Clinical Pastoral Education: A Cornerstone of Spirit-Centered Care


Clinical Pastoral Education

United Church Homes’ commitment to Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) represents another example of the organization’s emphasis on creating a culture of learning. Since its inception 3 ½ years ago, the CPE program has flourished, and today is part of a national network of ACPE centers accredited to provide CPE services and training.

CPE is an integrated program of pastoral education and clinical pastoral practice that takes place within a specified time frame and care environment. For UCH, the chosen setting is Trinity Community in Beavercreek, Ohio, a life plan community that offers residential, independent and assisted living, and skilled nursing services. Rev. Greta Wagner, a certified ACPE supervisor and ordained American Baptist minister with dual standing in the United Church of Christ, serves as director of pastoral care and CPE.

The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) granted Trinity ACPE accreditation to offer Level I and Level II CPE units as a satellite site of the Sisters of Charity Health System of Cleveland, Ohio. With this initial accreditation, Trinity offered multiple CPE classes for a wide and diverse array of students. This diversity includes: race, sexual orientation, age, gender, and religious backgrounds, denominations, and faith traditions. Twenty-four students representing seven states – California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – will have completed CPE training at Trinity by spring of 2017. “As an accredited ACPE center, we have significantly impacted the number of applicants competing for the 4-5 places,” said Greta. “The addition of CPE has helped make United Church Homes’ imprint more national in scope.”

The path from being a satellite site to a fully accredited center was rigorous and involved successfully navigating multiple steps: receiving approval from the ACPE East Central Region Accreditation Chair and applying to ACPE for member center status; submitting extensive documentation for review by an ACPE accreditation team; and being evaluated at Trinity by the site team March 9-10, 2016. Consequently, Trinity was granted ACPE member Center status by the vote of the ACPE National Accreditation Commission in May 2016. “We were elated to have qualified for full accreditation status in such a brief time,” said Greta. “The accreditation is a testament to attending to the many details in the process, the quality of the program itself, and UCH’s commitment to integrate CPE into the daily lives of residents, families,as and staff members.”

United Church Homes’ engagement with CPE is an extension of the mission for the spiritual health and wellness of those we serve. “We believe that chaplaincy in general, and CPE specifically, are instrumental in meeting the spiritual needs of elders,” said Rev. Kenneth Daniel, president and CEO. “CPE students have the rare opportunity to work inside a social institution of the church focused on an underserved and often marginalized population in society.”

CPE emphasizes the practice of ministry with people of all faiths and backgrounds, with pastoral supervision, self-reflection, and the support of peers. It is an integral part of our mission, designed to serve others, develop pastoral competencies, and provide a service to the church and the community-at-large. By supporting theological education and professional development, the CPE program at Trinity is helping students prepare for ministry in their respective denominations where such training is highly encouraged.

One unexpected outcome of Trinity’s CPE program is the residents’ response to the training and students, as they understand their unique role in the pastoral formation of seminaries, persons discerning the ministry and chaplaincy, and enhancing the competency of already ordained clergy. Greta says that Trinity residents are fully engaged in the development, attending the graduation ceremony, and applauding each student’s success. “CPE has become part of the abundant life at Trinity. Residents are eager to find out when the next group is coming, because of the role they play. It’s really great to witness.”