Monday, August 19, 2013

Remember that CPE is to Ministry what the Woodshed is to Jazz…

So in jazz, and realize I am not a Jazz musician just a fan, woodshed is a verb. It means to practice one’s musical instrument. More specifically it is that really dirty, messy, not so pretty form of musical practice best done in a woodshed in an isolated area. It is the hard requisite work necessary to get to know an instrument and how to play it so that one can perform well. On the actual day of the performance the only woodshed stuff the audience is going to hear is when musicians make sure they are in tune, warmed up, and ready to go.

CPE is basically the ministry equivalent to the Woodshed. It is really dirty, messy, and not so pretty and best done with a group of people you will never see again in an isolated area far away from one’s actual ministry. It is the hard necessary work to get to know oneself and how one reacts to crisis so one can perform well. In the actual midst of working with someone, a known individual with whom one has regular interaction, the only CPE stuff this someone should see is that the pastor is listening, available, and ready to be there.

In my personal experience there are four times I want someone to engage in “reflective listening”:

  1. I have never met the person before and they are learning about me in the midst of this crisis.
  2. I am in the midst of a confessional booth and the priest is seeking clarity.
  3. I am fully in the midst of crisis and obviously need some one to help me hear myself think but there better be some deescalation in addition to reflective listening.
  4. I am opening up with a person about something for the first time need to be sure they hear what I am saying.

Otherwise what I want is a companion and a natural conversation around the issue at hand. I want the minister to truly listen to me, I want the minister to not be reacting out of their own baggage… aka I want, need even, the minister to have gained the core skills brought about by CPE. What I do not want is to feel like verbatim fodder. I do not want to be a time to catch up on rusty listening skills. Most especially if I am interacting with the minister on account of their faith tradition then I do not want a series of responses that do not involve the critique and advice that tradition holds and would form me towards in relationship to the issue at hand.

I might be half way decent at analyzing people, but if someone is coming to me seeking analysis they need to go elsewhere. It is not my job and for the ordained it is against the canons of the Episcopal Church to dally there. I need to be able to listen, I need to at least know where the handle on my baggage is, but I also need to be me and connect a pastoral conversation into the greater relationship I have with a person. Overwhelmingly I need to be doing ministry with them not CPEing myself at their expense. If I need to CPE myself then I need to go back to the woodshed. 

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