At no time in my life have I felt more palpable anxiety than at the beginning of my experience of clinical pastoral education in seminary. My first visit with a hospital patient went something like this: I said, “Hi. I’m the chaplain on the floor today. What’s your name?” The patient said: “Oh—well, nice to meet you. I hope you have a wonderful day.” And then I hightailed it out of the room.
Thanks to clinical pastoral education, I did get better at this ministry. I learned how to sit in silence when necessary, how to offer prayers, how to be part of difficult conversations in fruitful ways.
Core to my learning was writing up and discussing verbatims—written records of conversations in the clinical setting that approximated the verbal back and forth of visits with patients. In reviewing verbatims, pastoral interns learn how to share and invite people into more meaningful conversations.