Interreligious and Interethic Dialogue in Clinical Pastoral Education

Managing Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.

I am committed to building relationships with those from different religious and ethical traditions because we are all neighbors (close and distant) endeavoring to live the best lives we can live. I learned this “truth” when I entered a religiously, nationally, ethnically, “genderly” and generationally-inclusive chaplaincy training in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, a hospital in Berkeley, California.

In CPE at Alta Bates Summit, our chaplaincy group consisted of Presbyterians, Unitarian Universalists, and Buddhists, African, Korean, and European descended, young adult and middle-aged people. We became neighbors in very close proximity, trying to help patients live the best lives they could live, while trying to live the best lives we could live under the pressure of learning how to pastorally care for others. Learning and living in the pressure-cooker of CPE meant we often did not express our disagreements skillfully. How could we have? Our task, though we did not know it at the time, was to learn how to care for patients and how to engage in interreligious and interethic dialogue.

Our CPE group was a rather “rough and tumble” interreligious group. Having since participated in various interreligious dialogue and leadership groups where education was the primary method of dialogue, the difference between my CPE group and other groups is that we focused more on resolving personality conflicts than on education about each other’s belief systems. When collaborating on work projects, especially work projects that impact other people, learning how to resolve personality conflicts is key, and being educated in how religion and ethics impacts personality is also key to moving beyond objectifying people based on their belief system, to understanding how we impact one another intersubjectively.

Intersubjectivity has become an interest area of mine since becoming a pastoral counselor. In interfaith and interethic dialogue groups that are ongoing, people of different perspectives will “make” each other. If I have any advice for anyone entering a dialogue group, I would suggest they notice any resistance within themselves, to change. If the resistance is strong, notice what is being defended against, then ask, “Is this what I want to bring to the group?” If the answer is “No.” then work on being less resistant and defended before entering the group. Interreligious and interethic groups are great opportunities for widening perspectives, building communities, collaboration, experiencing neighborliness, and growing in wisdom. I am grateful for CPE at Alta Bates for putting me on the interreligious dialogue path.

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One thought on “Interreligious and Interethic Dialogue in Clinical Pastoral Education

  1. I’d be really interested to hear more of your thoughts on intersubjectivity and the idea of how we “make” each other. Being more aware of those dynamics is really important. Thanks for sharing!

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