Random CPE question for Seminarians (and graduates).

For those of you who did CPE the summer between your first and second years, did CPE take up your entire summer, or did you have a couple of weeks to regroup before classes?

Also-- I sort of feel like the threat of CPE is being held over my head. Could you please tell me about your experiences?



  1. Oh, please do not let anyone scare you! Yes, of course there are people who've had poor experiences, as with any educational program-- some due to the groups they were in, and some due to their own issues. And even the best CPE program is challenging. It's supposed to be. But it is also very worthwhile, and I am grateful for every minute of it.

    I had a week or two after school let out, before CPE began for me... and then perhaps a month at the end, before I had to be back in classes. In between, I worked my butt off-- some of the hardest stuff I've ever done, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

    If I had one piece of advice to give it would be this: You will have the opportunity to apply for whatever programs appeals to you, and there will be an interview with the CPE supervisor. Remember that you are interviewing, as well as being interviewed. They generally try to choose groups carefully; you will want to do the same.

    I ended up leaving in tears from the first interview I had, totally convinced that I was not going to survive the summer. Then I had a chance to talk with another supervisor, in another program... and found my placement, which was wonderful.

  2. Oh, I hate it when people talk about CPE like it's part of a pre-ordination hazing. CPE was one of the most important things I have ever done in my life- period.

    I did CPE between my 2nd and 3rd year and I was pregnant. It defintely stretches and challenges you, but it is not supposed to be how some people describe it-"tearing you down so that you can be built back up again." That's total crap. CPE is a time to learn about your identity as a pastor, to hone your pastoral care skills, to be challenged and encouraged by your supervisor and by the others in your group.

    It's certainly not easy. You can't hide behind any masks you put up to protect yourself because a CPE supervisor has been trained to see through all that and expose it to the light of day. For me, the hardest part of the experience was being challenged by my fellow clasmates. There were many times when I felt like, "How dare you talk about my short-comings!"

    But all of it was SO worth it. And it's not all about exposing your weaknesses (okay, that word looks weird to me) or "growing edges," as they like to say. You also experience many "a-ha" moments are and affirmed in numerous ways. For instance, before CPE I was terrified of providing pastoral care to elderly persons. CPE was the first time I realized that pastoral care to the elderly was actually a gift I had. In class time, I was helped to see how I could improve in this area and encouraged in what I was doing well.

    This has turned into a very long comment, but I am a bit of a CPE cheerleader. I believe that if you go into with dread and suspicion, you won't get the best out it. However, if you go into expecting to be guided and shaped in your pastoral formation, it will be invaluable to you and your ministry.

    That said, be wise about which CPE program you enter. Ask people you trust about their experiences.

    Oh, my CPE unit was 10 weeks and I did have a bit of a break before classes started up again.

  3. The further I get from my CPE summer (2 years ago) the more I appreciate it. I had a wonderful supervisor, but we were also short staffed, and the hospital was overloaded. It all depends on what your site expects of chaplains. We were all on-call trauma chaplains, doing at least one over-night a week, plus our regular rounds and classes. We were the ones who contacted next-of-kin, etc. By the end of the summer I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I hated it at the time because it was scary and ridiculous and "I'm only 22 years old, what am I supposed to say to this mother who just lost her son!!??" But like the rest of the comments, it was one of the most important things I've done...

  4. I did CPE that first summer, and it took up 10 weeks. If I remember, correctly, I had a few weeks before school started again.

    Honestly, my experience was okay; not life-changing, but definitely helpful. I had a good group and a good supervisor, and I'm glad it was required; it was good for me to do, and I never would have chosen to do it on my own.

    Go forth and do CPE - you'll be fine. :)

  5. I echo most of the above. Also, there are a variety of CPE settings out there in addition to the traditional hospital setting, such as urban-focused programs and programs in mental health settings. Hope this helps

  6. I keep trying to do CPE but haven't fit it in yet, so this comes from the experience of interviews and also hearing lots of good and bad feedback from people who have done it.

    Your supervisor will make all the difference in the world, since some are very mean or allow mean feedback from peers, and some are very constructive even as they may be very challenging at times. I would echo the advice to apply and interview several places to try and find the right fit there and also in the kind of ministry you will be doing.

  7. I've been told that my bishop will play a large part in choosing my CPE supervisor, as well as my field placement. That's part of why I'm nervous-- my voice is this will be very muted.

  8. I want to echo the comments that sugguest that you try to sit back and just absorb whgat you can. CPE is a great exercise in letting go...I did four units of CPE, the one required for ordination and three more in a fulltime year long residency. My first unit was a difficult one because of my supervisor. And, honestly, even without a bishop (Im' baptist.), it's a crap shoot. The other three units were stellar...also because of the supervisor.

    But I would not trade any one of them. I learned more about myself and about ministry in those few weeks than I can begin to communicate to you.

    Peace and all Good Things to you...enjoy your summer!

  9. I absolutely LOVED my summer CPE unit. As others said, it's all about a good fit with the supervisor and your peers.

    I would doubt that the bishop would dictate your CPE location to you -- of course, I don't know your bishop, but defnitely you shouldn't be afraid to speak about what your needs are and where they can best be met. Bishops are reasonable people, as a rule, and they have more serious matters to worry about than us :)

    You'll have time -- there are usually differences in start and end dates depending on the program, so you can choose which will fit best with your academic calendar. I managed to get married and go on a honeymoon between the end of CPE and the start of school, so pretty much anything is possible!


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins