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Geisinger School of Spiritual Care

Assumptions about ministry and clinical learning

Prospective students often inquire about the philosophical  foundations of programs to which they apply.

Discussion of underlying principles and beliefs is important. Supervisors and members of the GSSC SpiritualCare Advisory Committee have discussed and worked at putting into words the core concepts and values we hold. We thought it important to include them as a basis for dialogue with prospective CPE students.

  • Institutional ministry requires an ecumenical approach in which chaplains represent the total religious community. This spiritual care calls for chaplains to minister where  patients or family members are, with respect for the needs of those ministered to.
  • The pastor legitimately enters upon the sacred ground of another's spiritual life only with that person's invitation or permission.
  • Pastoral competency demands basic understanding of human behavior. Pastoral identity also requires consistent theological understanding of the human situation as the basis of effective pastoral diagnosis and intervention in persons' spiritual distress.
  • "Doing theology"  is seeking theological insight that arises out of pastoral encounter.
  • The work of ministry requires a mature level of self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • In crisis, persons tend to struggle with what they value highly and believe most deeply. Crisis often creates "loosened affectional ties." It moves people to trust and reach out to strangers; ministry, therefore, calls for a value system that precludes exploitation or manipulation of others.
  • The degree of intimacy in relationships tends to be limited by the person with the least capacity. The pastor's increased degree of comfort with intimate and feeling communication will enhance the depth of his or her ministry.
  • The chaplain's crisis ministry often produces powerful, personal learning.
  • Learning motivated by inner direction produces authentic, lasting growth. It  contributes to a student’s pastoral formation.
  • Ministry requires the evaluation and superintending of one's own work.
  • Pastoral development requires integration of conceptual learning with personal/professional insight and understanding.
  • The personhood of the pastor is a primary tool of his or her ministry. CPE's learning methodology therefore fosters self-awareness. Responsible ministry to the emotional and spiritual lives of others mandates that pastors continually work at self-understanding.
  • Pastoral identity insists upon understanding and integration of that person’s spiritual heritage and faith "journey."
  • Clinical learning requires the student's relative freedom from defensive barriers to critique and self-assessment.
  • Interaction with the peer group of students often has enormous impact on each member. Just as the group can be enhanced by the gifts of its individual members, so can it be diminished by any member's lack of honesty or  integrity.
  • Group issues of identity, belonging, power, and trust have commanding implications for the development of healthy intimacy in a peer group responsible for its own life.
  • CPE's interpersonal learning, including students' abilities to develop relationships with persons who are different from themselves, to see themselves as others do, and to critique peers fairly, is indispensable in the development of pastoral competency.

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