Hospital, Seminary collaborate to train ministers

Who cares for your spiritual life when you end up in the hospital? Many hospitals have chaplains on-site to offer spiritual support while your physical needs are being met.

Penny Driediger
Penny Driediger will provide supervision for chaplain interns at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) and Rockingham Memorial Hospital (RMH) in Harrisonburg, Va., are working together to train chaplains and pastors to be more compassionate caregivers in the times of crisis.

The hospital recently hired Penny Driediger as a part-time chaplain and Supervisory Education Student. Driediger is a 2008 seminary grad and a course assistant at EMS. She will provide chaplain support at the hospital and supervise chaplain interns at the hospital who are enrolled in the EMS Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program.

“The collaboration between EMS and RMH provides Driediger, and future Supervisory Education Students, with an opportunity to have a foot in both worlds – the clinical world of patient-focused care and the educational world, encouraging the growth and development of clinical pastoral education students,” said Robin Martin, manager of Chaplain Services at RMH.

Step forward for CPE

This step forward for EMS’ Clinical Pastoral Education program means that EMS can provide another level of education for those interested in the chaplain ministry and can provide more opportunities for students who want to go through the first level of the CPE program.

“The 40 percent time position with Rockingham Memorial Hospital represents a shared commitment to pastoral education,” said Kenton Derstine, CPE director at EMS. “It symbolizes the hospital’s confidence in our CPE program and an appreciation for what our chaplain interns have contributed to their patients and staff.”

“For the hospital, this agreement to have a Supervisory Education Student means that we will get an employee with a theological degree and several years of supervised ministry experience,” said Martin, “and someone who has learned active listening and empathic caregiving and is able to reach out in a compassionate pastoral role to connect with others, especially those who are suffering.”

For Driediger, this role seems a perfect fit.

“I have been serving as course assistant for Mentored Ministry and Clinical Pastoral Education at EMS,” Driediger said. “This new role with RMH means I will be continuing my education and further developing my ministry skills and pastoral identity.

” I’m especially excited by the dual role of chaplain and educator for students who are ministering in the hospital,” she stated. “This is a growing edge for me, one that I am embracing with energy and a sense of fulfillment.”

“I am delighted that Penny Driediger has joined our team in this dual capacity of RMH chaplain and EMS/SES student,” Martin said. “Penny’s own skills and gifts allow her to be very effective at coming alongside persons in crisis, in assessing their need and offering just the right note of support.”

“After the first time Penny responded as a chaplain to a real crisis situation, RMH staff members spontaneously stopped me in the hall to say how meaningful her responses had been to those in need. She will be a great asset to our team,” Martin added.

“Clinical Pastoral Education at Eastern Mennonite Seminary is a unique opportunity for theological students, clergy and laypersons to develop their ministry skills and leadership capacity,” said Derstine. “The practical ministry experience students gain in hospitals, retirement communities and congregations during their CPE experience is invaluable to their education as clergy and caregivers.”