Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 11 Jan 2015 11:12 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The Governing Council met last November in Chicago and adopted a framework for a new chapter-based form of governance of CPSP. By consensus, forty-five of our leaders, most of them conveners representing their chapters, accepted the proposed bylaws that were developed by my colleague David Baker and me at the request of the Governing Council when it met in Virginia Beach in March 2014.

    The members of the Governing Council also delegated to the working group referred to as the Operations Team, which is led by me, short-term authority to act in its behalf as well as some additional work. We were asked to review, decide upon and make certain modifications to the bylaws and then to implement the governance plan by our Plenary in March.

    My colleagues and I have taken up this charge and a finalized the text of the bylaws. We have selected one of our members, Cynthia Olson, to act as interim Administrator, a position that is defined in the newly adopted bylaws. We are about to begin the processes of selecting representatives for the Chapter of Chapters and the Chapter of Diplomates. All chapter conveners, as identified in the CPSP directory, will be contacted by email and by a member of our team to assure that the selection process for the Chapters is underway. We will also be contacting all diplomates to select their representative to serve the Diplomates. We expect these processes to be done expeditiously but responsibly.

    Our new governance will be representative and the process of selection transparent. We have every reason to be hopeful that the spirit of the Covenant will pervade the process and that the results will include greater commitment to one another, to collaboration between chapters, and to seeking and promoting the highest standards of our pastoral care community. We are confident that the necessary governance groundwork will be finished in time to seat the new Governing Council by its scheduled meeting in March, following the 25th anniversary Plenary.

    The Operations Team
    David Roth
    Orville Brown
    Ed Luckett
    Cynthia Olson
    Ed Pehanich
    Ruth Zollinger

    David Roth, Convener
    CPSP Operation Tean

  • 10 Jan 2015 11:22 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Insights Into Cancer November 18, 2014 from Simms/Mann UCLA Center on Vimeo.

    Insights Into Cancer November 18, 2014 from Simms/Mann UCLA Center on Vimeo.

    Michael Eselun is a CPSP Board Certified Clinical Chaplain and a member of the Los Angeles, CA Chapter. He serves as the interfaith chaplain for the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.

    May 12, 2014 the Pastoral Report publish Michael's "It's Magic". 

    Michael Eselun, a CPSP Board Certified Clinical Chaplain, serves as the interfaith chaplain for the Simms-Mann/UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology. He has worked extensively in oncology, hospice, palliative care and with acute psychiatric patients. He's been invited countless times to speak to students, doctors, nurses, social workers, and faith communities about his work as a chaplain, on death and dying and the spiritual dimension of the cancer experience.

  • 08 Jan 2015 11:30 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Celebrating 25 years as a community and honoring the memory of Anton T. Boisen, founder of the clinical pastoral care movement, members of CPSP and their guests will gather in Chicago from March 15-17 for the Plenary, our annual international conference.

    Since 2015 is the 50th year since Boisen’s death, Sunday is devoted to "The Boisen Legacy for Today and Beyond: Thinking and Feeling Together about the Things That Matter Most." Dr. Robert Charles Powell will conduct a seminar on “Boisen as Clinician” and at the evening banquet Glenn H. Asquith, Jr., editor of Vision From A Little Known Country: A Boisen Reader, will speak on 'Anton T. Boisen: A Vision for All Ages' and receive the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award.

    Monday and Tuesday will focus on small group work, with case studies and other presentations, as is our tradition, Workshops on certification, accreditation and chapter life will be offered. Plenary culminates and officially ends on Tuesday evening with a special 25th Anniversary Dinner, the presentation of certificates, and live entertainment and dancing.

    On March 18, a newly formed, representative Governing Council will meet for the first time since CPSP adopted new Bylaws last November.

    The Plenary is always a very special event gathering together of a diverse group of colleagues from around the world. It is an opportunity to meet, share with and learn from one another. We expect this year’s Plenary to be an event like none before. Register now and join us in Chicago!

    The Plenary Planning Committee
    David Roth 
    Krista Argiropolis
    Ed Luckett
    Robert Charles Powell
    Scott Smith

    David Roth

  • 08 Dec 2014 10:48 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    “Spiritual Well-Being”—by Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D.
    The Theme of the 2014 Pastoral Care Week

    (Condensation of presentation given at the annual Pastoral Care Week celebration at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA on October 21, 2014, and at Neptune, NJ’s Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s first celebration on November 3, 2014. Photo by Chaplain Dianna S. Wentz, D.M., UPMC Mercy Hospital)

    This year’s Pastoral Care Week theme is “Spiritual Well-Being.” If you Google the word “spiritual,” 18,100,000 references appear. Spirituality reveals not only the infiniteness of divinity, but also the infinite varieties of humanity.

    Spirituality can represent a wellspring, or a wastebasket. A wellspring of comfort and strength that enables coping and wellness and empowerment and direction and reflection and “love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” connectedness with other human beings.

    Spirituality can also represent a wastebasket, in which insecurity may lead one to dumb down his or her god with absolutes that provide certainty, are dismissive of cause-and-affect understanding of human behavior and the natural order, can’t stand ambiguity, nurse “exceptionalism” that is intolerant of diversity, and lead one to act as if “loving your neighbor as yourself” actually means wanting your neighbor to be like yourself.

    Spirituality can also represent a wastebasket, in which insecurity may lead one to dumb down his or her god with absolutes that provide certainty, are dismissive of cause-and-affect understanding of human behavior and the natural order, can’t stand ambiguity, nurse “exceptionalism” that is intolerant of diversity, and lead one to act as if “loving your neighbor as yourself” actually means wanting your neighbor to be like yourself.

    That said, my focus is that the “spiritual well-being” of patients and their families often depends on the emotional well-being of the chaplain. I see a hospital as a unique crossroads of humanity, which calls for pastoral/spiritual caregivers who are comfortable with and accepting of diversity of belief—and nonbelief—of patients. Thus, the pastoral/spiritual care and “well-being” of patients and their loved ones begins with the humanness of the chaplain-- beyond the outward calling, the inward emotional journey where one becomes self-aware, and is in touch with and accepting of oneself. 

    Chaplaincy is about empowering patients and their families, not imposing any belief or value system on them. It is about empathy, not evangelism. About connecting with, not converting. Respect for the patient’s beliefs and rights are fundamental.

    Pastoral/spiritual care is not about the chaplain, but about the patient. It is about the chaplain in terms of his or her awareness that it is about the patient. That is where the chaplain’s emotional security comes into play. 

    This emphasis on the patient and his/her “spiritual well-being” is not meant to minimize the identity and faith of the chaplain. Rather, it is to stress the pastoral/spiritual care qualities of self-awareness and inner emotional security that enable the chaplain to affirm patients and their families to be who they are. It is the emotional “wholeness” of the chaplain that nourishes the chaplain’s “spiritual well-being”—and that of the patient as well. 

    Spiritual care-giving is determined by the expressed beliefs, wishes and spiritual and human needs of patients and their loved ones. It is about utilizing and reinforcing patients’ and families’ beliefs in their struggles to recover, or to cope with dying and grief.

    And if a patient is comfortable with being a “non-believer,” that should not make the chaplain feel uncomfortable. That patient is neither less nor lost, but just as legitimate as a “believer,” and just as deserving of pastoral care—guided by that patient’s wishes. 

    Self-awareness and emotional security free the chaplain to participate in an interdisciplinary commitment to fulfill any hospital’s mission of individualizing patients, respecting their diversity and rights, and providing “Exceptional Care. Without exception.”—which is Boston Medical Center’s stated mission.

    I was privileged to work as a full-time hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, from 1992 to 2011, when I retired. And since then, I’m still privileged to work there as a chaplain consultant, covering on occasion for the two staff chaplains. I want to share BMC’s diversity statement with you, as It expresses most hospitals’ emphasis on diversity, which has implications for the emotional make-up of chaplains. BMC’s 2008 Diversity Statement says:

    As part of its stated mission and values, the Medical Center remains committed to creating and sustaining a work place and a hospital where employees and patients, and patients’ families are respected and valued not in spite of, but because of, the differences in their backgrounds and cultures. We believe that there is strength in diversity, not only of race, gender, age, religion, and disability, but also of education, politics, family status, national origin, sexual orientation, and all of the other factors that make people individuals.

    I’ve stressed the diversity of patients and the emotional integration that reality requires of us chaplains. The commonality of patients and their families is also to be emphasized.

    A hospital especially reveals humanity’s commonality as well as its diversity. Illness confronts all people with their mortality, and hence their vulnerability, their humanness—their oneness and connectedness with each other. In a hospital, the common humanity people share comes to the fore and often transcends their differences. Some of the best pastoral care comes from the patient in the next bed—and from relatives and friends.

    A metropolitan hospital is actually a global neighborhood, as it uniquely reveals the humanity everyone shares. Patients and families of different religions, races, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, political ideologies, religious beliefs and economic classes bring their common mortality to the hospital’s crossroads of humanity and reveal what our global neighborhood looks and feels and is like—like everyone of us.

    In the hospital’s radical humanizing setting, individuality discovers its commonality, diversity meets its connectedness, uniqueness is introduced to its oneness, illness offers class consciousness a lesson in equality. Everyone becomes ill, experiences fear, endures pain, sighs, laughs, cries, dies, and is grieved. Everyone bleeds human. And it is these very struggles that bring out the tremendous wisdom of patients and their loved ones. The spiritual/pastoral role of the chaplain is to give these common human struggles air and reverence.

    Now to put some “flesh and blood” on “spiritual well-being. “ I recently encountered a patient in need of “spiritual well-being” before my day officially began-- upon entering the Admitting Office to pick up my patients’ list. She was sitting in the hospital’s Admitting Office-- along with a few other patients. As I sat down to wait for my patients’ list to be printed, a black woman called out to me from across the room: “Are you a doctor?” “No. I’m a hospital chaplain,” I replied. “Do you say prayers for people, and give the last rites?” “I say prayers for people, if they want me to,” I answered. “You say prayers,” she repeated. The man accompanying her, who turned out to be her brother, said, “He said that he says prayers, if people want him to.” She then said, “I’m having surgery today, and I’m a little nervous.” “I can appreciate that,” I said.

    At that point the Admitting staff person told me the patients’ list was ready. Upon receiving it, I went over and sat down next to the woman, told her my name, and asked her name. After she introduced herself, I asked her religion, and she said that she is a Catholic. She then stated that she would appreciate receiving a prayer before her surgery, a hysterectomy operation.

    I told her the name of the Catholic chaplain, and said that I would leave a message for him with her request, saying also that he may not be in as he had been ill. I said that if he doesn’t come in, I would find her and offer a prayer, which she appreciated.

    I left the Admitting Office, climbed a flight of stairs, walked across a bridge toward my office, and stopped—thinking about her. She said that she wanted a prayer before her surgery. And it was unlikely that the Catholic chaplain would be in, and if he did come, he probably would not arrive in time. Also, the Admitting staff person told me that she would not be assigned a room until after her surgery, which meant that I might have difficulty reaching her beforehand.

    So, I walked back to the Admitting Office, sat down next to her, and said, “Would you like me to offer a prayer for you now?” “Yes, I would,” she said. I took her hand and offered a prayer: it began with her “feeling a little anxious” about her surgery, and continued with Jesus who touched all kinds of lives to reveal God loves everyone, including her, gave thanks for the commitment of the medical staff attending her, called forth all that is loving to bless and renew her, and expressed gratitude for the love she and her brother share. When I finished, she said, “Thank you. I feel much better.”

    She then told me a little about herself. She just turned 57, celebrating her birthday two days ago. She has four grown sons. And a supportive brother by her side. Before leaving, I shook her brother’s hand. He stated, “Thank you,” and added, “May you have a blessed day.” “Thank you,” I said. 

    You never know when someone may say to you, “I’m a little nervous.” That may be an invitation to pastoral care. 

    Much of pastoral care is unscripted. It is about ear and sight. Spontaneous responses to what is heard and seen. Becoming comfortable with silence, seen as natural not awkward. Feeling one does not have to fill it in with talk. Or perform a self-expected conventional ministerial role. Secure around strong emotional outbursts of loss, understood as human not as inappropriate or profane. Un-pressured by a fear of not saying the right words. Or of saying the wrong thing. Again, learning where one is coming from so that one may better know where other people are at. At ease with oneself, and therefore attuned to others. It is what I call the humanology of pastoral/spiritual care.

    I continue to appreciate the power of prayer in the service of “spiritual well-being”—prayer that is on the wings of rapport having been established with a patient, rather than a substitute for it.

    The power of prayer is seen in the surprising response of a 70-year-old black Protestant patient. Since she looked familiar, I asked if we had met before. She replied, “Yes,” then said, “I still remember when you visited me 8 years ago. I was near death, and you prayed for me, and lifted my spirits. I’ll never forget that.” She reveals that it is not just what a chaplain’s prayer may bring to a patient, but what a patient’s belief in her god may bring to a chaplain’s prayer.

    Not that a patient’s “well-being” requires prayer or being “spiritual.” I believe that a primary role of a chaplain is to enable a patient to tell his/her story—which in itself nourishes the patient’s health, connectedness, and thus well-being. 

    One of my responsibilities is to visit patients whose religion is unknown, to determine if they are affiliated, and if so, that information goes to the appropriate chaplain for follow-up. When patients say they are unaffiliated, I wish them a good day and good progress in their treatment. I have no desire to market religion. I have an aversion to conversion, as the desire to convert people to one’s religious belief violates their right to be who they are. I take my cue from patients. If they want to interact, they let me know in different ways, and I respond.

    Like the 64 year-old white man who told me that he was not affiliated with a religion, and continued-- and I listened. He said, “I believe in God, but not in organized religion.” He explained: “Picture the world as a puzzle, and each of the religions a piece of the puzzle. If I had the power and wanted to make the world be at war against itself, I would tell each group that its religion was the true one. All the groups,” he continued, “would be trying to convert each other and fighting would ensue. And the pieces of the puzzle could not be put together to reunite the world.”

    The patient then stated, “Power corrupts.” He then quoted English historian, Lord Acton, who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The patient said that organized Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, “is the anti-Christ.” Their aim, he believes, is to gain power over people, not empower them. It is not about “love your neighbor as yourself” as Jesus taught, but about which has the biggest miracle and thus the biggest piece of “the puzzle.”

    The patient retired early from a professional position, and began tutoring children in English and Math. He said, “I have no children of my own, so my aim was to help other children to learn and obtain knowledge.” He said it was a challenging task, and involved teaching lessons for 10 minutes, then playing Scrabble or Chinese Checkers with the children for a period of time, then back to the lessons. He discovered that this technique enabled the children to better grasp and integrate material.

    The patient then went to the heart of his story. One of the students he tutored grew up and became a state representative. He went to his former student’s election victory party. He jokingly told the state representative that he wanted to look at his victory speech to see the influence of his tutoring years ago. He said, “The state representative replied, ‘You gave me my humanity.’” The patient then choked up, and added, “At that moment the world stood still for me. His words led me to feel that I could have died right then and life would have been fulfilled for me.”

    Pastoral care is about enabling patients to tell their stories, the sharing of which affirms and empowers the teller and often provides wisdom for the listener—a precious form of “well-being” for both.

    Different patients have different definitions of what “well-being” means to them. Like the 80-year-old white man in an intensive care unit with a serious medical condition, which, understandably, led him to be “grumpy,” his nurse said, as she sought to prepare the way for a visit from me.

    At that moment “Dexter,” the dog, “a 100% Boxer,” came into the Intensive Care Unit with Mike, his master. “Dexter” is one of eight dogs that form a special program at Boston Medical Center, called, “Hounds Making Rounds.” The nurse invited “Dexter” and Mike into the “grumpy” male patient’s room, and asked me to follow, which I did. And as the nurse introduced me, the patient waved me off, indicating he did not want to see me. So, I wished him a good day and left. But he sure wanted to see “Dexter,” who proceeded to put his front paws on the top of the patient’s bed and wag his tail—and the patient petted “Dexter”-- with a smile on his face. Spell “dog” backwards, and you will see the power of “Dexter’s” presence. 

    For another patient, it was about his needing access to a loving god. An older, terminally ill black man, the patient told a palliative care nurse that soon he would be “shoveling coal.” The concerned nurse shared his troubling words of self-condemnation with me, said he was dying of cancer, had difficulty speaking because of his weakened condition, and asked that I visit him. His doctor also told me “We’re in a muddle about his saying he’s going to shovel coal in the next life, not knowing how to handle it.”

    The patient confirmed that he was “going to be shoveling a lot of coal” when he died. I asked, “Why?” “Because of the number of bad things I have done in my life,” he said in a weakened tone. I did not pursue the “bad things” he said he did because of his difficulty speaking. Instead, being a black man, led me to ask if anyone had ever done “bad things” to him “growing up and in your life?” “Yes, a lot,” he replied.

    Having researched and written about America’s white-controlled hierarchy of access to economic, political and legal power, I assumed he probably had at least two racial strikes waiting for him when he was born. One invisible strike could be seen in a study that found, “Blacks Suffer Heart Failure More Than Whites . . . at a rate 20 times higher than did whites, even dying of it decades before the condition typically strikes whites . . . researchers reported.” (The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2009)

    The second unseen strike against this patient may be found in another study that showed, “Chronic stress from growing up poor appears to have a direct impact on the brain, leaving children with impairment in at least one key area—working memory.” The “bad things” here: “Children raised in poverty suffer many ill effects: They often have health problems and tend to struggle in school, which can create a cycle of poverty across generations.” (The Boston Globe, Apr. 7, 2009).

    In other words, a full stomach feeds a hungry mind. Whereas an empty stomach can fuel despair and destructive behavior.

    Sadly the patient had a self-loathing heart. A white-dominated hierarchy, with him at the bottom where “bad” economic, social, political and legal “things” happen to people of color especially—and also to economically strapped white persons. “Bad things” legitimized by a theology of self-hatred, which was the third strike that apparently led this patient to believe he would be “shoveling coal” in hell when he died. A theology of self-hatred internalized through identification with parental and other religious authorities, many of whom themselves possibly struggling with their own marginalization at the bottom of society.

    A theology of self-hatred born of oppressed and oppressive human relationships. A theology in which all persons, black and white alike, are born in sin, and will be “shoveling coal” unless they renounce their sinful nature and accept “Jesus Christ as the only Son of God and their Lord and Savior,” who is portrayed as having died on the cross for their sins.

    The citing of this substitutionary atonement theology is not meant to disregard the model of Jesus as liberator. The civil rights movement in America in black churches has found much empowerment in Jesus’ words, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor . . . and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

    Certainly, also, there are many patients who believe that Jesus died for their sins, whose lives have been transformed in admirable personal ways. 

    Concerning this patient, what seemed to reassure him was not so much that I said Jesus revealed a “god of love who especially loves you.” Nor my statement that all of us are human and in need of grace. Nor the fact that a lot of “bad things” had happened to him already. Nor even the prayer that I offered, though prayer is often a powerful way to affirm and reassure a patient. 

    What seemed to especially connect with this patient was my telling him, “Wherever you are I will see you there.” “You will?,” he asked. “Yes, I’ll be there. And neither of us will be shoveling coal.” “I hope you’re right,” he said. Before his discharge to a hospice I saw him again and repeated: “Wherever you go, I’ll be there. I’ll look for you until I find you.” He replied, “Okay. That’s a promise.” “That’s a promise,” I said. The patient seemed to find reassurance in hearing someone not only voice caring about whether he lived or died, but caring about him even after he died. The bottom line of pastoral/spiritual care is caring.

    For me, “spiritual well-being” contains a prophetic or social justice dimension, i.e. addressing the economic, political and legal determinants of health and illness. In an essay on “Community Health Centers in US inner Cities: From Cultural Competency to Community Competence,” published in Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal, Winter 2009, Tufts University Professor of Urban Environmental Policy Professor James Jennings makes this point:

    . . . The idea of multiculturalism or cultural diversity in the delivery of health services is limited and incomplete in responding to health challenges in US low income urban communities. In these places, where problems of poverty, unemployment, bad housing, toxic air, and dirty streets are found in greater levels than other places, community

    health centers must move beyond simply being culturally sensitive or reflective of local groups. Rather, they must enhance their organizational role as community actors and become involved in working with other non-health organizations seeking to challenge the local and spatial manifestations of inequality. . . . Community health centers in low-income communities represent a key venue for linking better health for all people with a more just society. 

    I want to conclude by going a step further. In my 22 years as a hospital chaplain, I have been present, as you have, with families, at the bedside deaths of many religiously, culturally, politically and economically diverse people. “Don’t go, Mamma. Don’t leave me. I love you, Mamma” “Don’t leave me, mother! I will be all alone! I won’t know what to do without you! I love you so.” “You were always here for me, dad. I will never forget what you’ve done for me.” “You are the best mother in the world. Whether we were right or wrong, you protected us. Always.” “God damn it! I love her so!“ “Wherever you are in the afterlife, I shall find you, my darling.” “Momma, Daddy is waiting for you up there, and wondering what is taking you so long,” a tearful son said, chuckling sadly, at his dying mother’s bedside. 

    So many human expressions of love’s universal grieving aftershocks: anguish and anger, crying and cursing, screaming and shaking, silent and solemn, stroking and hugging and comforting. Human love transcends culture and color, religious belief and political ideology, poverty and wealth, straight and lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender. People with less love as deeply as people with more. As with birth, death reveals the humanness everyone shares, and love is at the heart of that humanness. To hear each other’s laughter and to see each other’s tears is to experience each other’s humanness. 

    Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, all over America and the world: “spiritual well-being” is about empathy—toward ourselves and others-- that is at the heart of The Golden Rule.

    Appreciation is expressed to CPE supervisors Revs. Charlie Starr and Joan Alevras and staffs at UPMC and JSUMC respectively for their care in planning the Pastoral Care Week celebrations and warm hospitality.
    Bill Alberts is a member of CPSP’s Concord, New Hampshire 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. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away), will be available shortly.


  • 04 Dec 2014 11:05 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Gathering of the Community

    Still Learning From Boisen
    50 Years After His Death

    We cordially invite you to join us 
    from March 15 – 18, in Chicago, IL. 

    We will meet for informative speakers, 
    dynamic group process, 
    and to celebrate our successes.

    The CPSP Community will gather in Chicago March 15 - 18, 2015 to celebrate our 25 years together as a vibrant and innovative certifying and accrediting community dedicated to excellence in the clinical pastoral field. The theme of the conference is .

    The CPSP Community will gather in Chicago March 15 - 18, 2015 to celebrate our 25 years together as a vibrant and innovative certifying and accrediting community dedicated to excellence in the clinical pastoral field. The theme of the conference is "Still Learning From Boisen 50 Years After His Death".

    The schedule is as follows:

    Sunday, March 15 – Thinking and Feeling Together About The Things That Matter Most - Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965)
    Workshops and gatherings will take place during the day.

    The Presentation of the Helen Flanders Dunbar Award will be made by Robert C. Powell, Ph.D., M.D.. 
    The Keynote Speaker is Glenn H. Asquith, Jr.
    The event is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. that evening. 

    This will be a very special day - please be sure to join us!

    Monday, March 16 
    Opening Session, Small Groups, and Presidential Luncheon.

    Tuesday, March 17 –
    Tavistock, Small Groups, Presentation of Certificates, and live entertainment.

    Wednesday, March 18 –
    Governing Council Meeting, closing.

    The gathering will be held at the Embassy Suites Chicago - Downtown
    Just steps from Magnificent Mile, and one block from the subway station, this newly renovated hotel has a dramatic 11-story atrium, filled with blooming foliage and a rushing waterfall.

    Every guest room is a two-room suite, with a separate living room and bedroom, equipped with a microwave, mini-refrigerator, coffeemaker, and two telephones. Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast is available every morning. PURE allergy friendly rooms and non-smoking suites are available.

    We have reserved a block of rooms at the special rate of $159 per night for the single rate (one king bed) and $159 for the double rate (two double beds), and the separate living room includes a queen-size sofa bed, so three guests can easily share one room. There is a charge of $30 per person/per night, for more than two in a room. This rate is good for the Saturday night before the event, and the Wednesday night that our event ends.

    Embassy Suites Chicago –Downtown
    600 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654
    Tel: 312.943.3800
    Event Code: CPS

    A brochure will be posted on the Pastoral Report and emailed to all members in mid-December, and it will include a more specific schedule, as we finalize our plans for the very special event!

  • 25 Nov 2014 11:18 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    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


  • 24 Nov 2014 11:24 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    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) 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.

  • 15 Nov 2014 11:33 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Bylaws 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 18, 2015, also in Chicago.


  • 09 Nov 2014 4:02 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    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

  • 01 Nov 2014 9:32 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    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 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, “Alright, mother. Alright 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.

    Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., 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 CPSP 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@