The Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program is not something to be entered into lightly.
The program, run by The John Paver Centre and based out of the Centre for Theology and Ministry, requires 400 hours of supervised pastoral practice and education.
“People are surprised by the emotional demands,” John Paver Centre director Rev Andy Calder said.
“It requires people to use both the head and heart to integrate what they are theologically thinking and feeling while trying to enhance their pastoral skills and practice.”
Participants, who can be lay or ordained, must do 200 hours of pastoral ministry with an onsite supervisor appointed by the program.
There is a wide scope for placements and previous participants have worked in congregations, hospitals, schools, prisons, forensic psychiatric treatment facilities and environmental agencies.
“The independence of the John Paver Centre from a health care service enabled more creativity of placement opportunity,” CPE graduate Jennifer Greenham said.
“For example I was able to be placed in a community mental health service and develop ongoing pastoral relationships with people who had achieved some stability in their lives.”
The experience gained from the pastoral placement forms the basis of journals of self-reflection that participants bring to group sessions. The group typically consists of six students and two supervisors.
“The underpinning of the program is that people bring written thoughts about their pastoral skills through self-reflective materials and the group works with it,” Mr Calder said.
An important aim of the program is to teach people how to expand their pastoral perspectives and develop listening skills.
“It is a rigorous action-reflection process focused on enhancing pastoral identity, skills and responsiveness,” Mr Calder said.
“We teach people how to push to one side all those other agendas that impact on their lives so they can be fully present for the other person.”
Senior prison chaplain Deborah Kotteck said this was something she had gained from the program.
“To provide pastoral care to another requires that you fully know yourself within an encounter so that you can be for and with, the other,” she said.
“This learning is an experiential journey that is fully explored in CPE. The course was for me, life-changing.”
Mr Calder said that participants get out of the course what they are prepared to put in it.
“We like to choose people who are really hungry to do it,” he said.
The 2018 program will be offered in the period September to December to people involved across the spectrum of community-based pastoral care.
Participants are required to supply evidence of an agency or organisation’s support for the duration of a placement.
Completion of the unit can be credited as a subject for Bachelor of Theology degrees associated with the University of Divinity.
Inquiries can be made to: Andy Calder, C/- Uniting Church Centre, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. P: 03 9251 5489 or E: email@example.com