CPE Stories: Finding Joy in Transitions
Where did you complete your Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)?
I was in Washington State, which is my home state, at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.
What were the most prevalent types of care your CPE internship offered?
Good Sam is a local suburban hospital that serves a lot of people in the county it’s in. It’s not a trauma center, but it does a lot of emergency room visits for the county for heart attacks or strokes. And there’s primarily a cardiac care unit and a progressive care unit, but generally it’s just kind of a local, regional hospital.
What was most enjoyable about working at your CPE internship? What was difficult about working at your CPE internship?
I had the unique opportunity to serve as the solo daytime on-call chaplain during the weekends. So, there were no other chaplains present in the building. There were ways that I could get a hold of people if I really needed to, but for the most part, it was only me for 12 hours on Saturday or Sunday for the whole hospital, which meant that I was responding to the pager. It also meant when certain codes were called and there were needs in the emergency room or in the ICU, I was responding to that. And then I was also making rounds on my usual units, and that’s not something from my understanding that a lot of CPE interns get the opportunity to do.
It turned out to be a profoundly meaningful part of my CPE experience and it meant that I met a lot of people and encountered a lot of situations I might not have otherwise. I was able to see that I was capable of stepping into that role, which was very affirming. After the weekend debrief with the staff chaplains I would say, ‘This situation came up and this is how I responded to it.’ The first shift was really on the difficult side. There definitely were a lot of difficult moments, hard cases, and hard situations that people were in, but also just a real blessing at times to be with people in those very vulnerable moments. It may not have always been the most enjoyable, but it was very meaningful, and I felt honored that the staff entrusted me with that level of responsibility.
What skill do you feel like you brought to CPE?
I had a lot of anxiety going into CPE. Pastoral care is the aspect of ministry that I feel personally the least naturally comfortable in. Though I’ve had great classes with Dr. Brooke Petersen that that have really helped me to feel more equipped for that experience, and CPE allowed me to find some of my own giftedness.
After having a summer to intensely explore this, one of the skills that I brought to CPE was that I don’t feel the need to have very clear answers or to fix things super quickly for people.
I’m comfortable sitting in, ‘This is hard,’ or ‘Yeah, we really don’t know what’s going on and that’s really tough.’ I learned that I’m comfortable saying to patients, ‘I don’t know. I’m wondering with you how God is moving through this moment in your life.’ I think it was a real gift, especially as I was seeking to find that place of being deeply rooted in myself but respond to each person and their needs individually rather than saying, ‘Well, in the Lutheran Church we teach this, and this is your answer to what’s going on in this diagnosis.’ It just was sitting with people in that. So, I think that was an important skill that I brought into CPE and discovered through CPE too.
How has CPE prepared you to be a faith leader in the public church?
We spent a lot of time in our education seminars and then working with the chaplains in the hospital talking about how we can respond to patients and their families from a place that’s deeply rooted in our own faith traditions while also being very sensitive to what faith tradition or lack thereof the patients are coming from. The way that I see this connecting to being a leader in a public church is that I really had to put into practice knowing deeply who I am and what I believe about God and the world and what my call is as a minister. Then, I had to respond with deep compassion and deep listening to people who are in different circumstances and traditions.
That practice equipped me to respond to people wherever they’re at. When I walked into the room, people would say, ‘I don’t believe in God at all.’
My response became, ‘Okay, I’m still here to support you. I will be honest that these are my beliefs and where I’m coming from, but really this moment is about how I can interact with you and support you in this time.’ So, I think that was a really powerful equipping for that kind of ministry I will do in the church.
LSTC is transitioning from our historic home to a new location which can be both daunting and joyous. What has CPE taught you about finding joy in transitions?
I think CPE taught me several things about transitions. The first is to treat myself and others in those moments with a lot of grace and light humor. That was something that I brought, I think, to the CPE experience. When you’re able to look at something and say, ‘Wow, this is really hard,’ and find just that little moment of laughter even when it’s tough. Or maybe we can share a smile over this, which isn’t to say we’re covering over the hard things or saying that’s not happening, but we’re unearthing those little moments of joy.
We are called to approach these uncertainties, these ways that life can be challenging and joyful and embrace those big emotions with lots of gentleness and understanding because yes, this is hard. And I think it is important for LSTC to keep this in mind too. We like each other, we have each other, and we can share those joys and challenges together. I believe this is something that our community is well-equipped to do.