Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Fairview Health Services CPE program celebrates 50 years

For many seminary students, clinical pastoral education is one of the steps on the path to ordination or spiritual care ministry. For those in the Twin Cities metro area, the Fairview Clinical Pastoral Education Center is a likely stop on the way.

This year Fairview Health Services celebrates 50 years of its clinical pastoral education (CPE) program. The mission of the program is “to foster experienced-based theological education that combines the practice of spiritual care with qualified supervision and peer group reflection.”

Fairview’s Director of Clinical Pastoral Education Diane Greves says Fairview’s CPE program follows an action-reflection model, which helps students learn to minister to the whole person.

Fairview CPE interns, from left, front row: Veronica Webber; the Rev. B.J. Larson, Fairview Ridges Hospital CPE supervisor; the Rev. Kristin Langstraat, CPE associate supervisor; the Rev. Yadesa Daba Washo. Back row: Ryan Gage, Donald Kenneth Carrothers, and the Rev. Larry Pray. Photo provided by Fairview Hospital Services

The Rev. Linda Campbell, chaplain at the St. Cloud Veteran Affairs Medical Center, is an alumna of the Fairview program and has worked at Fairview the last few years in the CPE supervisor education program. Through her experiences as a chaplain and a supervisor, Campbell has found that CPE touches people on multiple levels.

“A CPE program that is well-engaged by the student will allow the student to bring together their past life experience, their theology, their personality, their pastoral care,” she said. “It integrates. It can bring healing to things that haven’t been healed. We take this individual who is often preparing for ministry. What we work on in CPE not only touches the student, but all the folks to whom they minister — either in the CPE setting or down the road.”

Fairview alums are impacted by the CPE experience in different ways. For some, it has affirmed a call to chaplaincy, and for others it helped them prepare for parish or other healthcare ministry.

Megan Koepnick

Megan Koepnick, a senior Master of Divinity student at Luther Seminary, found through CPE that she has a gift for helping families in crisis. Koepnick said her experience in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Fairview was especially poignant because she had been in a neo-natal intensive care unit when she was a baby.

While the experience allowed Koepnick to relive her own story internally and with her family, the CPE experience also challenged her. She knew her story was not one she could share with her patients. “It’s not about you when you’re on the floor. You don’t want to give people a false sense of hope,” she said.

The experience allowed her to understand her family history better and also led her to consider a call into chaplaincy, which she is still in the process of discerning.

“[After CPE] I felt confident in who I was as a minister, ready to continue growing and empowered to do so,” she said.

Steve Arnold

Steve Arnold entered the Fairview CPE program after serving for 25 years on the faculty of Concordia University, St. Paul. Arnold is certified as a director of Christian education

in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He felt that after a career serving in education and congregational settings, his next step in life was to answer a call to minister to the sick.

“I was itching to do something different. I began preparing for chaplaincy in a health care setting. I knew in reframing my next career, I wanted specifically to work with the aging,” Arnold said.

For Arnold, the transition from ministry in higher education to that with the aging was a natural transition. He had spent 40 years working with intergenerational ministries in various settings, including leading several intergenerational ministry trips.

Having finished four units of CPE at Fairview, Arnold is currently completing some additional theological coursework and now serves as a chaplain at St. Anthony Senior Living Center. His goal is to become a certified chaplain by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Paige Whitney

Paige Whitney’s CPE experience at Ebenezer Health Care Center gave her a greater understanding of ministering to the elderly. While at Ebenezer, Whitney ministered in a dementia unit. The experience helped her feel more prepared to begin an internship and to care for the elderly.

“The church encompasses everyone — youth to elderly.” Whitney said.

At her internship site in rural Iowa, Whitney served a population that was about 90 percent elderly. Her experience at Ebenezer helped her feel confident in ministering to that generation.

“So much of CPE is about learning about yourself. … so that doesn’t get in the way in the future. Some [students] really struggle with being in a nursing home. [Through CPE] you learn about why you have the reactions you do,” Whitney said.

Now completing her senior year at Luther Seminary, Whitney plans for a career in parish ministry, likely in a rural setting. She hopes to be an advocate for an older generation and says she looks forward to walking with people in their faith journey.

Fairview will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a celebration on Thursday, November 11, at First Lutheran Church of Columbia Heights beginning at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public. To learn more, contact Diane Greve at 612/273-4483.

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