A Better CPE Experience

After my post on the GOE, I thought I would tackle the other great rite of passage for ordinands, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I understand from a few nonagenarians in my congregation (who have graciously designed their wills to leave all of their financial assets to my parish, earmarked for the vestment fund) that student chaplains in hospitals and nursing homes can be quite unhelpful. This is a shame since pastoral care is a key component of priestly ministry. I take it so seriously that I delegate it out to not one but two of my junior curates.

But this did get me thinking that one of the great joys of aging will be torturing CPE students. If you are currently in or considering a hospital stay in the near future, here are a few ways to handle student chaplains:

  1. Ask them to explain the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed and don’t let them leave until they define precisely where they stand on the issue and how it will affect you in the afterlife.
  2. Ditto homoousios vs. homoiousios.
  3. Make up a proverb (any fortune cookie will do), tell them it was your dead mother’s favorite verse of Scripture, and ask that they find the chapter and verse and tape a copy below the power button on the TV.
  4. In the middle of the night, phone the chaplain’s office and ask for an on-call student chaplain to come immediately and solve a burning spiritual crisis. Then ask the barely awake young man or woman to change your bed pan.
  5. Demand to know why God hates you.
  6. Demand to know why God hates the person in the bed next to you.
  7. After they pray with you, critique the prayer with Olympic-style ratings. “I’d give the opening a 5.2, the middle of the prayer a solid 4, and the closing doxology a 2.2. You forgot the Holy Spirit; better luck next time – see you in an hour.”
  8. Tell them you’re considering converting to Buddhism and ask that they talk you out of it.
  9. Insist they smuggle in some incense the next time they visit you. Question the validity of prayers spoken without it.
  10. Kindly tell them that you firmly believe that they are truly called – not to ordained ministry but to being an orderly. Then have them explain to you why the volume on the TV goes up every time you try to adjust the bed.

Best wishes for the next time you find yourself in such a setting. Perhaps I’ll send one of my curates in to give you some real pastoral care. You’ll know them because I insist they fully vest for such occasions. I also bid them, on occasion, to walk through the hospital with one of our several monstrances offering Benediction to entire wings of patients and staff.

Yours in the Lord,


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That is too funny. I may have to send this to my former CPE supervisor.

Comment by Sarah SSM on January 6, 2011 12:00 am

Some of these suggestions would be an improvement over some of the (horror) stories I heard during and since CPE.
My favorite is the olympic rating for prayers. Mostly because I listen to some impromptu prayers and think that we seriously need to work on this.

Comment by Byrde on January 6, 2011 12:40 am

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