Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

I am coming to the end of 9 months of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Last night I gave a final presentation to my peer group on how I viewed the experience. I read a paper which expressed my beliefs concerning Christ, the gospel, and the authority of Scripture as the foundation of my ministerial philosophy. It has been challenging to minister in a pluralistic context. I was one of the few evangelical Christians in the program. Last night my supervisor, a former Roman Catholic priest now married to a United Methodist woman pastor, expressed his appreciation for my presence even though he said most would not agree with many of my beliefs. And that's okay. I learned that even in this context I could be who I am while respectfully disagreeing with others – respect for people while refusing to accept the parity and/or validity of all belief systems.


The vast majority of my hospital visits over the years has been to people I know – church members, family members, and close acquaintances. More often than not I knew something about their spiritual condition or at least what they professed to believe. With strangers, in a brief and singular encounter, I need confidence that God is at work in spite of my limitations. I bring myself alongside people with the knowledge that I might be the last person to whom they speak or who speaks to them. I pray for people not knowing if they can hear me. I bring myself alongside people who do not need prayers for healing since wholeness will not be found.


There is a gravity that weighs upon my heart. I have seen enough death and dying in the last year to last a lifetime. There is the reality that what awaits many is not restored health and a return home but the certainty of death; an eternity either in God's presence or separated from Him forever.  There is joy in knowing that some people heard the gospel in their final hours. CPE has been both challenging and rewarding. I was unaware of this training early on in ministry and would recommend getting it as early as possible.

2 Responses to “Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)”

  1. I have always struggled with ministering in a pluralistic context. I have looked into the CPE but never pursued it. I could never discern how I could give clear biblical counsel within the guidelines as I understood them. If you could talk more about that sometime, I am sure many of us would find it helpful.

  2. Hi Chip. I understand the tension and wondered about that myself. My experience was that I was never asked or told what to say or not to say. There was respect for diverse views and we were able to minister to people with integrity. Does that mean we always get to say what we want? No, just like many other contexts. I had New Testaments and gospel tracts available and was able to follow the conversational trail as to when to offer them. Many times they were requested. I hope to write more on the experience.

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