Towards Spiritual Formation Model of Clinical Pastoral Education
AuthorRonaldi, Lynn Petrie
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Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) traditionally applies the disciplines of psychology, education, and supervisory theory to raise into consciousness students’ inner landscapes and help form them as persons and pastors. CPE supervisors are trained to uncover students’ buried or hidden wounds and unconscious agendas, in order to help them grow in self-awareness, maturity, and compassionate care. However, through years of experience as a lay chaplain, professional hospice chaplain, CPE student, and supervisor, I have noticed that traditional, psychology-based CPE ignores a dimension and perhaps foundation of spiritual formation that could deepen the student’s interiority, consciousness, and potential transformation. This project’s goal is the creation, implementation and evaluation of a CPE curriculum that incorporates an integral approach to CPE, incorporating spiritual formation into the traditional CPE model. Previous models of CPE suspended attention to the human relationship with the sacred, focusing almost exclusively on intra-psychic drama and on what happens when the student relates to other people. The traditional method has avoided intentionally addressing what happens when the student relates to God. Within this dualistic, unnatural separation from the spiritual dimension, students were listening for patients’ experience of the divine without intentionally attending to their own religious experience, or exploring their own integral development. Only pastors more in tune with their own religious experience, biases, fears, and blocks to intimacy can truly listen for, notice, and compassionately tend to the religious experience, struggles, and formation of others. The project’s new curriculum intentionally integrates the dimensions of human development that are already inherently integrated: the spiritual and psychological. One ancient approach to human formation that has always emphasized the development of the whole person can be found in Benedictine spirituality and the Rule of Benedict. Thus the new curriculum incorporates the principles and practices of Benedictine spirituality into the CPE process, while maintaining the integrity of the traditional CPE model and standards. Reflecting on the principles and adopting a rule of life cultivates the students’ interior lives. Within a balance of contemplation and action, they become immersed in humility and accept a lifelong process of conversion. They develop a sense of stability, fidelity, and obedience as they face the struggles and challenges. Ultimately, as they learn to appropriate their own religious experience, they develop into more integrated, compassionate, and effective persons and pastors. The project’s strategy encompasses planning and implementing a new CPE curriculum infused with ongoing conversion based in the Paschal Mystery: life, death, and resurrection. I have applied teachings and reflections based in part on the Rule of Benedict. Dating back to the sixth century, Benedictine spirituality provides a point of departure for other spiritualities. The Rule of Benedict emphasizes a life of balanced prayer and action (ora et labora). While unapologetically Christian, the Rule reflects on the process of formation in language that other religions may also appropriate for human development. ii i This new curriculum incorporates some components of the Community of Hope (CoH) International’s Lay Pastoral Training Program. Developed by St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, the CoH connects principles discussed in Sr. Joan Chittister’s book, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality of the 21st Century, to aspects of pastoral care and formation. However, by itself, the CoH’s spirituality-based curriculum lacks beneficial clinical exercises that the traditional CPE model includes, such as verbatims, individual supervision, and group processing. In contrast, the current psychology-based CPE model lacks spiritual grounding and a more universal, integrated and redemptive vision. In fact, this model seems dualistic, creating a false division between spirituality and psychology. One formation model without the other seems deficient, particularly for the training of ordained and professional ministers. Therefore, this project integrates into CPE both the psychological and spiritual dimensions, which I will argue are already inherently related. I will draw upon the integrated models of Ken Wilbur and other developmental experts such as James Hillman and Robert Kegan. I will demonstrate that incorporating an integrated model of human development is a more effective approach for CPE. After developing a new, integrated curriculum, I scheduled and implemented a CPE unit using that curriculum over a span of nine months. The CPE group met one 10- hour day per month at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, then skyped or face-timed in-between classes. Students made at least 300 hours of pastoral visits. The six students, four of whom were Episcopal deacon postulants, responded favorably to the spiritual formation emphasis. Demonstrating less resistance than traditional CPE students, the class developed a receptivity and willingness to enter into a difficult process. They iv recognized that balanced practices of prayer, meditation, and action cultivated a keen self-awareness and compassionate acceptance of themselves and, as a result, others. Ultimately, with teachable hearts open to Christ-consciousness, and through deliberate spiritual practices, they were receptive to the graces of transformation. They became more humble, effective, and compassionate pastoral caregivers. The six students, my supervisor, and I each wrote a final evaluation about the unit and the individuals’ progress. The Diocese of Mississippi’s bishop and directors of the A.C. Marble Institute for Theological Formation also offered feedback on the unit. The evaluations and feedback indicate that the students developed a willingness to be transformed and demonstrated personal and pastoral growth and commitment. They experienced heightened awareness and receptivity to God’s presence and voice as encountered in themselves, patients, CPE group, and others. The students enthusiastically embraced and grasped connections between human spiritual formation, self-awareness, pastoral care, and theology. They progressed in their ability to self-supervise. Based on the results of this project, I plan to continue supervising the deacon and bivocational priest candidates in the A.C. Marble Institute, as well as other ministry students. I may eventually offer this curriculum to other Episcopal dioceses and potentially to other CPE centers.