From the Executive Director’s Desk
By Trace Haythorn, Executive Director/CEO  |  June 17, 2019

I have come to think of April-June as “conference season,” a time when we and our strategic partners gather for professional development, community engagement, and fellowship. As I write this, I have now represented ACPE at the NACC, CASC and Society of Pastoral Theology meetings, and later this week I will join our Board Chair and Chair-elect, Amy Greene and Melissa Walker-Luckett, at APC’s meeting in Orlando.

On one level, it is easy to see the distinctive differences between our organizations. There are clearly histories, particular emphases, and current commitments that give each of us the clarity of mission that helps us thrive. In gathering with our Catholic colleagues, there are clear challenges within their faith group that they used time and space to address. They also have a remarkable and very present international representation at their meetings. The Canadians have much to provide ACPE as they have long gathered as clinical pastoral educators, practitioners and psychotherapists, a model much like our new reality. And the Society for Pastoral Theology (SPT) brings together the academic educators and researchers who teach many of those who will become CPE students and eventually counselors, therapists and chaplains. I expect to see many at APC who are advancing research in spiritual care, exploring new contexts for practice, and deepening the connections within the larger guild of chaplaincy.

On another level, there is a great deal of overlap in our meetings. Perhaps one of the most obvious experiences of this came for me at the SPT, where Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Professor of Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology delivered essentially the same address we heard at ACPE’s annual meeting. I heard many of the same concerns about the future of the field, questions about the implications of AAPC’s consolidation with ACPE for the larger field of spiritual care, and the ever-present questions about finances and institutional support. I heard concerns about an aging professoriate, attention to diversity and inclusion, and student debt loads. At the same time, I heard deep connections among colleagues, expressions of support for peers near and far, and a longing for more robust engagement between the different academic and practitioner groups.

In all of these places, I heard clearly how much individual and organizational identities are enmeshed – for good and for ill. These deeply connected identities give these groups a clear sense of mission and purpose, while they can also make progress difficult. While I didn’t hear the old institutional trope “but that’s not how we do it here,” there is a pervasive sense of authority within and between groups that presents challenges to effective collaborations. The exciting part of that is that it seems like we are all aware of those dynamics and are attentive to them.

My hope is that as we continue to engage with our peers, we can enrich our sense of the “spiritual care pipeline,” that continuum that begins with someone who is interested in the field. This continuum is not a straight line but one with choice points along the way that can steer a person towards work as a psychotherapist, CPE Educator, chaplain, professor, researcher or even volunteer. While our organizations are distinctive, we are all a part of a larger ecology, one that nurtures and cultivates vocations in spiritual care. It is a privilege and a delight to be able to participate in this rich milieu at such a time as this. I am grateful for each person who makes this work possible and for the opportunity to serve with you.

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