Nurturing faith

For the past seven years, the Uniting Church’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program has provided pastoral training to minsters, lay people and students.

The program is offered through the synod’s John Paver Centre and run in collaboration with the Centre for Theology and Ministry. Participants come from a variety of work backgrounds – prisons, forensic psychiatry, schools, aged care and hospitals. It is open to ordained ministers and lay people, students and chaplains.

Jill McConnell participated in the program in 2015. She had previously undertaken another CPE program and was seeking an opportunity to refresh and enhance her pastoral skills.

“It’s a very intense structure of reflection, supervision and sharing in a small-group context. We look at our ministry practice, in particular our listening skills,” she said.

“We set our own learning goals and there’s a lot of writing, thinking and sharing in a supportive environment.”

As part of the course, Ms McConnell completed a placement at the Kildonan UnitingCare’s Pepper Tree Place. This is a community plant nursery in Coburg where families and communities come together to learn about fresh food.

“The volunteer-run nursery at Kildonan was a beautiful space,” she said.

“I became part of the group of volunteers there and nurtured plants and shared stories and food that the community is involved in. It was a lovely way for me to share my story and hear other people’s stories.”

A central part of the synod’s CPE program is exploring and developing participants’ eco-identity. Ms McConnell said participating in the program enriched her connections with the environment and made her more “switched on” to her natural surroundings.

This eco-ministry training has influenced her current work as a chaplain at a Prep – Year 12 grammar school. Every chapel service she runs incorporates an element of eco-ministry that helps students become more aware of the environmental concerns facing the planet.

“I highly recommend people do CPE,” she said.

“It’s hard work, but the more you put into it the more you get out of it. It’s just a beautiful thing to do.”

The 2017 program includes 400 hours of supervised pastoral care placements and education. The full-time unit will commence on 20 June and conclude on 30 August.

Successful completion of the unit can be credited as a subject for Bachelor of Theology degrees associated with the University of Divinity.

Applications close 31 March 2017. Click here for more information or contact centre director Rev Andy Calder  at P: 9251 5489.

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