Diversity in the Context of Clinical Pastoral Education

Our Clinical Pastoral Education and Chaplain programs are best described as a microcosm of the diversity of Beaumont - the ladies and gentlemen who comprise our organization and our clientele; patients, their family members and support persons, our staff, and our partners in healthcare.

Diversity in the clinical pastoral context is about something deeper than religious tolerance. It is about expanding individual horizons and broadening one’s notion of self in relationship with the other.

Clinical Pastoral Education is interfaith professional education for ministry. It brings theological students and ministers of all faiths (pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, and others) into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need, and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. From theological reflection on specific human situations, they gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, they develop skills in interpersonal and professional relationships.

We intentionally encourage and seek diversity among program participants to provide a framework for unity. We seek participants who can be "living human documents" to one another. To that end, we seek persons with diversity in its plurality of dimensions - ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, faith group, life experience, and national origin - to name a few. Simply stated, we recognize that the more we are diverse the more we have to learn from one another. 

This learning is important as we, as a teaching institution continue to define and redefine how to provide quality pastoral care and education in a changing healthcare environment. Through the integration of service and education we learn both about ourselves and about the needs of others.

  • Provide cross-cultural competency, freedom from prejudice, increasing understanding of culture, and the goals of spiritual work, which include psychosocial harmony, moral development, and enlightenment.
  • Create an environment of learning in which participants move beyond politically correct language and delivery of tips to demonstrate a degree of tolerance towards establishing a norm of extraordinary care.

We approach what we do with the understanding that our context for learning is one of vulnerability; patients come to us when they are confronted with a sense of the unknown, when they are at their most vulnerable. The answers they seek often go beyond the boundaries of the physical, to deeper existential questions.

Religion is a culturally-based expression of spiritual values. Diversity urges us to recognize and respect differences in spiritual practice primarily because each religion claims to hold the keys to a rich spiritual legacy, and often, life in the life hereafter.

Learning comes in the observing and honoring the other’s tradition and deeply held values; no attempt to convert those who are different or those who articulate or seek the spiritual in avenues, modalities, or symbols that are unfamiliar. In this process, empathy is created when one is able to hear the stories of the other and defer the critique.

A key component of this learning is the participant's reflection about the unique "presence" that he/she brings to the experience of caring. Often, those who enter the process evidence development of a degree of intimacy that transcends the casual or the duration of the patient’s hospital stay. Occasionally perceptions of a new shared reality are established and relationships are formed that lead to a fuller understanding of wholeness.