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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.

« October 2014 | Main | December 2014 »

November 25, 2014



Salt Lake Regional Medical Center's 2014 Fall publication, Views and News, starts out with congratulatory remarks regarding CPSP's Debra Hampton, Clinical Chaplain:

Congratulations Debra Hampton, Pastoral Care Coordinator Salt Lake Regional Medical Center’s 2014 Chairman’s Award Winner.

She is acknowledged for her ministry and special feeling for the homeless. Having worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India no doubt has shaped who she is as a person and her clinical ministry as chaplain.

The writer comments further on Chaplain Hampton's unique ministry:

She finds family members of homeless patients, and if family can’t be found, she allows no one to die alone. She inspires her coworkers with patience, support, kindness and guidance every single day. She follows her heart and never looks away or becomes complacent. Debra is a rare gem of humankind, indeed.

In the article's side-bar is a quote from Chaplain Hampton:

Do not be afraid of what other will think, or that you have to something big to make a difference. Not knowing what to do is a great obstacle, like being stuck in indecisiveness. It takes faith to step forward in uncertain territory. But all acts of kindness count.

To read the full article, Download file.

Debra Hampton, Clinical Chaplain
Pastoral Care Coordinator
Salt Lake Regional Medical Center


Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:53 PM

Reflections on the Fall 2014 National Clinical Training Seminar - East--By David Goldstrom

Fall 2014 National Clinical Seminar - East

Fall is all around us, with colors and leaves and the mix of warm sun and cool air. While nature is pulling back and preparing for winter, I went to CPSP's National Clinical Training Seminar - East in Morristown, New Jersey hoping to grow and help others develop through clinical learning, networking and especially the small groups. I found a fellowship there growing out of diversity, sharing and a wonderful program and presenters.

The Loyola House of Retreats provided a beautiful mansion on a wooded site, with walking trails, gardens, a Koi pond and lots of room for quiet reflection or walking with old and new friends. We started with case presentations in our small group sessions. Each member of the small group brought either a case, a supervision issue, or a paper to share and gather peer review. Like careful gardeners, each presenter had to harvest and attend to what they gleaned from their peers. Back in the large group, they would offer a brief summary of what they learned, with other members of their group occasionally reminding them of other important points.

The evening brought us together for a large group presentation on "Reflecting on Group Process" by Drs. Howard Friedman, Jennifer Lee and Frank Marrocco of the A. K. Rice Institute for the study of social systems. These same presenters provided the consultation for the evening's Large Group Event, which brought some excitement and energy to everyone there. Many commented on how much they learned from the work of this year's "Tavistock" large group. I found the shifts in the group fascinating. The energy around the issues that came out around social issues and parallels to change in our CPSP all seemed reflective of our unconscious group processes. The abrupt ending when we reached the time boundary added to the excitement, as many of us didn't want to stop! Of course, we had to stop for the social hour, and that turned out to be a great time for unwinding and chatting with colleagues after a long day of clinical training.

Day two brought more, and in our small group we met early to make sure everyone had a chance to present their own case. The early presentation was followed by breakfast, and another Large Group Event / Debriefing that continued the focus on working in the present and addressing the conscious and unconscious aspects of our group. All in all, most thought it a success, and from where I sat (not in the back row :o) there was a lot of interest in both the content of the expressed concerns and the process of the group's trying to work in the present. It may sound a bit technical, but if you love group process, it was a great time.

We held our final gathering over lunch, and I said goodbye to some new friends. This was my first National Clinical Training Seminar, but now I can see why these are so worthwhile. It was a chance to learn from others and offer collegial feedback to fellow members of our covenant; to continue to grow through the winter and prepare for spring. See you next year!

David Goldstrom is a Board Certified Chaplain and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, currently in private practice in Rochester, New York. His website describes his work as a psychotherapist, and his blog contains many of his articles on military chaplaincy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 2:36 PM

November 15, 2014

New CPSP Governance Plan Adopted

<imgBylaws creating a new chapter-based form of governance for CPSP were adopted by consensus on November 13, the first day of a two-day Governing Council meeting in Chicago.

The spirit of the meeting was constructive and amicable.

The gathering of more than fifty participants, mostly conveners of chapters from throughout the United States, accepted a proposal drafted by David Baker and David Roth after discussion. CPSP chapters had more than five months to review and provide feedback on the proposal.

While the document was adopted, several matters were delegated by the Governing Council to the members of the Operations Team for their consideration and possible incorporation into the final text. The Operations Team is made up of leaders who have been working in the key areas of accreditation of training, certification of members, certification of chapters, hospice and palliative care, standards, and the plenary. David Roth is convener of the group.

The newly adopted bylaws replace the old bylaws from 2009. The new bylaws were drafted at the request of the Governing Council at its Plenary meeting last March in Virginia Beach. Their adoption marks the culmination of two-and-a-half years devoted to finding a suitable governance plan for CPSP in light of its enormous growth in numbers and geographical expansion in recent years.

The new Governing Council, comprised of a representative Chapter of Chapters and Chapter of Diplomates, along with an Executive Chapter, is expected to assume full governance of CPSP at the 25th anniversary Plenary on March 18th, 2015, also in Chicago.


Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 9:55 PM

November 9, 2014


Danita Perkins, a CPSP clinical chaplain at Nash Health Care located in Rocky Mount, NC provided the Pastoral Report the following announcement:

Chaplain Richard Joyner, a CPSP certified clinical chaplain, pastoral counselor and founding member of the Goldsboro, NC CPSP Chapter was awarded a $25,000 Purpose Prize on October, 28, 2014. Out of a pool of 800 nominees, he was one of six individuals who distinguished themselves through their passion, innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and impact.

Chaplain Joyner serves as lead chaplain and community liaison for Nash Health Care (an affiliate of UNC Health Care), Rocky Mount, NC and pastor of Conetoe Baptist Church, Conetoe, NC. In the hospital and from the pulpit, Joyner could see firsthand that unhealthy eating was one of the root causes of poor health. To address this problem, he and others planted a 25-acre community garden and made it a part of the Conetoe Family Life Center (CFLC). The garden is steadily improving the health of his rural congregation, boosting students’ high-school graduation rates and economic potential because they have taken ownership of it, and providing a model for more than 21 church communities.

The change in dietary practices have resulted in weight lost, a decrease in the number of deaths, and a decrease in emergency room visits as the primary health care resource. Joyner was quoted as saying that “his encore work speaks to life ‘on both sides of existence’ – the pulpit and the garden field.” The Brody School of Medicine of East Carolina University has taken an interest in the success of the CFLC’s garden and the impact that it is having on the health of the community. The medical school is attempting to measure this success and have allowed the church to participate in a diabetes and heart disease study that they are conducting.

According to their website,, “The Purpose Prize, now in its ninth year, is the nation's pre-eminent large-scale investment in people over 60 who are combining their passion and experience for social good. The Prize awards at least $100,000 annually to individuals creating new ways to solve tough social problems. The 2014 Purpose Prize awarded $300,000 to six individuals.” Two individuals received $100,000 each; the remaining four received $25,000 each.

Chaplain Richard Joyner

Chaplain Danita Perkins

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 12:38 PM

November 1, 2014

"You’re not going to cause trouble, are you?” By Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.

Bill%20Alberts_%20NCTS_web_small_headshot-1.jpg I was paged to the intensive care unit, where an older black woman was about to be terminally extubated. Her daughter was sitting by her bedside, and her son was standing beyond the foot of the bed. A niece, two grandchildren and the daughter’s female friend were also present. It would prove to be an intense hour-and-forty-minutes of pastoral care.

When I entered the room and introduced myself, the family accepted my presence. The patient was listed as a “Baptist,” but not affiliated with a church, her daughter said. There was sacred music playing softly in the background: “The soulful moods of Marvin Gaye,” whose R & B songs and singing style had deep meaning for the patient and her family.

The daughter asked if I would offer a prayer. My prayer expressed God’s shepherd-like, eternal loving care for the patient, and the preciousness of her life to her family and of their lives to her, and ended in Jesus’ name. That was the easy part.

The challenging part was soon communicated by the son, John.* I had made it a point to stand next to him, having shook his hand and asking his name. The challenging part: he pointed to his intubated mother, and said that pulling the tube from her mouth was like pulling the switch when an inmate was electrocuted in prison. He saw his mother as experiencing pain and punishment, like a condemned criminal—this punitive image possibly part of his psyche, being black in an oppressive white-dominated society. When he repeated his observation, his sister, Marcia*, responded that their mother had been given morphine and is not in pain.

It would have been helpful if the nurse had heard and responded to the son’s concerns about his mother’s treatment. His concerns may have been addressed by staff earlier, and his grief may have prevented him from hearing them.

After a few moments of silence, he said, “This is the worst day of my life.” I responded that words can’t express the pain you must feel.” He nodded. Then he called out, “I love you mother!”

He continued to compare her terminal extubation to an execution—as if the nurse attending her at that moment were an executioner. It was then that I said to him, “John, the aim of the medical staff is to make sure your mother’s dying is as comfortable and painless for her as possible.” After a few seconds of silence, he blurted out, “I know. I just don’t want her to . . .,” and then he broke down, and put his head in his hand. I put my arm around him and said, “I know. You don’t want her to die,” adding ”You said that this is the worst day of your life.” His breaking down led me to choke up inside.

But the challenge this loving son presented was not over. The staff had told the family that everyone would have to leave the patient’s room while they were removing the tube from her mouth. John, who had a muscular physique, repeated to those of us in the room, “I’m not leaving.” His sister said to him, “You’re not going to cause trouble, are you?” He replied, “I’m not leaving.”

A few minutes later, John’s female cousin walked over and stood in front of him, and said, “John, I want you to leave the room with us. We need to let the staff do their work, and then we’ll come back. Come on, John.” With that, she put her hand on his arm, and John left with her.

After the patient was extubated and we were being ushered back into the room, a nurse said about the now tubeless dying patient, “She looks very nice.” The female cousin, walking in front of me, said, “She shouldn’t say that.” The nurse meant well, but her words lacked identification with this family’s reality.

As we stood around this mother-grandmother- aunt, who was taking her last, short, breaths, her daughter, Marcia, called out to her, sobbing: “Don’t leave me mother! I will be all alone! I won’t know what to do without you! I love you so.” After a pause., she said, “All right, mother. All right mother. I will let you go.” Her plea and resignation brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. There was a brief silence. Marcia then asked me to offer another prayer. The prayer provided me a chance not only to stand next to her, but to put my arm around and comfort her, as I offered the prayer. I then hugged John, who responded in kind. And I hugged his female cousin as she was leaving the room, and said to her, “You are a wise woman.”

John, the son, suffered great pain seeing his mother die. My intent was to establish as much rapport as possible, in an attempt to help him deal with strong, conflicting feelings, thus lessoning the possibility of him acting out inappropriately toward medical staff. I had much help: from his sister, Marcia, and especially from his wise cousin. Both women demonstrated the great wisdom family members-- and friends-- often possess and display toward each other in dealing with the tragic realities of death and grief.
*The names have been changed to protect their identity.

Bill Alberts is now a chaplain consultant at Boston Medical Center, where he occasionally covers for the staff chaplains, having retired from his full time position as a staff chaplain there in 2011. A member of the Concord, NH chapter, his book, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. He is a frequent contributor to Counterpunch. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 6:05 PM

Rite or Wrong… Effecting the Sacraments in Extraordinary Circumstances By Franklin Courson


In the Long Ago Times, before recorded history, humans have gathered in order to worship that which is greater than themselves. Primeval man worshiped the sun, thunder beings, the waters and various species of animals which they felt had influence over their lives and their destinies. They sought union, communion and reunion with these entities. They also gathered to celebrate benchmarks in their lives such as birth of a child, the rites of passage into manhood and womanhood, marriages and, at the end of this earth walk, death and burial. Thus began ceremony.

Where these gatherings took place ranged from a solitary spot on a mountaintop surrounded by a circle of stones to a cave deemed special to a hut or kiva used only for such rituals. Over the millennia, such simple sites continued but were also added to with elaborate temples, churches and mosques.

Sacred space, regardless of the site or structure, was and continues to be created first and foremost by “intent”. That is, that those gathered, be it one, two or the full complement of a tribe or community, “intended” that the work done within that space and time was sacred in nature. It could be a shaman visiting a sick member of the tribe in their home. It could be the gathering of a faith community to recall key events in their heritage. Whatever the occasion, a sacred dimension was always present.

As religious practices became more structured, not only the gathering places became more specified, the rituals carried out in them and by their elders also became more codified and, as humans are inclined to do, became more restricted and limited.

The Psalmist tells us:
My House shall be called a House of Prayer, says the Lord.
In it anyone who asks he shall receive,
And he who seeks, finds,
And to him who knocks, it shall be opened.

“Audience with God” is omnipresent. The line of connection occurs when a person or persons “intend” or seek such union, communion or reunion. Access to grace is always there but an individual must seek, must knock, and must open the door from their side before the link is opened. Ours is to facilitate this connection, to provide witness to the event and to help those estranged from their Creator with the words to navigate a path long forgotten, overgrown with fear or even non-existent.

_What is reflected here is the need for the human spirit to embrace something bigger than itself. Rituals invariably included praise, thanksgiving, supplication, forgiveness, and nourishment of both body and soul. Spirit Feasts, feasting after prolonged fasting and prayer, remembrance and renewal of the Last Supper were also present in such gatherings.

Religious sects notwithstanding, virtually all spiritual practices from primeval man to indigenous peoples worship up to and including today’s structured religions, the common element of intent to communicate with a higher being and the setting aside or creating of sacred space are always present.

So what, might you ask, has this to do with interfaith hospital chaplaincy?

Actually, it is a topic often unaddressed because of denominational propriety and the vagaries of sacramental theology. Disputes on semantics and apostolic succession and the sanctioning of administering of the sacraments to Christians in need by Christians present to assist and comfort deprives many in search of the inward changes through external acts at arms length and out of reach. To my mind, this equates to “When in doubt…punt”.

As interfaith chaplains, is it not our responsibility to minister to a variety of faith groups insofar as we are able so long as we do what we do with respect not only of various faith practices but also in response to the expressed intent of the patient? Our work is to first be grounded in our individual beliefs and then, being solidly grounded or able to walk steady in shifting sands, to step outside our comfort zone and be totally present to the needs and possibilities of those to whom we minister.

I will enter into this potentially contentious dialogue with a quote from A.R. Ammons:

"...don't establish the boundaries first, the squares, the triangles, boxes of preconceived possibility, and then pour life into them, trimming off left-over edges, ending potential"  

Potential - the possibility that change can occur, healing can be manifested and peace can wash over a troubled soul. It is a possibility in the context of time and space and an expressed desire for healing and growth.

Without entering the minefield of denominational prerogatives and restrictions permeating the realm of sacramental theology, I would like to address my focus on the sacrament of Penance, a sacrament based on biblical tradition, especially in the New Testament where Christians are charged to “confess their sins to one another” (James 6:12) and bear witness that a fellow human being is truly penitent before God.

And so, the question before us is this: under what circumstances can an interfaith chaplain administer certain sacraments when a minister of a specific denomination is not available? To what extent can both the chaplain and the patient be confident that the sacrament will, in fact, be “effected”? Therein lies the rub or, more optimistically, therein lies an opening to common beliefs and a true unity among believers. There are opportunities of time, place and circumstance when an individual is open to healing, a window of opportunity that might never happen again. It is the task of a chaplain to see these windows and bring to the patient, in a manner that is effective and also respectful of their traditions, the healing power of God be it through prayer or, as in this case, a form of sacramental grace. When a minister of the patient’s faith group is unavailable, when do we step up to the plate rather than step back, leaning on the excuse of hoping to do no harm or possibly offend?

It is only with the conviction that sacraments are outward signs of an internal change and that the effecting of a sacrament is founded on the covenant between God and one or more of his children and the activation of the covenant by the intention of the person who, in essence, is saying “I will go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. My help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Once that intention is made and the door open, all manner of grace-filled possibilities can occur. Especially in hospital settings, that expression of desire and intent may occur at any moment. With the reduction of clergy around the country who can visit their congregants, it is impossible for every patient to interact and pray with someone of their own denomination. Here again, it is the interfaith hospital chaplain who has the unique opportunity to facilitate healing and assist individuals, in the context and language of their faith group, to find union, communion and reunion with their Creator.

It is my firm belief that extraordinary circumstances compel and justify extraordinary measures. The desire of a patient to seek communication, union and reunion with the entity that they worship and adore is primary in whatever way that is in harmony with their beliefs. In such way that we are able, we, as interfaith chaplains, are admonished to do that which we can to achieve this. In crisis situations, we must serve as surrogates for absent or unavailable ministers and priests. In no way is ours the role of assuming to be who we are not, nor is it is co-opt the privileges of ministers of various faith groups. On the contrary, we strive to represent them as respectfully as possible, hoping that in some way, we can bring comfort, solace and spiritual health to the ill. We are bridges when no bridge is available and where possible, we do all in our power to bring the appropriate minister to work with the patient as meets the needs and rubrics of their faith.

Intent is the operative verb here. Intent on the part of the patient to seek spiritual guidance and intent on the part of the chaplain to provide whatever is possible, within their ability, to any given situation. Union with a higher power, whatever it may be called, is the task facilitated by the chaplain. When we do “improvise” with a pure heart, I am sure that God, however named, is understanding and will use us a channel to communicate with His Child in need. Especially in moments of eminent death, a chaplain must not hesitate to bring a person whatever they need for spiritual and emotional nourishment. Furthermore, absent “intent”, the efficacy of any sacrament administered by the duly ordained is questionable since the one receiving the sacrament has not truly sought it out and is only going through the motions.

Franklin Courson
Board Certified Clinical Chaplain

Posted by Perry Miller, Editor at 4:34 PM