Recently in seminary Category

"I will argue that the postmodern church could do nothing better than be ancient, that the most powerful way to reach a postmodern world is by recovering tradition, and the most effective means of discipleship is in the liturgy."

James K.A. Smith, PhD., Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?; p.25

Richard Norris

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Canon Dr. Richard A. Norris, Jr.

Died, Friday evening, April 22 at his home.

Graduate of The General Theological Seminary and Professor of History and Historical Theology 1964-1977. In recent years, Visiting Professor of History and Historical Theology. Professor Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary.

I noticed over the past few months that he seemed to be slowing down (even beyond his normal slow pace). He was a brilliant man, and this is a true lose for the Church. Now, I am sure he is lecturing up in heaven, after being straightened out a bit as we all shall be.

Remember thy servant, Richard, O Lord, according to the favor which thou bearest unto thy people; and grant that, increasing in knowledge and love of thee, he may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Me in Latin

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I have to submit information for graduate, already! The GTS diploma is amazaing and spectacular - all still roll-printed by hand and in Latin from nearly 200 year old plates.

So, we can have our first and middle names printed in English or Latin. What the heck, why not Latin!

Rovertum Leonem Griffith, Jr.

Robert: is an English name meaning "bright fame." From Old German meaning "bright famous one."

Leon: Greek form of Leo (Latin) meaning "lion."

Griffith: is the Anglicanized form of the Welsh name "GRUFFYDD." From Old Welsh "Grippiud." The second element of the name derives from Welsh iud "lord, prince" but the first element is unknown. Gruffydd ap (son of) Llywelyn was a Welsh ruler who fought against England in the 11th century but was eventually defeated.

So, I am really Bright Famous Lion Prince, Jr. Or, something like that.

That's kind-a fun. I cannot believe nearly three years have passed.


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It is finished! All done with the final set with an hour to spare. The last set, the ethics question, however, was a total wash! I finally had to say that I had no clue, and I just wrote what I thought. The person proctoring our exams asked me, "Where is your bibliography?" I had to say, "I didn't use anything but my own thoughts." I am probably in big trouble.

Frankly, all I care about is that I'm finished! Now, to find a job.

GOE - Sets 3 & 4

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I am brain dead! Our third and fourth sets are now over.

Each "set" relates to one of the seven canonical areas the Episcopal Church expects its priests to be familiar with. Each set consists of one or a series of questions to be answered in essay form. For half-day questions (6 in all) we have 3-1/2 hours to answer the question and are restricted to three single-spaced typed pages. For the single full-day question, we are given 7 hours and six single-spaced typed pages.

The seven canonical areas are:
+ The Holy Scriptures
+ Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement
+ Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology
+ Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
+ Studies in Contemporary Society, including Racial and Minority Groups
+ Liturgics and Church Music
+ Theory and practice of Ministry

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is a day off. We resume the GOE's on Thursday, which is the full-day set on the topic of Theology. Only two more days!!!

I was a bit concerned about the second set (question) we had to deal with yesterday. We were allowed no reference materials whatsoever - nothing, just our grey-matter. I think I did well, but we shall see.

Two sets today, the first coming up in two hours. We have a tradition at GTS where the juniors make breakfast for the seniors during the GOE's. They did a great job yesterday, and I'm about to have another round.

I'm reading through Romans right now, and I keep coming back to the Law, as in the Levitical Code. I simply see nowhere in the Christian testament where we are called to observe the Levitical Code. We are not under the Law! Jews, yes, Christians, no. Read Paul's letter to the Galatians!

So many conservatives strongly desire that we adhere to set rules, as the Law prescribes, but as Christians we have only two: 1) Love God with our entire being; 2) Love our neighbors as ourselves. That's it! In those two is the summation of the Law and the Prophets, but we are no longer bound by the Code. This is why, I think, many conservative Anglicans want to return to strict adherence to the 39 Articles.

In fact, much of the Moral Code will be lived out by default by simply living into the above two; the Law will be written on our Gentile hearts, so to speak. That is different than saying we are bound to obey the Ceremonial Law, the Moral Law, or the what is it called???. This means ambiguity. Some people simply cannot abide in ambiguity.

The other problem faced by those who say we are still bound by portions of the Levitical Code is the cafeteria-style manner in which they pick-and-chose which specific laws to demand obedience to and which ones to discard. Many say Christians are still bound by the Moral Law, which Jesus brought with him into the New Covenant. But, even if that is the case, which I do not believe it is for Christians, most conservatives will still pick-and-chose which of the specific moral laws to demand adherence to and which ones to ignore. And they do ignore many of them. It is too convenient, and too easy.

I'm not a liberal, but I'm becoming more convinced that I am not a conservative, either. A "moderate," perhaps, but I really think all the labels are breaking down. And of course, those who cannot abide in ambiguity or change or uncertainty will not be able to accept anything breaking down.

GOE, Set 1

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Okay, the first question of this year's General Ordination Exams is now over. Liturgy and Church Music is the second set for this afternoon. No reference books or materials are allowed, which should be interesting! Six more sets to go, and four more days.

The Last year

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Today begins Orientation for the class of 2007. I went to chapel this morning for Morning Prayer for the first times since spring, and it felt good to be there with the new Juniors. I so vividly remember (easy, since it was only two years ago!) sitting in chapel our first day - everyone was dead quite and everything very still. I smiled, because all I wanted to do is break the silence and uneasiness by doing or saying something silly. Three years of study, relationship building, challenge, frustration, and excitement lay ahead. Now, two short years later, I look at the new Juniors and know what is going through their minds, feel the uneasiness over what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. In 45 minutes we head to the Refectory for lunch - new chief, no more water streaming down the walls, no more soot falling all over everything, and we begin again the ritual of communion with one another.

I have been involved with new student orientation in one form or another for the past 20 years, and this is the first year I am not. It feels funny - I feel like I need to be doing something, and I feel a bit left out. The experience of seminary, and particularly of General, is remarkable. I think much of it is unhealthy and unbalanced, but hey what do I know? We make it through and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

I am feeling butterflies in my stomach. Why? Because, being my last year, everything I experience from day-to-day will be the last such experience of seminary life and M.Div. degree preparation. It is all leading to GOE's, graduation, and (gulp!) being a priest in Christ's one holy and apostolic Church. Our attention and vision will increasingly leave this place and be focused on other things. This is all good, of course, but I have no idea what I will be doing, no idea of where I will be going, and suspicious of whether I will find a position. This is also the year that all hell will break loose over the controversies of the past year. The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Communion are in for a very bad year, I fear, and both entities could be very different come May 2005.

My God, what have I done? It is all too easy when there are three, two years yet to go, but when the last year has arrived and all things lead to an ending, it simply is not easy. I'm not ready. I know nothing. I could work for a non-profit. I could find another position working with students within a university. Being a priest, however, I just don't know. God help me! God help them!!!

CPE Final

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Yesterday, Thursday August 13th, was the final day for CPE. I am ever so glad.

The most significant moment of CPE, at least as of right now, has to be the following:

I walked up to my floor and got the census from the unit secretary. As I walked around the nurses' station, there was a man standing there who did not look too happy. I walked past him and did some paper work. When finished, I walked past the man once again and acknowledged him and he said, "Hey, I want to talk to you." "Okay," I thought, "what is going to happen here." He complained quite vigorously about the nurses who he said were ignoring him, being rude to him, and treating his wife badly. He said she had just been transferred from the ICU and had soiled herself. The man was trying to get someone to take care of his wife, according to him, and was getting nowhere. The issue was resolved and later that day I stopped in to see the woman.

She had been in the hospital for about two weeks. As I talked with her, I kept noticing the tube coming out of her nose and leading to a small reception tank. At first I was unsure what was going on, but as we talked I noticed a green liquid flowing through the tube out into the reception tank. There were green flakes passing through the tube as well. The woman had given birth two weeks prior to my first visit. Her baby was born with a high fever, so he was immediately taken to the NICU. The baby was big (9 lbs+), so she had a C-section. She quickly developed an infection that put her in the ICU. The green liquid was flowing out of her abdomine.

So, her baby was two weeks old and she had not yet seen him. She was so devastated and missed him so much. It was hard. She was very concerned because she felt her baby would not know how much she loved him and how much she missed him. I told her I would go down and visit her baby and tell him how much she loved him and missed him. I did that. The baby was beautiful (and big! - the nurse joked that they were going to take him home and put him right into pre-school). I prayed with the little guy and his nurse. He was almost over his fever. She was so thrilled when I went back to her room and informed her that I told her new son how much she loved him and how much she missed him. The patient had a huge smile on her face.

A few weeks later, after many visits, I entered her room to find her very depressed. Through a series of events, because she was not yet ready to leave the hospital and other reasons, her baby was taken to a foster home. She saw and held her baby once, but now she did not know when she would ever see him again. She had faith that her family would be back together at some point in the future, and that she had to heal, but she was so sad. After she told me what was going on, she looked at me and asked, "Can I ask you a question?" I said, "Yes." She then asked, "Why do you do this?" I was speechless. I could not answer her right away. For some reason, I had not thought of why I did "this" on a grand scale. Immediately, I was involved in CPE because it was a requirement, but her question was bigger then that.

I told her that I did "this" because through the very difficult times in my life I have always experienced God's presence, strength, and comfort. I did this because I have seen in my friends and family over time the same experience. I did this because I want people to know that even through their suffering and in what may seem their darkest hour that God is always there to help them, to strength them, and to give them comfort, despite the circumstances. So many people ask why God is doing this to them. I told the patient that I do not believe God does any such thing to people, but has promised us that He will never leave us or forsake us in the midst of our trouble, as devastating as the trouble may be, and that we can always rely upon God. I want people to know that. In a nutshell, that is why I did "this." She is so afraid that when she becomes well that her son will not know who she is. I told her that he will probably have to get used to her again, but that he will never forget who his mother is.

The experience with this woman and her son gave me the most authentic experience of CPE. With this incident, I felt the most connected with the patient in a very real and tangible way - I helped ease her suffering with the simple act of telling her son that she loved him and missed him. And finally, I was able to receive an honest and sincere question about why I did this kind of thing. A question from her that stopped me dead and caused me to reflect in the most authentic way yet about why I was sitting in a hospital room visiting patients whom I did not know doing what I could to help ease their pain and anxiety.

I prayed with every patient but one. I sat for hours listening to the most intimate details of patients' lives, had wonderful conversations, and read Psalms to patients who never regained consciousness. I grieved with families who lost daughters, cousins, friends, and husbands.

While I know that hospital chaplaincy is an important ministry, I also know that it is best left to those whom God has called to such a ministry. I am not one of those people. I am glad for the experience, but I am even more thankful that it has ended.

I visited my last patient on Friday. I cannot remember the last time I felt so happy that something was ending. I think hospital chaplaincy is an important ministry, and I know, from what patients have told me, that I made a big difference in some of their lives, thankfully.

It isn't so much that I do not like visiting patients - that is okay in-and-of-itself. This is not, however, my ministry. I am not enlivened, strengthened, or energized by doing this stuff. In fact, I am exhausted by it.

I have had the privilege of meetings some very interesting people. I have had the privilege of praying over and reading to comatose patients who had no one else present with them. I have had the privilege of being with patients when they died – with them when they passed, watching, waiting, present with the body even after all the doctors and nurses have left. I have listened a lot, talked a lot, and prayed a lot - all very worthwhile. I am just glad it is almost over.

I responded to a medical code one recent afternoon. There were 10 doctors and nurses working to revive the patient, a very emaciated elderly man with MAC. I stood outside the door for an hour looking in, the room filled with staff and equipment. I prayed for them and the patient. I talked with a couple of the resident interns and the social worker. At one point, one resident asked if I wanted to go in the room even while the staff continued to attempt to revive the patient, but I said, “I will be soon whether he survives or dies.” Survives or dies. I was there for the patient either way, even when the doctors and nurses could do no more for their patient. Who else will wait with a person when all have given up? He had no family that was willing to claim him. There may no longer be breath, no longer blood flowing, but this mass of chemical compounds was still wonderfully and fearfully made in the very image of God, worthy of dignity and respect.

So, next week is all about wrapping-up. Final evaluations will be on Monday and Tuesday. A memorial service, exit interview, and group lunch will be on Wednesday, then, finally, the Health Care Chaplaincy's final banquet on Thursday. That's it. My CPE experience will be completely over. Hospital chaplains do make an incredible difference in the lives of many patients.

Oh, I am on-call today until 11:00 pm tonight. Who knows what could happen between now and then...

God models for us in chaos.

"On Communitarian Divinity" (a book by an African-American theologian incorporating an African sensibility concerning community.)
- God is community all by God's self. (Yes, this is common)
- It is not good that God is alone. (This is an interesting idea for the "Why?" of creation)
- It is not good for human to be alone. (We are in the image of God)

We do not know how to be free! (Absolutely! So many Christians idolize the United State and believe themselves to be free, but they are not. We do not know how to be free, as God defines it!)

God is free to be...


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I had a visit with an elderly woman who is worrying something terrible about her husband. She is a Holocaust survivor. It was a privilege talking with her!

Two move weeks! Two more weeks.

I had a run-in with a resident-doctor last Friday. The doctor and the patient were speaking past each other, and at times the resident was speaking in a condescending and demeaning way to the patient. I called him on it. He didn't like it. He got his Attending and accused me of a variety of things. We worked it all out (at least I hope it is all worked out!).

This whole affair brought to mind the idea of the Art of Medicine and the Science of Medicine, and those who function within each domain of medicine and how they communicate to patients. The resident-doctor spoke well within the Science of Medicine - very technical, very specific, very dry with little or no emotion (accept when we was condescending, that is). The patient couldn't hear that, because the patient was in the Art of Medicine domain - feeling, sensing, etc. The resident, wanting to effectively communicate to the patient, needed to recognize this, but he did not. He needed to communicate within the Art of Medicine for the patient to truly understand what he was saying. Likewise, he needed to listen within the Art of Medicine so that he could hear what the patient was actually telling him. It is the doctorç—´ responsibility to bear the burden of understanding the best way to get his or her point across, and then doing so.

Anyway, the Art and Science of Medicine. To be effective, doctors need to be able to discern within which domain they need to faction to effectively communicate to patients. Just like we do, too, as chaplains!

We are finishing our mid-term evaluations. Yesterday, we met in Central Park, the day before at Health Care Chaplaincy offices, today, back at Roosevelt. I am completely exhausted! I have been the lightening rod for the past two days, and probably will be today. Why? Well, I have a strong personality, I am self-assured, I like who I am, and I don't think I am too off base in how I conduct myself. With certain people, all those things are bad things. According to some, I refuse to look at deeper issues because when critiqued I say, honestly, "I understand," and leave it at that, because I do understand. Well, because I don't use the right code words or gush emotionally I must be repressing something or denying some underlying pathology - who knows? So, I've been blasted the last two days (and one earlier time). And, of course, because I don't respond in ways they want me to respond, they assume I cannot be an effective chaplain, even though they have never seen me in operation. Ask the patients I deal with whether I am effective. They all want me to come back, so I suspect I must be doing some things right.

I think it is time for some of them to learn how to deal with someone like me, rather than they expect me to completely change my personality and learning style to reflect what they thing I should be. If they expect me to be able to respond and react in ways that they can receive, then they need to do the same with those like me.

Luke 10:25-37

"25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’"

I have been dealing with how to be a Christian hospital chaplain in a multi-faith ministry since beginning CPE. I have come to some sense of what feels somewhat comfortable, but still wrestle with this issue. To some degree, the issue has been moot because most of the patients I have encountered have been Christian. With a couple particular exceptions, I have had very good conversations dealing with their beliefs. My role has been more an inquisitive inquirer rather than giver of pastoral care (at least it seems this way), although in one particular example the patient seems invigorated by explaining his beliefs and the deep meaning he feels.

I can be, and really should be, however, in the hospital to ease the pain and help dissuade the fear and anxiety that some patients feel. While I may not be able to be about “the cure of souls” as I conceive of the ancient concept, I can ease their fear or loneliness. This will not apply to every patient, obviously. I can be of help with patients in the same way I can help feed the poor or cloth the naked. I can show the person that there are those in the world who do care.

This approach further demonstrates to me that this is not my ministry, but that is beside the point. All of us who claim Christ, and I can only speak for Christians, should be as was the Good Samaritan – helping the stranger when few others will. The patient is the stranger; we are the Samaritan. We should all be like the sheep at judgment – doing that which is loving and compassionate to our neighbors and not knowing nor caring whom that person may be to the point where we do not even realize what we are truly doing. (Matthew 25:31-46)


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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.

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.

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.


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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.

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!

Church History

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Professor Dr. Bruce Mullin is a phenomenal lecturer. I love Church History, but whenever class is over I am simply brain dead. I want to get down everything he says.

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