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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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July 31, 2013

“Mixed children are beautiful”—Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.


(Bill Alberts with his 18-months-old granddaughter, Aoife)

After retiring, in 2011, as a chaplain at Boston Medical Center, I was later rehired to provide coverage, as needed, for the present chaplains. My most recent work led to an encounter with a person that brought to the fore the transforming power of human love. The interaction was not with a patient, but with a staff person.

She is a white woman, about to retire after many years of service to the hospital. As we reminisced about our relationship over the years, she said, “Would you like to see a picture of my new granddaughter?” “Sure,” I replied. With that, she took an album from her purse, and proudly showed me photos of a beautiful little black baby. She then handed me pictures of her white daughter and black son-in-law. As I admired the photos, she lovingly said, “Mixed children are beautiful.” I enthusiastically agreed—marveling at the power of her love that transcended the once- traditional non-black enclave in which she lives.

This proud grandmother reminded me of certain retired ministers in the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, who, in 1998, formed a Conference-wide group called Reconciling Retired Clergy—with their number growing to 100 over the years. Their mission: to work for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) persons in the life of The United Methodist Church. It meant challenging The Church’s Book of Discipline’s belief that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” They supported ministers who were brought to church trial for being gay or lesbian, and those brought to trial for performing same-sex marriages. They also began performing same-sex marriages, and called for the ordination of LGBTQ persons. Their work, and that of other reconciling ministerial and lay groups in Methodism, has made performing same sex marriages more tolerated. They have helped to turn United Methodism’s exclusionary policies into a state of flux, with their influence also seen in several United Methodist bishops now openly challenging the Church’s anti-homosexual doctrine—enabled, no doubt, by the influence of same sex marriages becoming legal in several states.

What led some of these Bible verses-influenced, culturally-conditioned, United Methodist Book of Discipline-believing ministers to change their minds? In time, certain of them discovered that they, themselves, had a son who is gay, or a daughter who is lesbian—or the son or daughter of a relative, or ministerial colleague, or family friend. The issue had hit home—or close to home. It was now about bonding, not The Bible or The Book of Discipline. Their heart told them that sexually “mixed children are beautiful .” Just as “beautiful and loved and worthy and creative and moral as any other child—or adult.
Appreciation is expressed to friend and colleague Rev. Richard E. Harding, founder of the New England Conference’s Reconciling Retired Clergy, who contributed information for this article

Bill Alberts, CPSP diplomate and member of the Concord, NH chapter, was a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center from December 1992 until he retired in July 2011. His book, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, based on his visits with patients at BMC, is available on An occasional contributor to Counterpunch, the ramifications of the gay marriage he performed at Boston’s Old West United Methodist Church in 1973 are detailed in “Easter Depends on Whistleblowers: The Minister Who Could Not Be ‘Preyed’ Away,” Counterpunch, March 29-31, 2013) The photograph is of Bill and his almost two-year-old granddaughter, Aoife.


Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 10:39 PM

July 29, 2013

Steven Voytovich Appointed Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

The Rev. Doctor Steven Voytovich, a CPSP Diplomate in Psychotherapy and Clinical Pastoral Supervision, was recently appointed dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, effective August 18.

Bishop Michael, Ph.D., Rector of St. Tikhon’s Seminary and Bishop of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, made these comments:

“I am well pleased that Fr. Steven will be joining St. Tikhon’s Seminary as our Dean. His pastoral, leadership, academic and work related credentials are superb and we look forward to Fr. Steven moving St. Tikhon’s to new heights. On behalf of the board of trustees, faculty, staff and students we welcome him and offer our prayers for his new ministry.”

When the Pastoral Report made contact with Dr. Voytovich about this development he remarked:

"This represents a new chapter in my vocational journey that I am excited about, including some dimension of clinical training in the Orthodox Church that I have represented in the greater pastoral care and counseling community for fourteen years.

Though I attended St. Vladimir's Seminary for my own theological formation, this represents a form of a homecoming to bringing my chaplaincy journey to be accessible to those preparing to serve as pastors."

St. Tikhon’s Seminary appointment of Dr. Dr. Voytovich whose major professional strengths are in the clinical pastoral care and counseling field is refreshing.

We of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy wish both Dr. Dr. Voytovich and St. Tikhon’s Seminary well in this new and exciting partnership.

Perry Miller, Editor

Steven Voytovich can be contacted at:

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:47 PM

July 12, 2013

Seeing Through Presence by Chaplain Matt Rhodes

The more time I spend in the world of chaplains, the more I hear that the chaplain’s job is to “show up…(dead stop).” That’s it.

I continue to hear, “Our job is to just be there with them and be present to them." I lean forward expecting to hear more, but the punch-line has already been delivered. Needless to say, this phenomenon has seemed quite strange to me.
What I am more surprised of is that we expect to get paid for this. What other profession presumes that all they have to do is show up and they should be paid a decent middle-class wage?

Even more, when we hear the woes of chaplains who do not feel as though they are given enough authority and responsibility as part of the Inter-Disciplinary Team, there seems to be a cognitive dissonance of the highest order.

Picture this--perhaps the physician says, “Ok, chaplain. We understand that your feel that your work is very important. What will your role be on the team? What is it that you do with the patient?”

“Oh,” says the chaplain, “I plan to show up.”

Can you feel the expectant stares from the rest of the IDT? “What else, chaplain?” They all seem to wonder. (End scene.)

And if we were to show up and have all this responsibility and authority on the IDT, what would we use it for? If a world would be better if chaplains had more of a spot at the table, more responsibility and authority regarding the patient’s plan of care, how would we exercise that authority? Such a role would require an intervention and leadership, not just presence.

You likely are wondering, “who is this jerk writing this?” Well, maybe I am. Or maybe it is that our patients need more than presence. Maybe what they need is healing. But for us to bring them that, we have to risk something by going beyond mere presence.

I write this piece with only part of my tongue in my cheek because most of us chaplains have a 3-year masters degree. Many of us have done 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Training, perhaps completed a residency. Then, there is all the experience that many have beyond that formal training.

I have to imagine that it didn’t take 3 years of masters degree coursework (not to mention the 10’s of thousands of dollars), a year-long residency, and Lord knows what else you have laid at the altar in order to become a chaplain—you didn’t have to do all of that just to learn how to show up.

I propose that we put a moratorium on saying that all we do is “just show up.” That is absolutely something that we do, and we do that much better than other professions precisely because we have been forced to deal with our own “stuff.” But what I am really curious about, where I want the dialogue to go, is “what do we do after we show up?” “How do we bring healing to people in deep pain?” “How are their (and our) lives transformed?”

I think we would be surprised to uncover that a lot of us are already doing it; we just aren't talking about it.

Matt Rhodesis a chaplain resident at Capital Health in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and was recently ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Currently he is enrolled in Doctorate of Psychology in Clinical Pastoral Supervision with The Institute for Psychodynamic Pastoral Supervision.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:54 AM

July 5, 2013

St. Martin’s Cloak: Best Practices (we’ve come up with so far) In Palliative Chaplaincy by Frederick Poorbaugh


Palliative Chaplaincy at PACE

In 2009, Palliative Chaplaincy had not yet emerged as a specialty to be certified. Chaplains in a variety of settings had some occasion to provide Palliative Chaplaincy. Some settings call primarily for Palliative Chaplaincy. One setting that requires only Palliative Chaplaincy is a program called “PACE” – “Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.”

PACE Centers work with people who are elderly, frail and poor. The goal is to keep them living in the community as long as possible. Besides spiritual support, PACE provides comprehensive care: medicine, social work, nutrition, transportation, and recreation.

PACE attempts to create the kind of natural community in which people care for one another through natural bonds. A Cambodian community in San Francisco, On Loc, provided the model. People who feel a sense of community tend to live longer. People who live independently tend to need less costly care. PACE promotes caring that makes good sense to everyone involved.

We call the people in the program “Participants.” The term “patient” implies passivity and denotes people to whom things happen. The term “participant” implies freedom of choice and denotes people in charge of their own lives. Our members participate in all phases of the program: d\Do I want to join? Do I want to come to the Center? How often? Do I want to join in any, some or all of the activities?

The National PACE Association describes the average PACE Participant in this way:

In order to qualify for PACE, a person must be 55 years of age or older, live in a PACE service area, and be certified by the state to need nursing home-level care.

The typical PACE participant is very similar to the average nursing home resident.  On average, she is 80 years old, has 7.9 medical conditions and is limited in approximately three activities of daily living.  Forty-nine percent of PACE participants have been diagnosed with dementia.  Despite a high level of care needs, more than 90% of PACE participants are able to continue to live in the community.

The PACE Center where I was Chaplain served Participants ranging in age from 58 to 101. Most chose to stay in the program until they died. This gave us an average of about 2.8 years to work with each of them. It also required us to deal often with death and bereavement.

The program was called “Finishing Well.”

The frail elderly we serve tend to experience their lives as in retreat: physical health wanes, mental acuity dims, social relations fade. Even those with strong family support tend toward depression and are tempted to despair. They may feel they are losing slowly the last battle, with death. They could see themselves Finishing Well the last phase of life.

PACE can help transform this worldview. Our colonial forebears called it Dying Well. I prefer “Finishing Well” to make clear to our generation what was obvious to theirs: the last phase of life is only partly something that happens to us, but also something we do, and can do well. The tasks of the last phase of life include:

Cultivating gratitude resting from labor reflecting on what “is very good” savoring an inventory of memories Making peace forgiving oneself forgiving others asking forgiveness, directly or symbolically preparing to meet one’s Maker Providing legacy passing on property to do no harm passing on stories as heritage family stories community stories Passing on character as blessing dispensing wisdom reflecting on life lessons distilling wisdom in story or saying Offering wisdom to those who will hear dying well arranging the Family Vigil tradition expressing the Last Words tradition

We may not help any Participant achieve all of these, but we can help every Participant achieve some of these.

We look pro-actively for opportunities, and work as a team, to fulfill the spiritual/religious component of our “all-encompassing care for the elderly.” As your Chaplain, I will serve you any way I can.

The Finishing Well program was well received by the Staff. National PACE Association selected it for presentation at the National Meeting in 2010.

To implement Finishing Well, I developed four programs:
I am like I AM – for individual spiritual care
Songs and Stories – for corporate spiritual care
Finding Meaning in Suffering- for end of life counseling
We Remember – for bereavement
While doing so, I began to wonder what programs in Palliative Chaplaincy were being developed at other PACE Centers across the nation. Were each of us trying independently to invent the wheel?

From the National PACE Association I obtained a listing of all PACE Centers in the country. (There were then 77, and are now 92). I e-mailed “Chaplain” at each Center. Results were spotty. I then e-mailed the Director of each site requesting the name of the person in charge of spiritual care. After several rounds of correspondence, about half the PACE Centers were found to have chaplains. About a quarter had someone else – a social worker, the compliance director, whomever – tasked with handling spiritual care in addition to their full-time responsibility. About a quarter provided no spiritual care to speak of, or at least mentioned none.

National PACE Association sponsors a Colloquy for each profession to promote collaboration and excellence. Through National PACE, I sent to all known PACE chaplains an invitation to share their best practices for palliative chaplaincy.

Several dozen “best practices” arrived. Some seemed a little sketchy. From those chaplains, I requested a program description detailed enough that another chaplain who valued the program could replicate it. I offered this framework for presenting best practices:

Dear Fellow PACE Chaplains:

Thank you each for responding. Having read through your ideas, it seemed helpful to find a way to order them. The definition of spirituality published in The Journal of Palliative Medicine offers a foundation:
“Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose, and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”

“Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care: The Report of the Consensus Conference”
The Journal of Palliative Medicine, Volume 12, Number 10, 2009

This definition refers to meaning and belonging.

PACE can benefit Participants as much spiritually as medically. Many of our folks spent their days mostly alone, watching TV. As one of them told me, “Those people on TV talk a lot, but they never listen.” Coming to PACE can help Participants to have friends, community, and encouragement. Some lost fifty or a hundred pounds that needed to be lost. Some learn to walk again. They get a life.

Their experience in PACE can be described as
Getting a life (joining)
Living the life (participating), and
Finishing their life (dying).

Combining this timeline with the definition of spirituality creates this structure for spiritual care:

Getting a Life Living the Life Finishing their life
Meaning: _____________ ______________ __________________

Belonging: ____________ ______________ __________________

In trying thus to organize the spiritual practices you so generously sent to me, I soon learned that I simply don’t understand them well enough to do this. Mostly, your responses listed spiritual practices without detail about how you do what you do.

Would you be willing to send me your best practices in detail? You can use the format above. You don’t have to detail all you do, just pick the few you think you do the best.

I will share the results with all known PACE chaplains.

Thank you! I’m looking forward to seeing the specifics of your best practices.



All submitted “Best Practices” were forwarded to all chaplains. Each chaplain could learn what wheels were rolling elsewhere, and innovate rather than invent to meet the need at their center.

I asked for volunteers to serve on a Selection Committee to select the best practices from among the submissions. Several chaplains volunteered. They considered several means of recognizing Best Practices. The first option would select a first, second and third place winner. This would make the adoption of standards a matter of competition rather than achievement, so was rejected. The second option would select a winner in each of several categories, such as Spiritual Assessment or Bereavement. This had the appeal of specificity, but the danger of becoming too fragmented, like the Oscars – “best supporting actress in a black-and-white documentary.” The third option would be to honor each submission that had sufficient detail to be replicated as a Best Practice. The committee met by conference call and selected options two and three.

St. Martin’s Cloak

A vigorous discussion ensued about what to call the Best Practice Awards. Etymology lifted the winner: St. Martin’s Cloak. In the IVth Century, a young Roman cavalry officer named Martin was entering the gates of Tours when he saw a freezing beggar. Martin cut his heavy crimson cavalry cape in half for the poor man. His act gives us our title as Palliative Chaplains.

He cloaks – Latin palliare – gives us the verb Palliate.
His cloak – Latin capella – gives us the noun Chaplain.

St. Martin’s Cloak was printed on tabloid paper (11x17). It looks like this.


National PACE Association framed and sent the awards to the chaplains who had developed the Best Practices.

The PACE Center where the chaplain worked usually arranged a formal presentation by a senior official, done in the presence of the Participants. This encouraged the Participants by knowing the spiritual care they were receiving was some of the best in the nation.

Hopefully, this also may encourage the senior officials to appreciate the value of their own chaplain in particular and the need for full-time professional chaplaincy in general.

Looking Ahead

Lessons learned from this project might include the following:
1. Collegial Collaboration improves the quality of palliative chaplaincy. Rather than inventing the wheel, we can innovate to adapt and improve proven designs.
2. The Analytic Grid combining a standard definition of spirituality with phases of care could be useful in any institution – hospice, for example – that involves joining, participating, and leaving.
3. St. Martin’s Cloak could be extended to chaplains in other institutions or societies to recognize and encourage excellence in palliative chaplaincy. For example, the Virginia Chaplains’ Association is considering its use. Anyone interested is invited to contact me:

Palliative Care has become the first Board Certified Specialty for chaplains. Various certifying bodies are developing programs to that end. The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy has in 2013 allowed Board Certified Clinical Chaplains working primarily in palliative care to earn Board Certification as Fellows in Hospice and Hospital Palliative Care.
As our population ages and technology improves, people will be living longer with chronic diseases. They will require palliative care. Palliative care was first recognized as a specialty for doctors only in 2006. Now, interdisciplinary teams of professionals certified as palliative doctors, nurses and social workers will need chaplains who are peers.
Frederick Poorbaugh

Following education in Philosophy (Stanford), Theology (Yale) and training in Psychology (Jung Institute), he spent ten years serving a dirt-poor parish (Appalachia) where God made him into something usable. Current palliative care tries to help patients in crises and at End of Life find meaning in their suffering.
He belongs to the Hampton Roads Chapter of CPSP, and is certified as Clinical Chaplain, Pastoral Counselor, and Fellow in Hospice and Hospital Palliative Care.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 11:41 AM