Pastoral Report Articles 

  • 19 Nov 2013 10:07 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    The gathering of the CPSP Community for its 24th Annual Plenary will occur March 30 through April 2, at the Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

    A block of rooms has been re-served at a special rate of $119, single or double, per night. Reserve your room online today by clicking on this link: Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel, or call 800-325-3535 or go to the Sheraton Oceanfront website.

    Please download the 2014 CPSP Plenary Brochure listed below for detail information.

    Make your reservations now!!

    Please contact Krista Argiropolls if you have questions.

  • 18 Nov 2013 10:14 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Now "hear" this... The issue is not about getting too comfortable. The issue is so impressive upon our consciousness that we must ease into it and take a bit of a circuitous route.

    Cyber technology and social media have conspired with some practical constraints to stimulate numerous changes in the practice of psychotherapy. Many people expect, or are prepared for, different dynamics from professional helpers than the usual 50 minute hour in an office that is rather emotionally plastic, even if the seating is wool and leather. There are movements to involve active computer interaction and diagnosis, as well as remote treatment, such as using Skype, etc. Insurance companies and clinical ethicists are striving to provide guidelines that are economically self serving and avoid undue liability. And of course, this is all in the name of providing the best care to patients and clients. Oh, Sigmund...

    I have always delighted in the fact that he was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud. Just the sound of that name is stirring and evocative, and even joyful... As my own hearing has deteriorated a bit over the past several years, sounds are increasingly treasured. Over the years I wondered, as we often do, which sense I would rather be without, my sight or my hearing, and I usually concluded I would prefer to lose my hearing; I could not contemplate the question if the matter was considered a condition from birth. I then remember my first CPE supervisor, a man who had lost his sight as an adult and was a marvel to watch as he ministered throughout the large hospital where he was in charge of pastoral care.

    Sigismund Schlomo...The sight of the words means little, but the sound of them is marvelous. And is it not also the case when people want to be "heard"? No one yells at their partner that the problem is that the dumbbunny didn't "see" him or, you are a jerk because you didn't "hear" me!

    Neurologists and neurophysiologists have remarkable opinions about the operations of the brain. Is the occipital cortex more complex than the auditory cortex? The occipital cortex seems to be better understood, but the auditory cortex may be far more complex in many ways. I would suggest in simple terms that the ears "see" far more than the eyes "hear". I believe that to be true.

    In the therapeutic interaction, some have tried to include other senses such as touch, which has been heralded by many women as important. Documented abuse has addressed both men and women as perpetrators, and in any case, physical touch has been essentially proscribed from the professional psychotherapeutic interaction. Touch is out... Taste is out... Smell is ambiguous... So, we are left with sight and hearing.

    In 1998 I began providing psychotherapy to persons who were not physically in my office. I had very specific conditions for this activity, which have eventually been incorporated into the standards of practice that are present today for pastoral counselors, marriage and family therapists, and a variety of clinical fields where such encounters are considered.

    What became especially interesting was the experience of phone therapy vs. the emerging experience of therapy facilitated by developing technologies for video-conferencing and the evolution of widely available tools such as Skype. I began to observe an apparent contradiction. The supposed transparency and intimacy and engagement provided by the union of simultaneous audible and visual communication was not effective. It was illusory at best. The cases that used this advancing technology were less effective and intimate and engaging than the cases that relied on phone contact alone. The cases that employed only phone contact were more intensive, more transformative, and the patients sought to continue more in their exploration of their issues.

    Could it be that, despite my need to raise the volume a bit, the cases that relied entirely on our non-visual interaction were more effective and productive and intimate and therapeutically significant? What about the importance of trying to "read" the non-verbal indices that are part of the visual portion of the vaunted audio-visual encounters?

    When I presented this material in my collegial supervision and consultation, it became apparent that I had been putting more emphasis on MY ability to perceive what was presented through the screen and speakers in front of me, instead of experiencing the patient's revelation of personal and transferential information. I seems I had lost my therapeutic perspective; something about the media had seduced me or misdirected my attention.

    There are several cartoons in my office that depict caricatures of clinical practice, including one where Schlomo is sitting behind a fainting couch. The caption is irrelevant but the image is a priceless reminder of the power of evoking the free expression and transference of the patient. No visual contact was required or desired. The transactions were oral and audible and unfettered by the body language of the patient or the visage of the therapist. Yes, "unfettered"...

    I currently have patients in several parts of the United States and in Germany and Italy. In every case I utilize only the audible expression of content and interaction. In these clinical engagements I am as close to the "couch" as is possible in today's world. In my current office visits with local patients, I am beginning to encourage less and less face to face interaction. More content is being elicited in this shift, which I find amazing despite my journey as a clinician for over 35 years. I am ready, for many reasons, to make the "case for the couch".

    I could go on for many paragraphs with more evidence, but all I would be doing is promoting truths there were evident over a century ago. Yes, it is not the patient who resists, it is the therapist, and therapist resistance is furthered by the ego of the clinician who needs to believe he or she is a real person in the process that heals the patient. We are functionaries, albeit ones that must be as well prepared and crafted as is possible. In the Christian tradition, we are at best the fit vessels of spiritual forces greater and more vital than we can ever imagine. We are most effective when we are an extension of the ego of the patient in crisis as he or she becomes the patient in process and the patient in victory. Schlomo the Jew did it in the context of his own belief or non-belief, and we can certainly strive to do as well.


    William Scar
    Diplomate, CPSP
    Diplomate, AAPC
    Approved Supervisor, AAMFT
    Program Director, Good Samaritan Counseling Center/SCIC

  • 12 Nov 2013 8:06 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Clinical Chaplaincy is relational, neutral and non-judgmental. It is a patient centered approach in keeping with the person centered model as advocated by Carl Rogers, integrating the arts and sciences relative to psychodynamic theory in pastoral practice.

    Around any illness is a collection of stories. The chaplain endeavors to be present to the patient as a fellow human being, as the patient’s stories unfold; bearing witness to the patient’s dilemma- not judging the patient for what they say or how they choose to express themselves. This narrative approach places the chaplain in the unique role as the interpreter of metaphors, assisting the patient in making the connections to their story.

    At times these stories are confessional in nature, as a patient, through narrative seeks to reconcile themselves with the life that they have lived. At other times, the stories they relate represent more a review of their life inextricably interwoven with finishing the business of living.

    Consequently, clinical chaplaincy is a patient centered narrative approach. Integral to that, is the patient’s family. Working with the stories that patients and families share, the clinical chaplain can begin to assess how the family approaches illness, and in particular, this hospitalization.

    The Clinical Chaplain also assesses how the patient utilizes their religious experience or their philosophy of life as a means of support as they seek to come to terms with their diagnosis and its attendant ambiguities of living each day.

    Extensive clinical training and a proactive integration of the social sciences, especially in the fields of counseling and psychotherapy is essential to the work of the Clinical Chaplain. 

    George Hankins Hull, Dip.Th, Th.M.
    Director of pastoral care and clinical pastoral education at UAMS Medical Center. He is a Diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy and a board-certified clinical chaplain.

  • 12 Nov 2013 7:58 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    UPDATE: Hundreds of survivors were moved to Manila, where the local churches are now overwhelmed. They quietly lament “we have lost everything”. There was a report of a woman whose family members survived Haiyan, the worst typhoon on record; but then later died from starvation. The little island they lived on was completely devastated and no help arrived in time to bring them food or water.

    Our CPSP colleagues have been training chaplains in Baguio to be ready to go to Manila to provide support. The needs are endless.

    Many generous donations have been coming in and we thank those who have already donated but we need additional support. Please consider sending a donation today. Any amount you can afford will make a BIG difference.

    The New Amsterdam Chapter, New York with the Philippines team is committed to bringing help and healing to our typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors. 


    Relief For The Philippines

    The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents' arms. 

    Haiyan was one of the most intense typhoons on record. This storm left catastrophic and unimaginable destruction behind.

    Emergency Support

    The New Amsterdam Chapter is organizing a relief effort along side our CPSP Philippines colleagues. The CPSP Philippines will distribute funds collected along with non-perishable items to the places where they are most needed.

    The New Amsterdam CPSP Chapter requests your assistance by donating canned goods, clothing, toiletry items (shampoo, medical supplies, etc.), along with cleaning supplies, learning materials for children, or monetary donations.

    Please bring or mail clothing, and non perishable items to:

    Barbara A. McGuire
    3207 William Street
    Wantagh, NY 11793

    Questions? Call Barbara at: 516-316-5629

    All checks need to be made out to:  CPSP (Philippines Relief Fund)

    Mail checks to:

    Barbara McGuire
    C/O CPSP - Philippines Relief Fund
    3207 William Street 
    Wantagh, NY 11793

    All donations are greatly appreciated and will go directly to the people via our CPSP Philippines colleagues.

    Thank you!

    The New Amsterdam Chapter: 

    Barbara A. McGuire, Cesar Espineda, John Jeffery, Geof Tio, Susan McDougall, Sergio Manna

    Barbara A. McGuire

  • 07 Oct 2013 8:09 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Orlo C. Strunk, Jr., Ph.D., former Managing Editor of The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling (JPCP) died September 24, 2013.

    Dr. Strunk's contribution to and leadership in the clinical pastoral field was considerable.

    In April of 2011 the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) honored him with the prestigious Helen Flanders Dunbar Award with Dr. Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD presiding over the occasion.

    The Pastoral Report published Dr. Powell's presentation. Embedded in the following remarks was Dr. Powell's keen observation and appreciation of Dr. Strunk's uniqueness and ability:

    To say that our honoree has been open to new ideas – and new ways of knowing – about a great number of things – would be an understatement. A “comprehensive and authentic understanding of religious experience and behavior requires a broad and inclusive kind of perspective.” Specifically, today’s honoree has discussed, with courageous persistence, open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness within the fields of religion and psychology, as well as concern about an uncritical/ unexamined acceptance of the Zeitgeist and various “isms”. Complexity, in this view, should be embraced, not avoided or rejected. “After all, there is no such thing as a unified psychology; and certainly to think of religion generically strains credibility. What we have, of course, are psychologies of religions.” Thus the newest Dunbar honoree, with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular. An episode ten years ago especially stands out, but there were others: an early book [1982], for example, was dedicated to “those adversaries who unwittingly reminded” today’s honoree of a core value – privacy. 

    For many of us in the CPSP community and beyond take heart in Dr. Powell's assertion that Orlo C. Strunk ... with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular.

    Perry Miller, Editor
    Perry Miller, Editor

  • 26 Sep 2013 8:38 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    Tolerance and Encouragement: Making Room for Divine Presence – instead of “Paging” Him or Her Interfaith? Multi faith? Engaging Others in Their Faiths

    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD

    care, counseling, and psychotherapy 
    become “pastoral” – or even “theological” – 
    when there is “trialogue” – 
    when the discussion between a clinician and 
    a suffering, bewildered, or vulnerable soul 
    allows enough silence for both to 
    be aware of divine presence and
    be open to divine insight.

    Such was the view of Wayne Edward Oates, PhD (1917-1999), a fascinating chaplain who knew the works of Sigmund Freud as well as he knew the books of the Bible. The notions of “interfaith” and “multifaith” chaplaincy probably did not mean much to him. Certainly the Rev. Dr. Oates worked with those who did not share his religious tradition – yet I have trouble believing that he would have considered such care, counseling, or psychotherapy as either “interfaith” – focusing on commonalities – or “multifaith” – focusing on differing beliefs. His work with others just “was” – just was work valued by both. Whether it was the chaplain who made room or it was the patient who made room for the Deity probably did not matter much to either of them – as long as there was “trialogue” – as long as there was Divine Presence in the midst of their work.

    In a nutshell, this is why I have very mixed feelings about the recent book, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, by sociologist Wendy Cadge, PhD. She is able to observe clinical chaplains trying quietly “to … create … sacred spaces …” in their work. She is able to observe hospital chaplains trying to assist “people at their most vulnerable” times. However, throughout the book, she somewhat scornfully rues the day that clinical pastoral chaplaincy was wooed down a bland interfaith path while she half-heartedly envisions that medically-immersed chaplaincy might embrace a multifaith approach. It is hard to be sure whether she does or does not respect professional chaplains – and one is left with the lingering suspicion that she does not. It would appear that she views professional chaplains, in their efforts toward political correctness, as having created the bureaucratic morass in which they now frequently find themselves. Furthermore, rather than respect that clinical chaplains are embedded within specific religious traditions, she would re-embed them within large (usually secular) universities having schools of medicine, theology, and public health, modeling their training and education more along the lines of that provided in nursing and social work. Only vaguely does she appear to recognize that financial issues have channeled – and still channel – the nourishment of professional chaplaincy.

    Cadge’s comments reflect, unfortunately, an almost entirely “New England Brahmin” view of the world – a fact of which she appears quite unaware. There is much not to like in this book – and I cannot really recommend it – but its wrong-headedness does stir up some thoughts. The good news is that the core chapters of the book are reasonably well-written. The bad news is that the two ends of the book are not. For me, bad grammar is distracting – as is voluminous name-dropping. “ ‘Paging’ God?” I certainly hope that the Deity – whatever one calls Him or Her – does not have to put up with the generally nerve-grating squeal of a pager. The title’s mildly sacrilegious tone did bother me. It is altogether another matter, for example, in my opinion, to have the gentle tingling of bells respectfully invite and welcome Divine Presence.

    Cadge’s book – intentionally or unintentionally – does end up framing the question of “interfaith chaplaincy” versus “multifaith chaplaincy” – or of the two versus “none of the above”. She chronicles the efforts, within the interfaith approach, to avoid offending anyone by emphasizing somewhat generic-content “spirituality” in contrast to emphasizing this or that specific-content religion. She also notes the rareness with which, within the multifaith approach, the beliefs and practices of different theological traditions actually are engaged.

    Some might say that hospitals tend to become more “real” in the wee hours of the night, as healers and those hoping to be healed are

    thinking and feeling together about
    the things that matter most, …
    [coming] through with
    a deepened sense of fellowship and
    a religious faith which …
    [comes] alive for them.

    Those, of course, are the words of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965), founder of the movement for professional chaplaincy. Cadge, too, suggests that, when most of the chaplains have left for the day, interfaith and multifaith concerns seem to fall by the wayside, as those of differing beliefs live out their individual religious commitments – usually with others’ tolerance and encouragement. The question remains: Has not much of professional chaplaincy, in allowing a growing emphasis on an areligious, secular, “meaning-making” notion of “spirituality,” ended up creating a clinical environment that “glosses over rather than engages religious differences”?

    Making “space for one another,” as “The Covenant” of The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy encourages, is one thing. Standing “ready to midwife one another in our respective spiritual journeys” – as it also encourages – is a bit harder – and something else. Can clinical pastoral chaplaincy move beyond “interfaith” and “multifaith” toward actual engagement of our brothers’ and sisters’ faiths – back, truly, to Boisen’s “thinking and feeling together about the things that matter most”?

    The following are the bibliographic details of the cited items:
    The reference in the opening highlighted comment and in the first paragraph is to 

    Wayne Edward Oates, The Presence of God in Pastoral Counseling (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986). See also, Robert Charles Powell. “Calling Wayne Oates! Southern Baptist Theologues Need You! Letter to the Editor of the Pastoral Report.” 24 Feb 2005. 

    The reference in the second paragraph is to Wendy Cadge, Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012); the specific citations are to pages 76 and 201.

    The highlighted comment in the fifth paragraph is from Anton Theophilus Boisen, Out of the Depths: Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960), pages 179-180. The Cadge citation at the very end of the paragraph is from page 196 of her book.

    “The Covenant” can be found at .

    See also, Robert Charles Powell, “Religion in Crisis and Custom: Formation and Transformation – Discovery and Recovery – of Spirit and Soul.” [click on “Materials”]; 

    (translated [2011] by Chaplains Rafael Hiraldo Román & Jesús Rodríguez Sánchez, with the assistance of Chaplain R. Esteban Montilla, as “Religión en Crisis y en Costumbre: Formación y Transformación - Descubrimiento y Recuperación - de Espíritu y Alma”; .)


    Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD is the leading historian of the clinical pastoral movement. Many of his published writings are posted on the Pastoral Report. Readers can use the PR's search engine found on the left side-bar to locate his articles. As a practicing psychiatrist, his writings reflect his daily investment in his clinical practice of providing psychotherapy and care to his patients. Contact Dr. Powell by clicking here

  • 17 Sep 2013 8:44 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    "Reconciliation," by Josefina de Vasconcellos

    We faced another crisis in the Middle East as we recently marked 9/11 -- with outcome uncertain.

    Last month I attended the dedication of a labyrinth I helped to build. Afterward, the pastor invited me to his Friday morning service when I told him I liked small churches (mine has 12,000). As we few men gathered the word "shul" popped into my head along with the memory of a dimly-lit room where I formed minion for two Jewish friends.

    I value Sacramental reconciliation and religious practices such as Yom Kippur and labyrinths that aid inner healing. We can help people with spiritual healing by accepting the efficacy of their own reconciliation, in words and in silence. A few years ago I found a kind of inner healing in my first labyrinth and visiting the grave of my fallen brother in France. We each heal differently. To require a standard of silence or word reconciliation could mean judging others who may already harshly judged themselves. The only standard for a labyrinth is in its own construction, not what goes on inside the person who walks it. I would like to become a conduit like that.

    As for the use of words, I rationalized my shul memory by retrieving an old review of Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome: "Perhaps the single most important idea in Percy's epistemology, expressed again and again in his essays and interviews ... is his conviction that impoverishment in the power to name experience causes a subsequent impoverishment of consciousness ... since it is only through language transactions with others that the self locates who and where it is."

    Percy struggled with unresolved loss for many years, as I did. Nations, too, struggle with grief and loss, as we did after 9/11 and still do after two long wars in the Middle East. If as individuals we struggle to name our experiences, we also struggle as a nation in our attempts to reconcile our losses. We use words and the silence of our being to locate ourselves among other "living documents" to whom we minister. I pray that nations will continue to do the same.


    Dominic Fuccillo is a CPSP Clinical Chaplain in Littleton, Colorado. Josefina's sculpture has been placed in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and copies are in the Hiroshima Peace Park, among other locations.

  • 10 Sep 2013 8:48 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    We are excited about the fall meeting of the National Clinical Training Seminar-East on Nov. 11-12, 2013 at San Alfonso Retreat Center, Long Branch, New Jersey.

    Our is presenter is Dr. Dwight Sweezy. He is a Diplomate with CPSP and a member of Princeton Chapter. Dr. Sweezy is an ordained elder Free Methodist Church of North America. He has 12 years of parish experience. He holds a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation. He attended a Summer Theology program at Oxford University. Ten units of his CPE training was in two mental health settings. He recently retired as the Director of Pastoral Services, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (33 years). There he developed a dynamic equivalent clinical pastoral program that has become a CPE extended resident program. He continues to supervise CPE Training Residents and Supervisors-in- Training. He is a retired US Army Reserve Chaplain (L TC) – 26 years. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Linda, who is a retired ordained United Methodist minister. For fun, he likes motorcycling, sailing, camping SCCA Solo racing, reading and bicycling.

    For three years, Dr. Sweezy served as a consultant for the supervisors in training at Episcopal Health Services, Inc. Far Rockaway, New York.

    As always, the National Clinical Training Seminar-East is a working conference built around psychodynamic small group process. Participants are to bring clinical work and life material for reflection and review with in the group process.

    Click here for additional information and online registration.

    Please make your plans to attend as together we address the theme: Mental Health Issues Impact Pastoral Care.

  • 10 Sep 2013 8:07 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    PROPHETIC VOICE - Pastoral Care Week is proud to celebrate it’s 28th year by reflecting on the Prophetic Voices in our daily rounds. Historically voices spoke loudly through pastors and chaplains – promoting self-awareness and social action. Today, chaplains are privileged to find the truth in small places each day….how does it speak?

    From the website: 

    The Prophetic Voice is always in our midst. It calls us to reach for action and peace - to sustain that which brings us hope, well-being, dreams, and renewal.  Like a seed caught in the wind - quiet and inconspicuous. It may be in disguise and mistrusted, yet it endures the foul weather and seasons to prove true. When acknowledged, it grows into a wise tree to shelter, nourish and teach us.

    (The 2013 logo represents this quieted seed.)

    Regardless of faith tradition, Pastoral Care Week celebrates those who provide pastoral care to others. It is endorsed by the Congress on Ministries in Specialized Settings (COMISS), whose members provide pastoral care in specialized settings such as hospitals, prisons, businesses, industries, long term care facilities, pastoral counseling centers, hospices, military settings, nursing homes, congregations of sisters, priests and brothers, schools, universities, and seminaries throughout the world. CPSP is a proud member of COMISS.

    Educate your community, colleagues, institutions and friends - many resources, including governmental proclamations, artwork, seminars and merchandise, are available for local celebrations. For more information, visit

    *The last date for ordering is this weekend - September 13th! Make your plans today.


    Chaplain Linda Walsh-Garrison

  • 03 Sep 2013 9:13 AM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

    I never would have believed I would be grateful to see a hand rail beside a toilet seat. Or feel cared for by a woman’s voice somewhere in telephone never never land instructing me on how to fix my TV. Nor could I have imagined the comfort felt in a nurse’s touch. 

    Such are the surprises when you fall and break your hip. Surprised by facts you knew long before but which must be lost and found again and again. 

    Six weeks after the “accident” it is hard to write about what happened, difficult to visit the scene, and remember again the details. It is nothing that dramatic really- a fall on the cement walk resulting in a clean break in the hip. Far worse things befall us. Nevertheless there is a darkness about it, images the mind resists. It is as if your system has been frightened and is trying to protect itself, still wanting to be done with the whole thing. Put it all out of mind. 

    Coupled with this reluctance, however, there is also the embarrassment of it all, the difficulty of facing the fact of your own carelessness. One old man in a rain storm on a step ladder. Could disaster be far off? It will be referred to as an accident but in your own mind you know it wasn’t; it was carelessness. And however many times you go over the details the end of the story is always the same. So you put on your hair shirt and beat yourself up about it. 

    But time passes and if you watch there are other moments, openings that arise as if by chance, that will not be sent away.

    By good fortune Norma was able to get me gathered up off the walk, into the car and to the emergency ward where the system worked –chaotically but superbly. In retrospect we should have called an ambulance but we didn’t. Within 24 hours, however, I was through surgery and repaired -pin, plate and all, forever after able to set off the beepers at security and give all the little folk in charge reason to be suspicious and feel useful. A live 77 year old terrorist. Even more fortuitously after a few days the hospital needed my bed and it was suggested I be shipped out to a physio program. Done. And here I am home -all in just over 3 weeks, getting better. Recovering to some state of normalcy will take longer but it will happen.

    I wouldn’t recommend the experience to anyone but now that it has happened and I have time to reflect on events there are stories to be told. There are three that I would share with you.

    1.Throughout the hospital stay and since then, besides expert medical attention, perhaps the most reassuring aspect of the treatment was what I would term the intimacy that prevailed at unexpected moments. That is to say nurses, doctors, physios, family members, yes and the cleaning lady and the barber, were able to come close, speak and most importantly touch, in ways that lifted the spirit. 

    The young doctor in the emergency room who came close, put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye and said “I think it’s broke but we will make sure and fix you up”, the nurse in the night who stood by the bed and rubbed my arm and asked what I needed, visitors who sat near my bed, hand outstretched to stroke my hand, the presence of my family –confirmed what I had known and talked about and even tried to teach but now knew as if for the fist time. 

    When you are lying in your bed in the night, troubled by what has happened and wondering how healing will occur, when you can’t take care of basic functions on your own and there is no alternative but to call for help, it seems to me you are returned to a state of early childhood. Certainly you are afraid, feel alone. One of the things that occurs on the battlefield is that a wounded soldier will be heard to call out for his mother. I don’t want to suggest that my state was near that severe but something of the same atmosphere prevailed. The usual layers of protection, bravado, assumptions about one’s dignity, were peeled away and like an infant in the arms of its mother I was grateful for a nurse stroking your hand and calling me by name.

    2. Soon after discharge from the physio program there was a dinner to which we had been invited honoring a friend for her accomplishments in the community. There was some doubt I would be mobile enough but, with a walker and some caution, we loaded up and departed. I should say that in an event like this suddenly little things assume an importance you don’t realize under normal conditions. Getting over a door step, up a stair or two and above all, navigating toilets become issues. How do you go to the toilet with some degree of dignity? The basic issue is how do you lower yourself onto a toilet seat and then raise yourself from it. Under normal conditions nothing to it. But in a public washroom with your pants at half mast and your hip complaining bitterly and with no nurse to give you a hand it’s different.

    As we entered the dining facility I at once took note of the toilet signs and decided to check things out to be on the safe side. It was with relief when I managed to get through the door and encountered a spacious room in which there was situated four toilets, one of which was reserved for wheel chairs. More than that in the wheel chair stall there was a toilet, raised a few inches higher than normal, beside which there was anchored a hand rail. How lovely is thy dwelling place, O lord of hosts. Under normal conditions such things don’t register, objects of interest in someone else’s world, but now you see them in a whole new light. With a handrail you can sit down with some confidence and in time raise yourself up, find your balance, and restore yourself, your pants in place and your dignity intact. 

    3. The first evening after arriving home I was all set to watch a football game only to discover that the TV was on the fritz, the settings out of order. There was no alternative but to phone the satellite company and get help. At the best of times this can be an ordeal. To begin with you often make contact with someone on the other side of the world whose English is often on a par with your ability in their native tongue. Or, equally difficult, you are greeted by a computer geek who speaks computerese well but English is quite another matter. 

    To my delight, akin to seeing a toilet with a hand rail, I was greeted by a woman’s voice, middle age I would say and who I could understand perfectly. She asked a question or two and then said to go to the machine and turn off the power. I told her she would have to bear with me as I had just returned from hospital with a broken hip and movement was an issue. As if she had just graduated from a course in pastoral care she stopped and asked what had happened, a note of concern in her voice, and went on to enquire as to how I was and to reassure me that I would not have to move again. She didn’t know what she had done and I did not try to tell her. 

    So what am I to conclude from all this? I could wax eloquent on the meaning that lies here. The theological openings, the opportunity to put in a good word for God, are endless. But I will spare you that. Rather I wish to express gratitude for friends and family, for professionals with a job to do, who were there, able to come close and touch and give expression to that inexpressible other that lies between us.


    Ron Evans is a CPSP Diplomate living in Saskatchewan, Canada is a a published author. He has frequently presented his poetry and prose at meetings of the CPSP Plenary as well as contributed articles for publication in the Pastoral Report.

    The following are two of his recent book publications:

    Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered