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Education in ordinary places

Learning clinical counseling can happen in a variety of circumstances

Community-based options are allowing pastors and others who need chaplaincy training to receive their clinical pastoral education (CPE) in new ways. In a program offered by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC), the Rev. Dr. Susan Allers Hatlie directs four training units per year, three in the Twin Cities and one in Mankato, Minnesota.
Hatlie says the program is ideal for:
* pastors who are already working and can’t leave work for typical CPE training,
* seminarians who are working in churches,
* persons in youth and family ministries,
* parish nurses,
* medical doctors honing their people skills,
* those working as chaplains but who are not yet certified,
* those who want to process their own experiences in ministry, and
* those considering specialized ministry.
A unit of CPE training consists of 400 hours of work — 300 hours of clinical chaplaincy in social justice ministry settings, often at shelters for the homeless and housing for those with chemical dependencies, and 100 hours of group process learning with peers in ministry. More traditional CPE training is usually in hospital or nursing home settings. Tuition for the course is $800; there is a $3,500 placement fee. The training occurs in groups of six to eight people. When done within the usual 15-week period, it consists of 28 hours per week, 20 hours in clinical work and eight hours of group process — or just one day per week in the classroom.

Herbert Perkins (right), a student seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ, is in a pastoral care session with a resident of a transitional housing program in St. Paul.

A unit of clinical pastoral education training consists of 400 hours of work.

The chaplaincy training program as it now exists was organized in 1999. However, chaplaincy training in the Twin Cities traces its roots to 1942 in what is now Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis. Through government and hospital budget cuts and other challenges, the training has evolved to the program now offered by GMCC.
CPE enrollees cover a broad spectrum: Christians of various denominations, rabbis, lay leaders to Catholic women with master of divinity degrees, and much more.
Hatlie says the program seeks to teach narrative counseling theory to faith leaders, lay ministers, and seminarians. Individually-designed learning contracts focus on pastoral reflection, competence, and specialization. “We strive to build a continuum of care between community of faith and programs serving men, women, and children in transitional living programs. We further develop our ability to respond as faith leaders to the needs of individuals through direct service and crisis care.” Hatlie has worked with the GMCC for 25 years.

A new option for clinical training

Among those completing the community-based program is Bev Lonsbury of Luther Seminary. She explained about the program: “I had the privilege of being part of the community-based CPE program in the spring of 2009. I served as a chaplain-intern for late-stage, chronic alcoholics [at] a ‘wet’ house (there is a designated spot outdoors where residents can drink) for about 80 men.
“At first I was uncertain about how I could possibly be a minister in this setting. I quickly became aware of a deep need for spiritual care. I now realize what a special call I received. I have been able to serve those who in many ways have been forgotten, misunderstood, and/or feared as is the case with many of the community-based programs. Also, this unit of CPE fit my MA/PhD goals at Luther Seminary in a unique way by providing a very practical way of learning more about co-occuring disorders as part of my thesis/dissertation.
“Clearly I have received far more than I have given. In fact, I am still serving at this site as a volunteer chaplain over a year later.”
Paul Dean, director of the Nexus Community within Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, Minnesota, completed the community-based CPE training a week before he was interviewed by Metro Lutheran. His training was within the church setting. His years at Prince of Peace have included junior high and family ministries. Now, he found himself in real-time pastoral roles, including hospital visits and wedding and funeral planning. End-of-life decisions included working with a family making the decision to disconnect a family member’s life support. Dean feels the training and feedback he received will be important as he approaches ordination down the line.
Faith leaders and seminarians interested in the CPE program should contact Hatlie at 952/484-3334 or by e-mail to

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