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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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September 26, 2013

Tolerance and Encouragement: Making Room for Divine Presence – instead of “Paging” Him or Her--By Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD


Tolerance and Encouragement:
Making Room for Divine Presence –
instead of “Paging” Him or Her

Interfaith? Multifaith?
Engaging Others in Their Faiths

Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

care, counseling, and psychotherapy
become “pastoral” – or even “theological” –
when there is “trialogue” –
when the discussion between a clinician and
a suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable soul
allows enough silence for both to
be aware of divine presence and
be open to divine insight.

Such was the view of Wayne Edward Oates, PhD (1917-1999), a fascinating chaplain who knew the works of Sigmund Freud as well as he knew the books of the Bible. The notions of “interfaith” and “multifaith” chaplaincy probably did not mean much to him. Certainly the Rev. Dr. Oates worked with those who did not share his religious tradition – yet I have trouble believing that he would have considered such care, counseling, or psychotherapy as either “interfaith” – focusing on commonalities – or “multifaith” – focusing on differing beliefs. His work with others just “was” – just was work valued by both. Whether it was the chaplain who made room or it was the patient who made room for the Deity probably did not matter much to either of them – as long as there was “trialogue” – as long as there was Divine Presence in the midst of their work.

In a nutshell, this is why I have very mixed feelings about the recent book, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, by sociologist Wendy Cadge, PhD. She is able to observe clinical chaplains trying quietly “to … create … sacred spaces …” in their work. She is able to observe hospital chaplains trying to assist “people at their most vulnerable” times. However, throughout the book, she somewhat scornfully rues the day that clinical pastoral chaplaincy was wooed down a bland interfaith path while she half-heartedly envisions that medically-immersed chaplaincy might embrace a multifaith approach. It is hard to be sure whether she does or does not respect professional chaplains – and one is left with the lingering suspicion that she does not. It would appear that she views professional chaplains, in their efforts toward political correctness, as having created the bureaucratic morass in which they now frequently find themselves. Furthermore, rather than respect that clinical chaplains are embedded within specific religious traditions, she would re-embed them within large (usually secular) universities having schools of medicine, theology, and public health, modeling their training and education more along the lines of that provided in nursing and social work. Only vaguely does she appear to recognize that financial issues have channeled – and still channel – the nourishment of professional chaplaincy.

Cadge’s comments reflect, unfortunately, an almost entirely “New England Brahmin” view of the world – a fact of which she appears quite unaware. There is much not to like in this book – and I cannot really recommend it – but its wrong-headedness does stir up some thoughts. The good news is that the core chapters of the book are reasonably well-written. The bad news is that the two ends of the book are not. For me, bad grammar is distracting – as is voluminous name-dropping. “ ‘Paging’ God?” I certainly hope that the Deity – whatever one calls Him or Her – does not have to put up with the generally nerve-grating squeal of a pager. The title’s mildly sacrilegious tone did bother me. It is altogether another matter, for example, in my opinion, to have the gentle tingling of bells respectfully invite and welcome Divine Presence.

Cadge’s book – intentionally or unintentionally – does end up framing the question of “interfaith chaplaincy” versus “multifaith chaplaincy” – or of the two versus “none of the above”. She chronicles the efforts, within the interfaith approach, to avoid offending anyone by emphasizing somewhat generic-content “spirituality” in contrast to emphasizing this or that specific-content religion. She also notes the rareness with which, within the multifaith approach, the beliefs and practices of different theological traditions actually are engaged.

Some might say that hospitals tend to become more “real” in the wee hours of the night, as healers and those hoping to be healed are

thinking and feeling together about
the things that matter most, …
[coming] through with
a deepened sense of fellowship and
a religious faith which …
[comes] alive for them.

Those, of course, are the words of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), founder of the movement for professional chaplaincy. Cadge, too, suggests that, when most of the chaplains have left for the day, interfaith and multifaith concerns seem to fall by the wayside, as those of differing beliefs live out their individual religious commitments – usually with others’ tolerance and encouragement. The question remains: Has not much of professional chaplaincy, in allowing a growing emphasis on an areligious, secular, “meaning-making” notion of “spirituality,” ended up creating a clinical environment that “glosses over rather than engages religious differences”?

Making “space for one another,” as “The Covenant” of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy encourages, is one thing. Standing “ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys” – as it also encourages – is a bit harder – and something else. Can clinical pastoral chaplaincy move beyond “interfaith” and “multifaith” toward actual engagement of our brothers’ and sisters’ faiths – back, truly, to Boisen’s “thinking and feeling together about the things that matter most”?


The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:

The reference in the opening highlighted comment and in the first paragraph is to
Wayne Edward Oates, The Presence of God in Pastoral Counseling (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986). See also, Robert Charles Powell. “Calling Wayne Oates! Southern Baptist Theologues Need You! Letter to the Editor of the Pastoral Report.” 24 Feb 2005.

The reference in the second paragraph is to
Wendy Cadge, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012); the specific citations are to pages 76 and 201.

The highlighted comment in the fifth paragraph is from Anton Theophilus Boisen,
Out of the Depths: Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pages 179-180. The Cadge citation at the very end of the paragraph is from page 196 of her book.

“The Covenant” can be found at .
See also, Robert Charles Powell, “Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” [click on “Materials”]; ;
(translated [2011] by Chaplains Rafael Hiraldo Román & Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez, with the assistance of Chaplain R. Esteban Montilla, as “Religión en Crisis y en Costumbre: Formación y Transformación - Descubrimiento y Recuperación - de Espíritu y Alma”; .)

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 10:51 AM

September 17, 2013

Reconciliation in a Larger Sense--- by Domenic A. Fuccillo

"Reconciliation," by Josefina de Vasconcellos

We faced another crisis in the Middle East as we recently marked 9/11 -- with outcome uncertain.

Last month I attended the dedication of a labyrinth I helped to build. Afterward, the pastor invited me to his Friday morning service when I told him I liked small churches (mine has 12,000). As we few men gathered the word "shul" popped into my head along with the memory of a dimly-lit room where I formed minion for two Jewish friends.

I value Sacramental reconciliation and religious practices such as Yom Kippur and labyrinths that aid inner healing. We can help people with spiritual healing by accepting the efficacy of their own reconciliation, in words and in silence. A few years ago I found a kind of inner healing in my first labyrinth and visiting the grave of my fallen brother in France. We each heal differently. To require a standard of silence or word reconciliation could mean judging others who may already harshly judged themselves. The only standard for a labyrinth is in its own construction, not what goes on inside the person who walks it. I would like to become a conduit like that.

As for the use of words, I rationalized my shul memory by retrieving an old review of Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome: "Perhaps the single most important idea in Percy's epistemology, expressed again and again in his essays and interviews ... is his conviction that impoverishment in the power to name experience causes a subsequent impoverishment of consciousness ... since it is only through language transactions with others that the self locates who and where it is."

Percy struggled with unresolved loss for many years, as I did. Nations, too, struggle with grief and loss, as we did after 9/11 and still do after two long wars in the Middle East. If as individuals we struggle to name our experiences, we also struggle as a nation in our attempts to reconcile our losses. We use words and the silence of our being to locate ourselves among other "living documents" to whom we minister. I pray that nations will continue to do the same.
Dominic Fuccillo is a CPSP Clinical Chaplain in Littleton, Colorado. Josefina's sculpture has been placed in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and copies are in the Hiroshima Peace Park, among other locations.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:37 PM

September 10, 2013

NCTS Theme: "Mental Health Issues Impact Pastoral Care” --by Francine Hernandez


We are excited about the fall meeting of the National Clinical Training Seminar-East on Nov. 11-12, 2013 at San Alfonso Retreat Center, Long Branch, New Jersey.

Our is presenter is Dr. Dwight Sweezy. He is a Diplomate with CPSP and a member of Princeton Chapter. Dr. Sweezy is an ordained elder Free Methodist Church of North America. He has 12 years of parish experience. He holds a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation. He attended a Summer Theology program at Oxford University. Ten units of his CPE training was in two mental health settings. He recently retired as the Director of Pastoral Services, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (33 years). There he developed a dynamic equivalent clinical pastoral program that has become a CPE extended resident program. He continues to supervise CPE Training Residents and Supervisors-in- Training. He is a retired US Army Reserve Chaplain (L TC) – 26 years. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Linda, who is a retired ordained United Methodist minister. For fun, he likes motorcycling, sailing, camping SCCA Solo racing, reading and bicycling.


For three years, Dr. Sweezy served as a consultant for the supervisors in training at Episcopal Health Services, Inc. Far Rockaway, New York.

As always, the National Clinical Training Seminar-East is a working conference built around psychodynamic small group process. Participants are to bring clinical work and life material for reflection and review with in the group process.

Click here for additional information and online registration.

Please make your plans to attend as together we address the theme: Mental Health Issues Impact Pastoral Care.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:18 AM

Pastoral Care Week - October 20th to 26th, 2013 by Linda Walsh-Garrison


PROPHETIC VOICE - Pastoral Care Week is proud to celebrate it’s 28th year by reflecting on the Prophetic Voices in our daily rounds. Historically voices spoke loudly through pastors and chaplains – promoting self-awareness and social action. Today, chaplains are privileged to find the truth in small places each day….how does it speak?

From the website:
The Prophetic Voice is always in our midst. It calls us to reach for action and peace - to sustain that which brings us hope, well-being, dreams, and renewal.  Like a seed caught in the wind - quiet and inconspicuous. It may be in disguise and mistrusted, yet it endures the foul weather and seasons to prove true. When acknowledged, it grows into a wise tree to shelter, nourish and teach us.
(The 2013 logo represents this quieted seed.)

Regardless of faith tradition, Pastoral Care Week celebrates those who provide pastoral care to others. It is endorsed by the Congress on Ministries in Specialized Settings (COMISS), whose members provide pastoral care in specialized settings such as hospitals, prisons, businesses, industries, long term care facilities, pastoral counseling centers, hospices, military settings, nursing homes, congregations of sisters, priests and brothers, schools, universities, and seminaries throughout the world. CPSP is a proud member of COMISS.

Educate your community, colleagues, institutions and friends - many resources, including governmental proclamations, artwork, seminars and merchandise, are available for local celebrations. For more information, visit

*The last date for ordering is this weekend - September 13th! Make your plans today.

Chaplain Linda Walsh-Garrison
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Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 8:35 AM

September 3, 2013

It is good to be Reminded--by Ron Evans


I never would have believed I would be grateful to see a hand rail beside a toilet seat. Or feel cared for by a woman’s voice somewhere in telephone never never land instructing me on how to fix my TV. Nor could I have imagined the comfort felt in a nurse’s touch.

Such are the surprises when you fall and break your hip. Surprised by facts you knew long before but which must be lost and found again and again.

Six weeks after the “accident” it is hard to write about what happened, difficult to visit the scene, and remember again the details. It is nothing that dramatic really- a fall on the cement walk resulting in a clean break in the hip. Far worse things befall us. Nevertheless there is a darkness about it, images the mind resists. It is as if your system has been frightened and is trying to protect itself, still wanting to be done with the whole thing. Put it all out of mind.

Coupled with this reluctance, however, there is also the embarrassment of it all, the difficulty of facing the fact of your own carelessness. One old man in a rain storm on a step ladder. Could disaster be far off? It will be referred to as an accident but in your own mind you know it wasn’t; it was carelessness. And however many times you go over the details the end of the story is always the same. So you put on your hair shirt and beat yourself up about it.

But time passes and if you watch there are other moments, openings that arise as if by chance, that will not be sent away.

By good fortune Norma was able to get me gathered up off the walk, into the car and to the emergency ward where the system worked –chaotically but superbly. In retrospect we should have called an ambulance but we didn’t. Within 24 hours, however, I was through surgery and repaired -pin, plate and all, forever after able to set off the beepers at security and give all the little folk in charge reason to be suspicious and feel useful. A live 77 year old terrorist. Even more fortuitously after a few days the hospital needed my bed and it was suggested I be shipped out to a physio program. Done. And here I am home -all in just over 3 weeks, getting better. Recovering to some state of normalcy will take longer but it will happen.

I wouldn’t recommend the experience to anyone but now that it has happened and I have time to reflect on events there are stories to be told. There are three that I would share with you.

1.Throughout the hospital stay and since then, besides expert medical attention, perhaps the most reassuring aspect of the treatment was what I would term the intimacy that prevailed at unexpected moments. That is to say nurses, doctors, physios, family members, yes and the cleaning lady and the barber, were able to come close, speak and most importantly touch, in ways that lifted the spirit.

The young doctor in the emergency room who came close, put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye and said “I think it’s broke but we will make sure and fix you up”, the nurse in the night who stood by the bed and rubbed my arm and asked what I needed, visitors who sat near my bed, hand outstretched to stroke my hand, the presence of my family –confirmed what I had known and talked about and even tried to teach but now knew as if for the fist time.

When you are lying in your bed in the night, troubled by what has happened and wondering how healing will occur, when you can’t take care of basic functions on your own and there is no alternative but to call for help, it seems to me you are returned to a state of early childhood. Certainly you are afraid, feel alone. One of the things that occurs on the battlefield is that a wounded soldier will be heard to call out for his mother. I don’t want to suggest that my state was near that severe but something of the same atmosphere prevailed. The usual layers of protection, bravado, assumptions about one’s dignity, were peeled away and like an infant in the arms of its mother I was grateful for a nurse stroking your hand and calling me by name.

2. Soon after discharge from the physio program there was a dinner to which we had been invited honoring a friend for her accomplishments in the community. There was some doubt I would be mobile enough but, with a walker and some caution, we loaded up and departed. I should say that in an event like this suddenly little things assume an importance you don’t realize under normal conditions. Getting over a door step, up a stair or two and above all, navigating toilets become issues. How do you go to the toilet with some degree of dignity? The basic issue is how do you lower yourself onto a toilet seat and then raise yourself from it. Under normal conditions nothing to it. But in a public washroom with your pants at half mast and your hip complaining bitterly and with no nurse to give you a hand it’s different.

As we entered the dining facility I at once took note of the toilet signs and decided to check things out to be on the safe side. It was with relief when I managed to get through the door and encountered a spacious room in which there was situated four toilets, one of which was reserved for wheel chairs. More than that in the wheel chair stall there was a toilet, raised a few inches higher than normal, beside which there was anchored a hand rail. How lovely is thy dwelling place, O lord of hosts. Under normal conditions such things don’t register, objects of interest in someone else’s world, but now you see them in a whole new light. With a handrail you can sit down with some confidence and in time raise yourself up, find your balance, and restore yourself, your pants in place and your dignity intact.

3. The first evening after arriving home I was all set to watch a football game only to discover that the TV was on the fritz, the settings out of order. There was no alternative but to phone the satellite company and get help. At the best of times this can be an ordeal. To begin with you often make contact with someone on the other side of the world whose English is often on a par with your ability in their native tongue. Or, equally difficult, you are greeted by a computer geek who speaks computerese well but English is quite another matter.

To my delight, akin to seeing a toilet with a hand rail, I was greeted by a woman’s voice, middle age I would say and who I could understand perfectly. She asked a question or two and then said to go to the machine and turn off the power. I told her she would have to bear with me as I had just returned from hospital with a broken hip and movement was an issue. As if she had just graduated from a course in pastoral care she stopped and asked what had happened, a note of concern in her voice, and went on to enquire as to how I was and to reassure me that I would not have to move again. She didn’t know what she had done and I did not try to tell her.

So what am I to conclude from all this? I could wax eloquent on the meaning that lies here. The theological openings, the opportunity to put in a good word for God, are endless. But I will spare you that. Rather I wish to express gratitude for friends and family, for professionals with a job to do, who were there, able to come close and touch and give expression to that inexpressible other that lies between us.

Ron Evans is a CPSP Diplomate living in Saskatchewan, Canada is a a published author. He has frequently presented his poetry and prose at meetings of the CPSP Plenary as well as contributed articles for publication in the Pastoral Report.

The following are two of his recent book publications:

Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered

The Sourdough Bagel: Confessions of a Loner Who Likes Company

Below are several of his articles published on the PR:

Five Books At One End of a Shelf

A Word From the Lord

To contact Ron Evans, click here.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:39 PM