National Clinical Training Seminar–East (NCTS-East) just went virtual for 2020 this week, making it the first national event for CPSP that was held entirely online!
For the past nineteen years, NCTS-East has been held mainly in New Jersey, with the focus on participants presenting their work with patients and trainees in small groups, then coming together for the didactic and workshop sessions. The annual event became a bi-annual event in the mid-2000's. When the pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, the event scheduled for May was cancelled.
Recognizing the need for the training experience and keeping the participants safe, Francine Hernandez, Chair of NCTS-East, opted for an online meeting for the Fall 2020 NCTS-East event. The recent event had over sixty registrants and several attendees have shared about their recent experience.
NCTS REFLECTION - by Craig Scott Brown, CC/PC, Hopewell, NJ Chapter
It is my sincere delight to share reflections on my NCTS experience. Let me first applaud and congratulate Dr. Francine Hernandez and her team for organizing and presenting our first virtual gathering. Overcoming the myriad of challenges associated with this herculean task was no small accomplishment. Through these efforts, I was afforded the opportunity of both fellowship and feedback.
While we were confined to Zoom limitations, I was still able to engage in “hallway” conversations, in moments we were waiting for the group to reassemble. Within my group, everyone had an opportunity to present material and those who seized the opportunity received insightful and constructive feedback.
I am still feasting on the insights I was afforded by Raymond J Lawrence. His vast knowledge and candor were like eating at a five-star buffet. I applaud and commend Asnel Valcin for inviting Raymond to lead in supervisory feedback. Further, the “Directors Covid-19”, sharing was insightful and engaging. I am energized and excited as I continue to pursue the unparalleled privilege to serve as an Agent of Hope.
NCTS-East Reflection by Lori Whittemore, Diplomate Supervisor, Central Nassau, NY Chapter
What a joy it was on Monday and Tuesday to see my brothers and sisters at NCTS on Zoom! It wasn’t the same as our time at Loyola. I definitely missed the beautiful grounds, the grandeur of the old building, the meals, and especially the conversations in the halls with friends from far and near. That isn’t our reality right now. Still, Francine and Krista curated a wonderful and very important experience that brought our community together to learn, laugh, and take comfort as we shared about our work in the trenches right now. Francine and Krista made it look easy, although I am sure it wasn’t. I can’t think of a more important time for us to connect and support each other in our important and sacred work!
Bonnie Miller-McLemore images a Living Human Web when thinking about a metaphor for pastoral care. Recognizing that each human’s identity is a web of social, cultural, and religious construction, we listen for the strands of someone’s fabric to reflect back a patient’s source of strength and comfort. Hearing about what’s happening for my colleagues at St John’s Episcopal, Mt. Sinai, Robert Wood Johnson, Hackensack Meridian, Greystone Park, Maine Health, and all of the other locations, amplified this idea for me.
CPSP embodies the living human web and when we come together for our NCTS annually, we can see the many threads of our institutional web. I feel the strength of our collective expertise and shared support. We amplify and strengthen each other! Even when we have to do it virtually.
I am reminded of a quote by Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Nun, that obstacles are not our enemies. Obstacles are opportunities to look at where we are stuck and to look beyond that stuckness to see the truth in a new way. I believe the truth is that the new normal is going to look a lot different than the normal of 12-months ago. Francine and Krista looked past the obstacles and brought us together beautifully. In so doing, they modeled one kind of path forward that will serve us in new ways as we navigate this new normal.
Reflection on the first Virtual NCTS by Rita Bakr, CC/PC, and HPC, Convener, Palisades, New Jersey Chapter
I consider us in this age to be the “Baby Zoomers”.
Having been on so many Zoom meetings, seminars, webinars, memorials, and moreover the last several months, I was thinking with some apprehension as to what our first zoom NCTS would be like.
Today’s experience was a sight for my sore eyes and a soothing balm for my anxiety. It was refreshing to see so many faces, new and familiar, and connecting with what I missed - the CPSP community. The time allotted for our interaction was adequate and I had a great sense of unhurried calm in my break-out group and in the larger group where the panel presented. The pace was steady, the information was timely, relevant, and light enough to keep me engaged and well informed with what we are all in some way experiencing, without the overheads of a heavy-duty theological or scholarly topic.
Thanks to Francine, Krista, and all who made this first event sail off to a good start while maintaining the charm of our togetherness.
Reflection on NCTS-East, Virtual Meeting by Thomas Kircher, CC/PC, Portland, Maine Chapter
COVID has pushed the practice of chaplaincy and chaplaincy training at times out of the physical room and into the virtual room. Thus, for me, the experience of a virtual NCTS was somehow appropriate for these times.
Throughout the conference, I found the dialogue in both small and large group meetings lively, engaging, and at times profound. Especially in the large group, it was interesting how the ZOOM chat function allowed a diverse set of voices to be heard. The sharing of case studies in the small group breakouts moved participants to new understandings. In these respects, the event was a success.
However, the overall experience was also somewhat bittersweet. I felt joy, seeing, and sharing with fellow pilgrims new ways of deeper and more meaningful relationships with self and others. And at the same time, I felt the loss - loss of the many small rituals I have come to associate with the Loyola Retreat Center, and loss of the experience of human connection with those I respect and admire. This type of connection, in all its complexity and wonder, is something not easily transmitted in bits and bytes.