I'm at the point now where I have one month left of CPE before officially beginning my Middler year. At this point we're doing some mid-unit evaluations and I'm left wondering: what have I learned so far?
Well, for starters, I've learned that chaplaincy isn't for me, but pastoral care is. Learning to listen and be an pastoral figure in the lives of people I minister to and with has been significantly more challenging that I thought it would be, but I love it. One day, after feeling slightly discouraged because I realize that chaplaincy was not something I wanted to do for the majority of my ministry, someone surprisingly walked into the pastoral care office and we began a pastoral care session "on the fly". I couldn't believe what happened! I listened, tears flowed, I understood, we came to a conclusion together and learned from each other in that conversation! Afterwords I thought to myself, "that could happen at a parish!" and got a little giddy at the thought that I just practiced genuine pastoral care in a situation that I could encounter in a church setting. That's how I began to understand that chaplaincy might not be up my alley, but that's ok. It will certainly be a part of my ministry and I understand that, but I see now why CPE entails a lot of self-understanding, sometimes more so than calling it job training.
The other big thing that I'm learning is that self-care is ok too. In fact, I'm finding that the more I practice my self-care the more effective my visits are. I really burnt myself out early on, thinking that I needed to work work and work to get my face into every room I was assigned. We had short introductory conversations that didn't really seem to delve too deeply into any sort of concern or topic which was on their mind in a significant way. All of that changed as I modified my routine to include more practice of self care. Leisure reading, working out, watching movies, playing games, and resting have all contributed to a deeper interaction with my group members and residents.
Aside from these wonderful lessons, I have also been wrestling with conceptions of God, worship planning, understanding and ministering with people with cognitive impairments of multiple kinds, and other, you know, trivial stuff :P
All in all, it's been a pretty significant summer in Hyde Park and I have to say I feel more affirmed for it.