June 2004 Archives


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Well, today's IPR (Interpersonal Relations) group got down and dirty, so to speak. Today's blowout was not nearly as bad as some I know of, and really it was working through some honest interpersonal problems between us (exaggerated, but honest). Some groups have to deal with extreme shouting, accusations of racism, and the like. We just have to deal with people who have issues with other individuals over misinterpretations or miscommunications that might have been better dealt with individually rather than being brought up before the whole group.

Today, I was the focus. I didn't remember a bit of important information from one of my fellow CPEer's Genograms concerning a relative. The relative died earlier this week. I asked, "Were you close with ____?" My fellow CPEer took my question as suggesting that this relative was unimportant, and also that I was insensitive for even asking such a question since the CPEer had gone over all that during the Genogram.

Of course, at that point it was an orgy of "How does that make you feel?"

I truly felt bad that my question, which I asked because I was truly concerned about my fellow CPEer, was taken as callousness and insensitivity. Of course, there is part of me that just doesn't care (which I think is a result of compassion fatigue!).

After four hours of group-work, didactics, verbatims, and the like, who in the world has enough emotional reserves and energy to start seeing patients?

There is no such thing as "summer-reading" this summer. I sit at my desk and see all the books I planned on reading this summer and realize I will read none of them. Can we say, "resentment?"

Two things happened this past week. A patient I was seeing in the ICU died. In a period of three months, she went from a woman full-of-life, as the doctor and the woman's niece said, to a triple by-pass surgery, to a leg amputation, and finally a stroke. I visited her most every day for about a week and a half - being present, holding her arm, reading scripture to her, and praying for her. I was unable to see her for three days over the weekend, and during this time she died. If I truly believe what I profess to believe, then this woman trapped in a body that no longer functioned well and gave her no way to communicate is now in the presence of God. Her niece said she was a strong woman of faith. How can I be sad for this woman? I am sad for her family who no longer has their sister, their aunt, but not for her.

The second incident: I encountered my first experience of what seems to be anti-religious bias. A unit nurse very rudely demanded to know who I and my supervisor were, what we were doing on this floor, who gave us permission to be there, and proceeded to hunt down the woman on the floor who functioned as a liaison between the chaplain's office and the unit staff. It was the psych. ward, so I understand that the rules are different and that there are different considerations, but I had been there four previous times and was there to see a patient with whom I already had a relationship. My supervisor said she was actually shocked at the nurse's response. She had never experienced such a reaction even though she had visited the psych unit's at both hospital locations without incident. The other staff seemed to have no problem with us being there.

The woman may not have had an anti-religious bias, but it is common knowledge that many within psychiatry view a belief system revolving around a "God" to be problematic to begin with. Then, of course, a clergy person could exacerbate a patient with a religiously based complex, etc. My supervisor said that hospital staff couldnÂ’t stop a chaplain from making a pastoral visit. The hospital pays for the chaplaincy office to be present and has stipulated that it considers the chaplainsÂ’ role in the care of patients to be important, so staff cannot stop pastoral visits by hospital chaplains.

Can I say that already I am over this whole experience, and we havenÂ’t even hit the mid-way point? Hospital chaplaincy is a vital ministry, but it is not my ministry.

Lust and Love

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An enteresting enty by Jason at Positive Liberty concerning a new study that comments on the link, or lack of, between lust and love.

Here is an update concerning the Eames Commission and the tact the anti-homosexual groups are taking.

Church of England newspaper article

hate 'em

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I hate verbatims. I hate reflection papers. I hate genograms. I hate doing stuff that I have no inspiration for, no desire to do, no real concern about whether I do well or not. That's CPE in a nutshell. I do the best I can with patients for the sake of the patients, and I like my fellow CPE'ers, but all this other stuff I can do without. Just painful.

A simple prayer

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May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

A true experience

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I’m up early again this morning. I don’t have to be, but I am. It just is. I figured I might as well read my e-mail and catch up on some of the weblogs I haven’t had a chance to read in a while. Jason and Jodie’s wedding CD was sitting on my desk – I remembered one of the songs that played from the CD during the reception. I was struck then, even in the midst of all the celebration, a quiet song, a worshipful song from Third Day – “God of Wonders.” So, I’m listening to the song.

I’m not sure how to put down in written form any of this stuff. Most of it is emotion, but the important thing is that which elicits the emotion. Not simply emotionalism, but the remembrance of being in the presence of God during the act of worship – that sense of the presence of God being strong, real, manifest – peace that surpasses understanding, joy unimaginable, better than the best dark chocolate. The Presence so strong you don’t want to move, you don’t want to talk, just be still and bask in the Presence of God that feels thick. The presence of the Spirit of God so real that no one wants to leave the place, like a refreshing far beyond anything experienced from the physical world. How I miss that certain kind of presence.

“God of wonders beyond our galaxy – you are Holy, Holy. The universe declares your majesty – you are Holy, Holy. Lord of heaven and earth, halleluiah to the Lord of heaven and earth.”

God, how do I do this? I don’t know how to do this? The beauty and transcendence of worship using all the senses is magnificent and honoring to a Holy, majestic, and worthy God, but without the interior sense of God’s presence – not just in the bread and wine – but here with us, surrounding us, enveloping us, manifestly present all about us is beyond anything seen by the eyes, smelled with the nose, heard by the ears, or bodily felt with hands or tongue. How do we have both – the worship experienced within and without? The Via Media? Is it within the “Three streams – one river” idea and experience?

I really do need to spend more time proof-reading these posts. I am embarrassed, but not really enough to make all things perfect. Oh well...

I have visited "C" in the ICU twice more. Her niece and 83-year-old sister were not there either time. Her hand was wrapped yesterday, so we could not even communicate through her squeezing my hand. That was distressing! She opened her eyes, but I had no idea whether she was actually responding to me or whether her eyelids were simply opening and closing involuntarily. How do we communicate? How do we know if what we are doing is helping or causing more harm or distress?

I told her I was simply there to be with her. I stayed about 1/2 an hour. I prayed for her and read more Psalms to her. I wish I knew whether she had some favorite scriptures to could read to her. As I read from the Psalms, I kept thinking that if her mind was still aware and active even in her physical condition, then I might actually be causing her more stress by reading of praising God and of God always being present with us, and the like. If she is in the place of distress with God right now, reading such things may cause her much distress, or reading such things could cause her great relief and comfort. I just don't know which it could be. A tear did come from her eye. I cannot image the kind of distress and fear, and possibly anger and bitterness that must be felt by someone in her situation.

Focus on the Family's CitizenLink is eliciting responses from Christians concerning their feelings and experiences of family – of family defined by a marriage between one man and one woman and their children. They have posted on their website a sampling of the responses received thus far:

Be Sure to See Our Special "Why Marriage Matters" Report

A few weeks ago, we asked you to submit your thoughts about why marriage matters -- to society as a whole, and to you and your family. We received more than 500 responses -- some of them humorous, some of them heartbreaking, all of them heartfelt.

We've compiled the top 25 responses, and urge you to read them by clicking on the link below. We hope they each shed a little more light on why this God-created institution must be protected.


Of course marriage matters. For this group of people, gay-marriage demands the destruction of the institution of marriage. Their conclusion, seen in the proof of the testimonies given by people as posted above, is untenable because of the belief that anyone favoring gay-marriage does not believe that marriage in fact matters. The institution of marriage will collapse if gay people are allowed involvement in the institution, according to anti-gay prohibitionists.

I have not read all the 25 responses. From what I have read, the conclusions drawn by anti-gay-marriage people do not necessitate exclusive male-female relationships. As more and more gay couples become visible and as more and more rational, stable, and mature children are raised in these relationships, people will see that the claims made by Focus on the Family and the anti-gay-marriage forces are not true. There may very well be differences, but even if there are differences, they cannot be known at this point. Will there be dysfunctional children raised in dysfunctional gay-relationships? Yes, of course. Does that then mean gay-relationships are always wrong and destructive to children and the men/women involved? No more then the relationships of dysfunctional straight-families producing dysfunctional children means heterosexual marriages are always wrong and destructive.

The lines of argument being used by anti-gay-marriage forces are simple untenable when seen in the light of reality – reality as determined by God as revealed in Scripture and humankind.

Here is an additional comment made by a bishop from Kenya from the AAC's "Plano West" conference:

'Radical individualism' cited

"Bishop Joseph Wasonga of the Diocese of Maseno West in Kenya received a standing ovation when he addressed the gathering.

"We know we need to walk hand in hand with you as you bring the light of the Gospel to your country," he said amid cheering and shouting. "We will not receive money from anybody not acknowledging the authority of Scripture and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life."

That's fine, except very few deny the authority of scripture or the Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life." Some do, yes, but what the bishop means is that if anyone disagrees with his interpretation of scripture (or the theological tradition he adheres to), then they do not hold to the authority of scripture. There is no possible difference in scriptural interpretation allowed, which is quite contrary to 500 years of Anglican tradition. In fact, it is a denial of the Anglican ethos to demand a single, enforced dogma of scripture - we are not the Roman Church and we do not have a magisterium in Anglicanism. Yet, these groups of Anglicans demand a redefinition of Anglicanism to conform to their particular perspective.

"No part of the Body of Christ is allowed to make a unilateral decision that affects the whole Body of Christ, that creates disunity and schism and we cannot say we are working together."

If the bishop truly believes this, then he must agree that Anglicanism is completely illegitimate because the Church of England was created unilaterally against the entire Body of Christ - the Roman and Eastern Church. He must also agree that Protestantism is completely contrary to the will of God, because it too continues to fracture through schism by taking positions that are not determined by the entire Body of Christ.

"We are all members of the Body of Christ and we must be subject to the lordship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Absolutely. He means, however, that to submit to the lordship of Christ means we must all agree with him and his theological position. Does he mean we must have one world church under one-world ruler? Do they honestly advocate such a solution? Under whom should all Christians worldwide submit? The Roman Pope? The Orthodox Metropolitan? Someone to the liking of the bishop and the AAC?

"We are not to conform to culture, to tribalism, to racialism, or the radical individualism found in the West."

Again, I absolutely agree. Yet, the position of the Episcopal Church decided in Convention (the only place where such position can be decided according to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church USA) is contrary to our current American culture. The majority of our culture is opposed to homosexuality, opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions, opposed to same-sex marriage, opposed to partnered gay people being ordained priests, and on and on. The position taken by the Episcopal Church is absolutely contrary to our culture, yet the bishop's and the AAC's claim is that by taking such a position the ECUSA has capitulated to the culture.

I also say that within the conservative Church a capitulation to the culture has occurred in terms of materialism, individualism, gluttony, and pride. Does the Church condemn divorce and raise millions of dollars to battle the evil and anti-family results of heterosexual divorce? No, because too many heterosexual Christians are participating in this evil and child-destroying activity. The hypocrisy does on and on.


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I listened to a message on the Chaplains Office voice-mail yesterday afternoon. It was a request to visit a patient in the ICU. I arrived in the ICU a while later and asked about the patient. I was expecting her to be present, but as the nurse described her situation I realized that she would be completely unaware of my presence. She had just undergone a cranial operation and was still unconscious. I walked into her room and saw all the equipment, the ventilator, four IV's containing various solutions, the bandage around her head with blood stains visible, her swollen eyes - I wondered what in the world I could do.

I did all I could do, all that a chaplain could do in a situation like that. I spoke to her and explained that I realized she could probably not her me. Probably, because I know of too many examples of patients that seemed completely unresponsive or unaware only to find out later that they did hear, they were aware in ways we could not have realized. Anyway, to explained who I was and said that I would pray for her. I did - several prayers. Then, I read to her a number of Psalms, beginning with the 23rd. I held her hand.

I do not know whether she heard me or not - probably not. Much of medical literature dealing with spirituality and prayer suggest that it does play a big and verifiable role in healing. I could not deal with the needs of her body. I could only deal with the needs of her soul, and I did all that I knew how to do. I pray that the prayers and scripture read aloud fed her soul.

I ended up not being able to visit my assigned floors yesterday. After visiting the patient in ICU I went to the family lounge to jot down some notes. I found a woman watching a soap opera and one thing lead to another. For the next hour and a half I spent talking with this woman about her aunt, who was also in ICU. We went to the aunt's bedside and prayed. The aunt suffered a stroke on Saturday, and while you could not tell she was aware from her face, she could respond by squeezing our hands. I held her hand, I prayed with her, I read to hear, and prayed again. She squeezed my hand at various times throughout. The connection was made, regardless of what we saw in her face.

Every household

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The "Plano West" conference ended last week. ENS (Episcopal News Service) reported on the meeting and quoted Anderson:

Anderson predicted times will get harder before they get better, and advised participants to stockpile diocesan and parish directories.

"There may come a time when the AAC chapter in your diocese may need to do direct mail into every home in the diocese, when they may need to replicate the local bishop's power to place a message in every living room," he advised participants.

For all the rhetoric from the AAC (American Anglican Council) and the Anglican Communion Network (Network of Anglican Communion Diocese and Parishes) that they are a part of the Episcopal Church USA and will faithfully remain so, with the glaring omission of a pledge to abide by the Canons of the Church, statements like those above simply confound these statements.

Because the elected leadership of a Diocese may not agree with the AAC or the Network and thus implement their policies and theology, then the AAC must go around the duly elected leaders and attempt to force their views by sidetracking the elected leaders with direct mail appeals. They are attempted to deny and usurp the authority of the Bishop by appealing to church members in the pews directly. The problem is that the Episcopal Church is not a congregational church - it is episcopal! It is a church of Bishops, and if the AAC attempts to force their views upon the mainstream church in this way they will be violating traditional Anglican understanding of the episcopate, authority, the diocesan structure, and the Canons of the Episcopal Church.

As much as they claim to be the true expression of the Anglicanism and of the faith handed down, they violate the very core of the Anglican ethos that calls all to wrestle with issues but remain together, to allow differences of theological opinion yet remain faithful to one another. Additionally, they are attempting to undo the very ancient organizational structure of the Church catholic and Anglicanism.

Their goal, as stated in the leaked memo months ago, is to usurp the structure of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA and establish themselves as head of the Church structures. They want to do the same as ultra-conservatives did in the Southern Baptist Convention years ago when they took control of church structures and expelled moderates and liberals.

I was on-call last night, and I am tonight, also. Last night, I think I did not set the beeper correctly, which meant all hell could have broken loose and I wouldn't have known a think. Of course, that is an exaggeration after all, but even if it were not there would have gotten through it fine without me.

I am in CPE to learn - I am a learner. As one of our fellow Episcopalians from VTS commented earlier today during our first IPR (Inter-Personal Relations) seminary, "we are the project." Tonight, the beeper is working correctly and I could be called in to the hospital at any time, but only under certain circumstances.

The other CPE'er and I who are assigned to St. Luke's roamed around Roosevelt hospital to familiarize ourselves with the place in case we are called-in. We spent a good amount of time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Man, the security is tight, but this little "Chaplain" badges get us in anywhere. These little, tiny babies - tubes, special lighting, clamps, incubators, naked, parents waiting, waiting. My goodness. So fragile. So helpless. So innocent.

Monday night while Ashton and I were walking in Chelsea after a movie, we saw a woman wondering around (I've seen her before), needle marks up her arm... pregnant. To think of this baby inside of her that must endure the trauma of his/her mother's tragedy is unfathomable. What heroine is doing to the development of that helpless, fragile baby made in the image of God, I cannot imagine. Yet, so many of those crack or heroine or coke or alcohol babies make it, and miraculously many are not seriously devastated. How? God, how?

Oh, and let me expose and express my FEELINGS about...


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I am having a difficult time "jumping right in there" and visiting patients. A couple of us from General were talking yesterday about how we, if we were patients, would not want someone coming into our room and attempting to do with us what we are being instructed/encouraged to do with patients. I feel as if I am intruding. It is different to enter a room and explain who I am and what the Chaplaincy Office can provide than to attempt to get people to emote.

For some odd reason, I have far less hesitancy when in the Emergency Room than when on my assigned floor. Perhaps it is the openness of the physical space in the Emergency Room - I don't know. I have prayed with every one of the ER patients I have visited.

I do know that I need to relax. I need to be myself, which I think may run a bit contrary to the wishes of the chaplaincy office. (I was told I verged on proselytizing when I encouraged a patient who was lonely a fearful of being by her self when returning home and who had a Christian upbringing to seeking out church or religious community.) I need to be more present in the moment ("Be here, now!"). I need to be more curious when patients do want to talk - ask more open-ended questions and follow-up on comments with more probing questions.

I am also having a hard time understanding my role as a chaplain. I am not from Psych who focuses on the mental aspect of a person. I am not a counselor who focuses on the emotions. I am not a social worker who focuses on physical needs. I am not a doctor or nurse who focus on the medical needs of a person. I am a chaplain, a religious and faith person. I focus on the soul. My job, as I see it, is not simply to try to get people to emote so they can feel better. I can do that, but so can people from Psych and social workers, and doctors and nurses for that matter. I am, as I see it, to focus of the development, growth, and strengthening of a person's spiritual life. Because the ministry is inter-faith, I will encourage them in what ever religion or spiritual community they want to be a part of, but I will encourage them to develop their spiritual life, to be faithful, to recognize the social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical benefits of a spiritual life not neglected.

If we are truly beings made up of body, mind, and soul (or however that dynamic is categorized or described), then let the professionals who deal with each do their work. If chaplains are to be respected as important members of a holistic health care team, then we have to be more than simply hand-holders or people to get family members out of the way so doctors and nurses can do their work. Chaplains can do such things joyfully, but I believe our role is as healers of the soul. However, some people are so afraid of offending people that they will forgo their freedom as representatives of "God" to speak into a person's life when deal with spiritual matters and the soul as doctors deal with the body and psychiatrists and therapists deal with the mind. I can't do that and be authentic, which means if I must then this learning experience will not help me to find my place in this kind of role, but rather simply cause me to suppress who and what I think I am.


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We are ending our first week of CPE. I have a great group of people, although I would have liked at least one weird or cracked-up person just to make things interesting. Actually, I'm thankful for a bunch of ordinary (!?) group of people.

I am placed at St. Luke's, a former Episcopal hospital directly across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. There is a wonderful chapel in the hospital, and generally chaplains are well integrated into the affairs of the hospital. I am assigned to the Orthopedics unit and the Emergency Room, which is one of only two Trauma 1 units on Manhattan. I am truly looking forward to working in the Emergency Room, and I do not really know why. I am at a disadvantage because I do not speak Spanish, although it does not seem to be a predominately Spanish population. We should actually see patients today.

I am dead tired when I get home. Eventhough at the end of last summer I thought I could have endured CPE with no problem, I think I was wise in listening to people who know such things and not doing CPE last summer!

Our CPE group is made up of Jews (one CPE'er and our supervisor) and the rest are Christian (Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and Methodist). Here is the quandary/issue for me: We try so hard not to offend that we deny the very center of our faith. Christians are encouraged not to proselytize - and that's fine, but to some simply using the name Jesus Christ is proselytizing. So, we do not pray in Jesus' name. But, that is the same as having a Jew never mention anything about Moses - that means the books of Moses, the Law of Moses, and so very much of the Jewish faith. Likewise, the Muslim not being able to mention Mohammad - it just wouldn't happen. So, why is there an expectation for the Christian to not mention or pray in the name of Jesus, etc.? To do so is denying the very core of Christianity in the same way as demanding a Jew not mention Moses or a Muslim not mention Mohammad.

There has to be a way of respecting one another's faith without demanding the core of that faith is denied.


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This morning I begin CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). I will work as a hospital chaplain intern for the next 12 weeks, and I'm not sure what I think about it. For some, it is a great experience, and of course for some it is not. We shall see how things fall for me.

This is going to be a very tight summer financially. I can't work because of CPE, and I will not have enough money to make it through the summer, all things staying the same.

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