One UCC pastor came back to the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC) to do Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) after years in ministry because he wanted to increase his skills in offering pastoral care to people struggling with addiction and living into recovery and sobriety. He had been mentoring an ex-offender who was living the Twelve Step way of life. His church had AA and Al Anon meetings in the evenings. When he did a unit of CPE with his placement at Hazelden it was not as relaxing as most of his previous sabbaticals but he said his growth was tremendous.
Instead of returning from sabbatical to enthusiastically encourage his parishioners “to overextend and over commit in another new area of mission” he instead was drawn to just listen more purposefully to his church members, what they were struggling with, surviving from, note their spiritual survival skills and witness their sparkling moments when they knew God was with them. He also worked The Steps for himself, reviewed parts of his own life story through narrative therapy, aired out some complicated story lines and came to see his hard won strengths in an all new way.
Transformational learning – that is what happens in the Social Justice based units of Clinical Pastoral Education at The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches. We began the CPE program in the prisons inviting pastors and seminarians into the cell blocks in 1998. Since then we have done CPE in close to 100 placements. They have included homeless shelters like Dorothy Day, and wet and dry houses like Glenwood and Evergreen, Refugee Services with families just arriving in the airport, a Trucking Company in Menomonie, a food shelf specializing in their work with Hispanic people who go without food on days they fear ICE will show up, drop in centers where folks living with chronic long-term mental illness find community at Positive Avenues in Eau Claire or at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Dignity Center in Minneapolis – places where all are welcome and pastors both seek to be healed and offer the healing care of listening.
We also offer CPE in many congregational based settings such as Messiah Lutheran, the church community that is our partner with Lutheran Social Services at the Center for Changing Lives (CFCL). The CFCL at 2400 Park Ave is our classroom and all of our CPE pastors, faith leaders, and seminarians become part of the ministry of bridging when they walk in the door there. On the marquis it says “Be Loved Here.” It is the place where all lives are changed for the better. Other partners are The Recovery Church, Redeemer Lutheran and Camden Promise in north Minneapolis.
We create CPE placements to fit the needs and interests of pastors and seminarians who have a sense of where their next learning, where their own next healing might come from, and what they are drawn to do in ministry. We also welcome ideas for placements and are looking for pastors to mentor new faith leaders coming out of the five seminaries in our area. Have a great idea for a CPE placement? Feel free to contact me by email!
…from Rev. Dr. Susan Allers Hatlie (pictured at right), Director of Pastoral Education at the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches and Minnesota Conference UCC Authorized Minister