The Chaplaincy Course Final Essay
Rev. Anna M Pohl
We were asked to answer four questions for this essay. And what questions!
What did I learn from this course?
What helped me the most?
What could be improved in this course?
And What do we hope to accomplish after taking this course?
I'll tell you, I was hard pressed to know where to begin. It's been obvious through my posts along the way, that the discourses were thought provoking and that throughout I learned a myriad of lessons. I'll try not to repeat my posts to much here, while I attempt to express the value of what I've learned.
Each lesson gave me something new to explore and consider. They also reinforced so many of the things that I do use or believe. The subjects covered were to the point and I never found wasted space nor did I feel I'd ever wasted any time in anyway. I found the usage of the Gospel text made a huge difference to me in our study. This was not just as an example but as a meditative tool. A tool I used to digest the subject matter and one that made it that much more of a pleasure to study.
As I read through and took in each discourse, I appreciated how our instructor presented the points not so much as just a list of "should or should not do's" but with real care of getting his subject across to benefit the practice of the chaplaincy. This helped me as an individual and certainly assists us as a chaplaincy community.
One big thing that was given to me through this course was a new sense of Confidence. I was not only able to read about the subject of chaplaincy but was able to put into use the information from each discourse immediately. Each week I built a new more solid foundation for my practice. Be it the introduction of the history of chaplaincy or the real experiences shared by our instructor, each week built on the last. I now feel that when I chaplain for the community, I have a more coherent appreciation for what I want to accomplish and what I am capable of accomplishing.
A poignant observation that has transformed my ministry and budding chaplaincy was the discovery of Subtlety. This struck me early in the course, the subtlety of the attention, healing and prayer that was addressed, often only being implied. I consciously began to apply more subtlety or should I say the consciousness of subtlety in my practice. It isn't that I was so abrupt before, it's that making the conscious effort to use subtlety, has opened a subconscious door for the people I come in contact with.
For example, I have been more able to introduce prayer with them without the sometimes uncomfortable moment that occurs in the asking (for them and myself). I have been able to be available for people in such a way that they open up the quiet parts of themselves and they have a comfortably with me that they may not have had before. There is most definitely a moment that after the introductions and breaking of the ice that in most cases, we have no communication obstacles. This is quite something.
Hidden possibilities for chaplaincies are just waiting in our communities to be discovered. This is another point that became a realization for me during this course. You can find a person who needs you almost anywhere. This is connected to the subtlety I mentioned previously. The two make a very important point together. Chaplaincy, the Devine Mark or Spiritual Intention, all this, is not something we turn off and on. It is always there ready to be of use. It becomes a matter of how high we turn up the volume. Meaning that there really is a time and place for everything under the sun. And this fact, this gift and the discernment to use it is one of the most important things that God blesses us with in our being and experience as chaplains.
I would be completely remiss in this essay if I didn't mention the one thing that helped me most. It was the personal attention of our instructor. I found this was so necessary to my learning. I not only read the comments for my posts but those of others.
(Of course this means the forum was very useful as well.)
This added perspective and guidance is the most influential and valuable effort after the text. The hands on approach was priceless and there is nothing that can replace the knowledge that your instructor truly is a mentor also and cares about your success.
The added help that our instructor gave me with each post and question asked, and even when I requested an opinion of another class essay, was above and beyond what other instructors would have done. I can not offer enough of an appreciative thank you.
As for improvement of the course, the formatting didn't always come across but that is a minor thing over all. And there was a type-o now and then and editing here and there that were a bit distracting. Still the content is so solid that I would feel in error to say that anything needed to be corrected. I found myself wishing there had been more. Not because there was anything missing in the course. Look even at the Tool Box discourse. It was so thorough and left nothing to chance. Yet it also gave room for personalizing to your situation. There was allot of that in this course.
Another thing I particularly appreciated was that the discourses were not over written. Some classes I've taken before (at other Colleges) have been one repeat point after another and the course spends it's time with long lofty sentences that say very little. This was quite the antithesis of that. It was friendly but to the point and got right to the meat of our subject. This left very little for us to be confused by and left a great deal of room for creative thought, practical use and finding resources. Even the verbiage used, made internet searching much more effective.
Now, when I look at what I can accomplish with all this that is pretty amazing too. This course works so well with whatever other education and experiences we have acquired. As a truly non-denominational Minister I not only need to be, but want to be, as open minded and open hearted as I possibly can. This gives me the opportunity to help more people, but it first bolsters what I have to give the people that are sent my way. This course has "expanded my territory" in the best sense of the words. Whether I am working at the VA or I am at the Hospice Center if I am talking to a Bride and Groom or the new Widow I am more, so I can be more for them.
I thought when I started out, that I most wanted to create a center where people can come when they need help, a place to be counseled, to pray and be themselves with God. I have discovered that this won't be such a difficult thing to accomplish. What is wonderful about being a Chaplain is that you get to create that place for people where ever you are. We are able to make that "chapel" out of a restaurant booth, a bench in the park or an emergency site. We are the chapel. We are the sanctuary. We are God's temple, a living breathing example of what God can create. Whew! It's pretty intense for me.
This course helped me gain the perspective, experience and confidence to Know, not just think, that being a Chaplain is what I am strongest at. I know that a credential/title will help some others be more comfortable with me as a professional. However this course given by the seminary and our instructor combined with my efforts will allow me to live up to it.
What an extraordinary effort put forth by our instructor and the seminary. This is a truly useful education. To quote my Mother "If a course teaches you that's fine but if it makes you want to learn more, now that's good teaching."
Teacher, this is good teaching! I sure hope you have or will create more!
God Bless you. Anna
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