for making good use of non-faith-specific mentoring of their non-faith-specific service.

Looking more closely at the actual rather than the theoretical aspects of so-called “hospice” or “palliative” care, it appeared that much of the care that was needed and valued occurred “in the vicinity of” but not necessarily “at” the supposedly definitive “end of life”. It also appeared that the kind of care provided by the best of such non-curative settings was exactly what was needed by the suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable – regardless of whether they were at the end of life.

In a previous “Report from India” I quoted Henry T. Dom, regarding that “palliative care … should form part of the care of all who are ill, mentally or physically.” While departure from this material world may be the major transition facing all of us, overwhelming grief and other emotional disturbances – including pain and demoralization – are transitions almost as major facing some of us at some times. Having just returned from visiting and studying a Hindu “care center/ hospice” at Durban, South Africa, a Hindu “palliative care program” at Thane, India, and a Hindu “hospice” at Vrindavan, India, I now better appreciate the wisdom of Dom’s comment.

“Devotional care” – as I will define further below – may well be important for more than just those who are soon to be leaving this life – and may well be important for conceptualizing the most ideal training sites – Hindu or otherwise.

The following discussion of “devotional care” came together when one of my Hindu hosts asked me to try to explain what I thought I was observing about the best of Hindu approaches to non-curative care – how it differed from what I had experienced elsewhere.

In thinking about “devotional care,” the word “sharing” comes immediately to mind – plus the notion that caring – every bit of it – is permeated by the moral principles of self-discipline, purity, compassion, and integrity. This might seem obvious, but a visit to many average care centers would reveal that it is not. In devotional palliative care the patient, the family, the fellow staff member does not have to want, need, formulate, and request caring; rather, caring just happens – an effort has been made to think out in advance what would constitute caring for this patient, this family, this fellow staff member so that each can be freed to do what needs to be done. This might seem too easy, too natural, but it is not the norm in many care settings.

“Sharing” in devotional care encompasses “wisdom sharing,” “inspiration sharing,” and “devotion sharing”. Each staff member functions as an integral part of an organic unity. Each staff member teaches, encourages, and models a standard of caring – of the patients, of the families, of other staff members – and these lived values flow smoothly in all directions. One enters the sphere of devotional care and knows this is not “the outside world”. The devotional care center functions, so to speak, as a kind of temple.

Devotion” in devotional care implies a consistent, act“ively focused, empathic form of caring. Each staff member behaves toward patients, families, and other staff members as if he or she were caring for the Deity – and how he or she believes the Deity would behave – and how he or she would want to be cared for by the Deity. Again, one enters the sphere of devotional care and one knows this is not “the outside world”. The caring is a kind of idealism made real – open from all sides to ideas about improvement.

“We don’t have time for that” is irrelevant; “We don’t have the staff for that” is irrelevant; “We don’t have the funds for that” is irrelevant. Individualized, personal caring of patients, families, and other staff members is limited only by the staff’s collective imagination and creativity. This may sound too simple – or too hard – but the devotional care model is to find the time, the staff, and the funds to do whatever needs to be done. This is not to advocate extravagance but to advocate active devotion; providing even one more hour, one more person, and one more dollar to the caring can make all the difference.

Peace, quiet, and tranquility – with subtle invigoration – comprise the context of devotional caring. Each patient, each family, each staff member participates in sacred eating, sacred reading/ listening, and sacred ritual at least once per day – and, actually, there is no arbitrary limit on the provision of any of these. An effort is made to anticipate emergency and challenge – and to handle these as proactively and as smoothly as possible. It might at first sound counterintuitive, but the devotional care model is to meet emergency and challenge indeed with deliberate peace, quiet, and tranquility.

Somewhere in her book, The Final Journey …, Sangita dasi casually comments that the experienced devotional care worker always has a supply of dark red sheets and towels on hand if bleeding is anticipated to be an issue. She also speaks of using conscious breath control – for the patient’s sake, for the family’s sake, and for the staff member’s sake – that each must be helped to maintain equanimity so that each can do what must be done. Again, this might sound counterintuitive, but the quiet chanting of the holy names – an integral part of devotional care – functions as a kind of encouragement to abide long enough to accomplish the task at hand – whether it be to live through some acute difficulty – or to let go of this material world.

In regard to conceptualizing the most ideal clinical pastoral chaplaincy training sites, a key consideration is how best to integrate devotional care centers – places for the suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable to take shelter at times of profound transition – into the faith groups’ places of worship – or even the extent to which this can be done. Does one bring those needing care into the sanctuary – or bring the congregation into the care center? Perhaps both might be attempted. Two of the Hindu centers visited had altars in the devotional care area; all three were equipped to bring in members of the congregation – and one seemed to do this on a routine basis. All this being said, there appeared to be substantial room for further integration of a mandir’s daily activities into a devotional care setting – and vice versa. Certainly if, in support of North American Hindu clinical pastoral chaplaincy, a Hindu seminary and a distinctly Hindu hospice are to be developed simultaneously and contiguously, then efforts might be considered toward thoroughly integrating the two.

Community outreach also needs to be an integral part of the devotional care program – whether by supervised theologs or by other staff. All three of the Hindu centers visited kept an intelligent eye and ear on their communities, but it was clear that more might be done in this area. One center adroitly side-stepped any suggestion that theological conversion might be a more potent motive than sincere devotional care by making it clear – repetitively, through concrete action – that it was prepared to assist any person in need in following his or her own religious customs. This reflects, of course, the requirement that clinical pastoral chaplains be well-grounded in their own specific faith traditions even while working with all who are in need.

Obviously, this discussion applies to more than just Hindu communities and their beginning nourishment of clinical pastoral chaplaincy. I am eager to visit and study other hospice, palliative, or devotional care programs that might provoke further thought about what would constitute an ideal site for the training, education, and transformation of clinical pastoral chaplains.



While the author has consulted with Gujarati Vaishnava, Guadiya Vaishnava, and Shaivite leaders, he is not himself of the Hindu tradition and any misunderstandings noted in this essay should be considered his alone

In paragraph 1, the reference is to the “Hindu Seminary of North America,” a joint project since September 2011 of the Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference and the Hindu American Foundation, which, like its sponsoring organizations, would be cross-sampradaya (cross “disciplic succession traditions”), serving all North American Hindus. The legal steps needed for establishing a non-Judeo-Christian seminary are substantial. In August 2012 the “Hindu Accrediting Association of North America” and the “Hindu Religious Endorsing Body of North America” were established – the first entity to develop a program for evaluating institutions of higher education (parallel to the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, whose charter specifies focus on Judeo-Christian institutions), and the second to provide cross-sampradaya evaluation of who should or should not be authorized to function as a Hindu chaplain away from mandir (“temple”) grounds and to those not of this faith group. Over and above the chartering of these legally required institutions, decisions will need to be made about the ongoing support of those who make it through a clinical pastoral chaplaincy program. Because some sampradaya practice strict celibacy especially in their male leadership ranks, it is anticipated that about 80% of fully certified Hindu clinical pastoral chaplains will be women. The need is both immediate and great. Based on the patterns seen with other faith groups, it is estimated that the North American Hindu community needs twenty-five fully certified chaplains right now – and fifty as soon thereafter as possible, in order to serve rural as well as urban settings.

In paragraph 3, the reference is to “Report from India: A Pastoral Care Department that Runs Its Own Hospital.” (July 18, 2011)

In paragraph 6, in reference to “devotional caring,” the phrase “self-discipline, purity, compassion, and integrity” – “tapaḥ śaucam dayā satyam” – is taken from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.17.24 – of which there are many, many translations. Another common translation of the phrase is as “austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness”.

In paragraph 11, the reference is to Pattinson, Susan [Sangita dasi]. The Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for the Departing Vaisnava. 2nd revised edition. Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing Co, 2011. For my review, please see .

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.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:33 AM

January 21, 2013


Perry Miller, Editor

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 1:45 PM

William Alberts Wants to Know “God” Who? By Perry Miller, Editor


William Alberts, PhD, a Diplomate in the College of Supervision and Psychotherapy and and former clinical chaplain at the Boston Medical Center, published an article in Colunterpunch on January 18, 2013 entitled "God Who?". Alberts challenges our general propensity to assume we and others know who we are referring when we invoke the name of "God". This is a good warning for all of us to heed less we run aground on our own assumptions and limited life views. Failure to do so, Alberts argues, creates a God" that is the ...Great Wastebasket in the Sky, into which people dump and justify and ignore much evil committed by their political, military, corporate and religious leaders in “God’s” and their name.

He writes:

It is assumed that everyone knows what one means when one speaks or writes about “God.” As if one is referring to a commonly understood, supreme, morally absolute, all powerful, good, merciful, just, loving, objective reality. It is not only about speaking to “God,” but for “God.” With these “godly” attributes readily attributed to one’s idealized self and one’s religious—or political– group and mission. In fact, while “God” is as common as human breath, the purposes attributed to “Him” are as broad, and diverse, as human breadth. People often act as if they are talking about the same “God,” when they are actually talking about themselves, i.e., projecting upward and outward their own wishes, biases, insecurities, domination or dependency tendencies, ignorance, and strengths— propensities born of their own developmental, cultural, ethnic, political, conditioning and realities.

Continuing, Alberts offers a scathing critique of religious leaders and politicians from President Obama to Mike Huckabee for what he believes to be their misuse of God language to promote their own causes. The article references example after example taken from their public speeches to drive his point home again and again.

A sharp turn, however, is taken by Alberts as he references back to his ministry as a hospital chaplain in the Boston Medical Center for over 18 years where he was "... a bedside witness to numerous ways in which patients and their families have been enabled by their faith in a loving god." He follows this declaration with a poignant call for the value of human love wherein we might discover “God is love.” From his point of view the ability to value the humanity and dignity of all with compassion and and understanding is a loving way to be in the world that might enable us to catch a glimpse of a loving God.

The concern here is with the kind of love that encourages people to experience their own humanness, thus allowing them to experience the humanness of people in front of them and beyond them. Love that sees all other people as human beings like oneself, and not as The Other. Love that recognizes the inherent worth and rights of every other human being. Love that begins on earth, with people, and includes everyone. Children are born with the capacity to express such inclusive love. It is in nurturing children to love themselves, that we prepare them to love their neighbor as themselves and to put themselves in another’s shoes, as Jesus and other great prophets of universal love have taught and modeled. Instead of beginning with a “God” in the sky, we might begin on earth, with the flesh and blood humanness everyone shares. For it is through the experience of their own and each other’s humanity, that many discover “God is love.” And for many others, the humanness of love itself is enough. Either way, we are led to each other’s individuality and inalienable worth.

“God” Who? William Alberts' question is a question that we all are advised to return to from time to time, especially before we speak in the name of "God".

-Perry Miller, Editor

Rev. Wiliam E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics, religion and pastoral care. His recently published book, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, is available on His e-mail address is
Perry Miller, Editor
CPSP Pastoral Report

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:59 PM

January 15, 2013

DIPLOMATE TASK FORCE UPDATE by Dallas E. Speight, Diplomate Task Force Chairperson


January 2013

The two Task Forces (Clinicians and Diplomates) were appointed by the Executive Committee during the October 10-11, 2012 Executive Committee meeting in Arkansas to address governance and practical issues for both areas.

Henry Heffernan is leading the Clinicians Task Force, and Dallas Speight is leading the Diplomate Task Force. Each Task Force has been collecting data to inform this process of growth, and both are making plans for open discussion and dialogue at the upcoming 2013 CPSP Plenary being held in Las Vegas this spring.

The Diplomate Task Force was charged by the Executive Committee to assess, clarify, and propose adjustments to the roles, functions, and responsibilities of Diplomates in supporting the mission and Covenant of CPSP within a new, two-Division governance model.

We are serving as your representatives to crystallize your ideas for CPSP’s increased collegiality, accountability and efficiency in accord with CPSP values and best practices. Your voice is important and we are relying on your suggestions to help shape a future of responsiveness to our members’ and the CPSP community’s ongoing and growing edge needs.

Recently the Diplomate Task Force emailed an online inquiry to all Diplomates. The Diplomate inquiry was designed to garner narrative suggestions for informing the initial proposals we will be bringing back to the membership.

Having received significant first responses, the Diplomate Task Force has consolidated and organized the information provided so far to focus on the following comprehensive areas of growth and concern:


Diplomates: Governance and administrative structures and flow chart for Diplomate Division’s Officers and Executive Committee.

Liaison: (1) Interface Structure for liaison with Clinicians at Division, Regional and Chapter levels. (2) Relationship with overall CPSP governance.

Chapter Life for Diplomates:

Unique aspects of Diplomate personal/professional needs
Certification and credentialing.

Diplomates’ Service to Organization:

Functioning of Consultants for Chapters, Certification and Accreditation.

Peer professional development.

Institutional Relations:

Internal: (1) Clarification of Diplomate standards, policies and procedures where needed. (2) Best practices and guidelines for clinical training.

External: (1) CPSP Training Center relationships with Institutions. (2) Public awareness and relations.

Information Management:

Developing Website.

Clarification of internal and external communications policies and procedures where needed.

We also note your recommendations for continuing and adapting the successful elements already in place in our collegial community to the new governance format. CPSP’s commitment to “grass roots authority” and” traveling light” appear to be well grounded in our organizational psyche, and are repeatedly being lifted up in comments as touchstones for our current reorganization efforts.

Additional themes of accountability, transparency, and election of governance are trending. Many responses particularly lift up the intrinsic inter-relatedness and need for integration between Clinician and Diplomate Chapters, among geographic Regions, between urban and rural settings, and between the two Divisional structures, as well as between the Divisions and CPSP’s overall governance.

The Diplomate Task Force is leaning toward a phased approach to addressing and implementing changes. If we can complete the data gathering in time, we hope to provide a draft to all Diplomates before convening of the Las Vegas meeting as a starting place for dialogue, and then invite more feedback as the model emerges.
In hopes of hearing from every person, we have extended the deadline for responses to the Diplomate inquiry to February 1st. If you prefer, you are encouraged to write an email directly to the Diplomate Task Force Chair, Dallas Speight and Beverly Jessup, who is organizing Diplomate Task Force responses. Your insights and suggestions are foundationally needed and deeply appreciated.

If you are a Clinician who has suggestions for the Diplomate Task Force, you are invited to send an email to Dallas Speight at the email address below, and copy Henry Heffernan, Chair of Clinicians Task Force.

If you are a Diplomate who has not yet completed the Diplomate inquiry or sent us a personal email, please respond as your input is needed. [links below]
The time until plenary is very short. To all who have already responded, deep thanks. We are confident our core commitment to collegiality and shared covenant will bring us together to carry us through this challenging time with anticipatory joy at our new possibilities, and deeper appreciation for one another and our community.

Dallas Speight, Diplomate Task Force Chair

Beverly Jessup, Diplomate Task Force Member

Henry Heffernan, Clinician Task Force Chair

Diplomate Inquiry

Click here for Diplomate Inquiry.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:32 PM

January 12, 2013



The CPSP Community will gather March 17 through March 20, 2013 at the Golden Nugget Resort in downtown Las Vegas.

Located in the attached 2013 CPSP Plenary Brochure is information about the conference theme, the pre-conference workshops, schedules for each day, plenary registration, and hotel reservation information.

Mark these dates on your calendar and make your plans to attend the Plenary.


George Hankins Hull
CPSP Plenary Secretary

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 7:20 PM

January 7, 2013

+Red Cross Disaster Chaplaincy Orientation Sunday March 17, 2013 @ CPSP Plenary in Las Vegas NV.

Consider learning more about Disaster Spiritual Care (DSC) and its new integration within the American Red Cross (ARC).

CPSP has a long ancestry with Red Cross and recently CPSP members were on the frontlines of the Hurricane Sandy and Newtown CT events. This adds to the many local events where our DSC serve from home. Partnering with national humanitarian organizations and cognate partners, the DSC trained network is expanding and we continue to value the expertise and experience of Board Certified Clinical Chaplains to support our integrated and collaborative work.

The new model of Disaster Spiritual Care has been in development since March 2012, with pilot programs in San Diego CA, Cincinnati OH, and Louisville KY. Registered members can be activated for local disaster events, aviation and transportation disasters, mass casualties, terrorism events, and by government request.

<imgWe are fortunate that Chaplain Naomi K. Paget, PhD will be our presenter. She is a prominent expert in Crisis Intervention for the FBI and disaster relief organizations, worldwide. Her much respected books on Disaster Spiritual Care are the 'must reads' for chaplain disaster training. Dr. Paget will bring her many years of academic and experiential knowledge to our CPSP orientation. (Natural disasters: China earthquakes, Japan Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, San Diego wildfires. And victims of terrorism and other homicides: 9/11, Shanksville, Columbine, Newtown)

If you are interested in learning more about this next step to supporting the needs of those impacted by disaster and mass casualties, please register for this intensive four-hour orientation. Please note that this is a specialized course open to Board Certified Clinical Chaplains and Associate Board Certified Clinical Chaplains. ARC requires several additional courses and background check for full activation.

For more information and to register, please contact American Red Cross/CPSP liaison Linda Walsh-Garrison via email:
The deadline for application is March 5, 2013.

*This workshop is also being offered at the APC, NACC and NAJC conferences and is open to chaplains with Board certified and Associate certified status in ACPE, APC, CASC/ACSS, CPSP, ICPC, NACC, NAJC or NAVAC.

Linda Walsh-Garrison

+American Red Cross
Service to the Armed Forces - CA State Mgr., Vol. Partner
Disaster Spiritual Care - National/San Diego Leadership

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:15 PM