Front I’m Moving Forward On: Chaplaincy Training

As I go into this next phase of my life, there are four fronts on which I’m moving forward:

  1. Chaplaincy training
  2. Wilderness spirituality
  3. Changing my work
  4. Envisioning and documenting all this

I’ll give each of these their own post. Because each one can handle it.


While the whole of this transition feels like a leap of faith, the chaplaincy component is maybe the most easily explainable, at least to the degree that it fits into the category of “Career.”

A while back I worked for an organization that promoted professional and high-quality language interpreting in medical settings. There weren’t any real laws governing practices in hospitals at the time, and as a result there were 13-year-old boys interpreting for their mothers’ gynecological exams, and Laotian janitors being brought in to explain to a patient that he had lung cancer. Everybody agreed these weren’t good practices, but since there were no laws in place, most institutions didn’t budget the money to do it differently. The state organization I worked for (California Healthcare Interpreting Association) was collaborating with other states and national organizations to set standards for health care interpreters, then testing and certification, all with the hope that State and Federal entities would adopt their protocols and require health providers to have certified interpreters deliver standardized and professional services.

As I understand it now–which is only a little–the chaplaincy field is two or three laps ahead of healthcare interpreting. There doesn’t seem to be any government standards, but there is a field standard, although it’s changing all the time.

  • Hospitals require chaplains to be certified with 4 CPE units (Clinical Pastoral Education) and generally to also have a Masters of Divinity and be ordained.
  • MY understanding–and this seems to be changing day by day–is that hospices (where I want to work eventually) currently vary from institution to institution, but usually want between one and four CPEs, but generally don’t require the M.Div. However, I am on a three year transition plan, and all that could change, and I hear that it is.

There is one main agency that seems to oversee certification of the hospitals and other sites that do CPEs, the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, funnily enough, and I’m working on their application form right now.

The application is deceptively complicated. Besides some other informational forms and fees, It has five essay questions:

  1. Give a reasonably full account of your life. 
  2. Give a description of your spiritual growth and development.
  3. Give a description of your work (vocational) history.
  4. Give an account of a “helping incident” in which you were the person who provided the help.
  5. Give your impressions of Clinical Pastoral Education.

I thought this would take me a week. I am in month two. I’ve gotten #1 down from 35 pages to 10 and want to get it to five. I’m throwing out the whole thing I did on #4 and need to come up with a new incident. The whole thing needs to be revised.

I rarely wish I was young again, but if I was, there would certainly be less to write.



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