CPE Stories: Finding Joy in Transitions

Kornelius Koeppel at a Lutherdale retreat

Kornelius Koeppel


Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a transformative inter-faith experience that allows divinity students to learn from spiritual practitioners about pastoral care through experiential learning in clinical pastoral settings including hospitals, congregations, and ministries.

Kornelius Koeppel, a second-year MAM student, shares his CPE experience and what it has taught him about finding joy in transitions.

Where did you complete your Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)?

I completed my CPE unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike most students who complete their CPE unit over a three-month period in the summer, I completed mine over a five-month period in the fall. I found it helpful to have my CPE unit extended over a longer period, because it provided more time to process the spiritual and emotional realities of serving in a hospital.

What were the most prevalent types of care your CPE internship offered?

Mount Sinai is a high trauma level hospital. Often, we treated victims of gun violence and members of law enforcement since we were near the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, many of our patients were uninsured or undocumented. The hospital has a rehab unit, a tiny children’s hospital, a large emergency unit, a neo-natal unit, an oncology unit, and at least five intensive care units.

What was most enjoyable about working at your CPE internship?

It was great to be a part of a diverse and multicultural team.  I was the only white person and the only Lutheran. The leadership, staff chaplains, and interns included Filipino, African American, Guatemalan, Puerto-Rican, and Korean peoples. Each of us were connected to different denominations (Presbyterian, Lutheran, African American Episcopal, Seven Day Adventists) which made our conversations and potlucks more enriching.

What was difficult about working at your CPE internship?

The difficult part of CPE was seeing gun-shot victims, witnessing the high volume of people with no money and people who didn’t have housing. During the winter months, I learned that some people use the waiting rooms as shelter from the cold, which means the waiting rooms get really crowded.

What skill do you feel like you brought to CPE?

I’m a very oriented person. I like maps and I don’t need GPS. Therefore, I am able to quickly orient myself in hospitals and new buildings. Also, I’ve interned at two other faith-based hospitals, so I had some familiarity with serving in the medical field.

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’ve learned that if we focus on the people, we will be able to find our joy in transitions.

Although I’m going to miss key elements at our historic home like the chapel and the chapel fountain, that’s not what made that place feel like home. It was and is the people. I’ve learned that I love the people at LSTC and not the place.

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