The Clinical Pastoral Education program at Eastern Mennonite Seminary celebrates its 20th anniversary this academic year. Since 1999, 290 people have been trained through the seminary’s program. They serve and minister in a variety of contexts and many states, carrying their CPE practice learnings with them wherever they work.
We’ve invited a series of guest writers to share about how CPE training has shaped their life and ministry. Join us at a celebration during the January 2020 School for Leadership Training. To learn more, visit https://emu.edu/seminary/cpe/anniversary
Shawn Gerber is the director of spiritual care and chaplaincy services at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and the chaplain manager for the south central region of Indiana University Health.
I have been challenged, and honestly am still challenged, with wondering why if God is good, and all powerful, and all knowing, do we experience such pain and suffering in life. I think it has something to do with the flow of authentic relationship between God and humanity but it remains a mystery to me. Little did I know when I signed up to take my first unit of CPE at EMS that wrestling with these issues in community would be an experience that would shape who I am called to be in ministry and set the trajectory for how I would serve.
I took my first unit of CPE at EMS seven years before I lost my mother to cancer. What I learned in CPE helped prepare my heart to face the pain rather than deny it or turn away, because I have learned that when I love deeply, I can get hurt deeply. I am called to love anyway. Paying attention to the movements of my own heart and the movement of the Holy Spirit in my own life has helped inform the ways I walk with others in their journey of loss and grief.
A unique gift of CPE is integrating the behavioral sciences with our theology. During my internship at EMS through the supervision of Kenton Derstine, I came in contact with the rich insight and wisdom that comes from Family Systems Theory. In applying the theory to my life, I learned how the streams of emotional processes and themes in my family of origin has informed who I am as a person and a minister. The care of my grandmother who would listen to people at her kitchen table lives on in me as I listen and offer care to patients at the bedside. This gave new meaning to my understanding of how we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” as it says in chapter 12 of Hebrews. Applying the theory to my practice, I learned that as we care for the family or loved ones of a patient or person in the clinic or congregation, we care for the person.
My clinical placement during my CPE unit was at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Offering spiritual care to patients there helped me discover the passion of my ministry to live out Jesus’ call to “love one another as I have loved you.” I learned how to meet people where they are at in their spiritual journeys whether it is one who is devout in their religion, or one who is seeking faith and meaning, or even an atheist. It has been deeply meaningful for me to see the way that God is made known when I am present to another person, compassionately listen to their story and facilitate how they find meaning in their journey. In these encounters, I have witnessed the beauty of the resiliency of the human spirit, the healing power of love in faith communities, and that there is a Source of Love that connects us as humans seeking meaning, purpose and connectedness in our life. I feel this is an experience and skill that is sorely needed in our world that has become so polarized in a number of ways.
My hope, dream, and vision for CPE at EMS is that it would continue to form women and men in the discipline and practice of deeply listening, offering a compassionate presence, and being attuned to the movement of the Spirit in the human encounter so that people might find healing and hope in wellness and suffering, and be amazed at the way God shows up and builds bridges between people of different faiths and walks of life.
Shawn Gerber is the director of spiritual care and chaplaincy services at Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital and the chaplain manager for the south central region of Indiana University Health. He earned an MDiv with a concentration in pastoral counseling at Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a BA in Bible and religion with a psychology minor at Goshen College. He completed a fellowship in clinical ethics with the Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He is a trained facilitator in critical incident stress management.
As an ordained minister with the Mennonite Church USA and a Board Certified Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains, he has served for over 17 years in ministry. Among other roles, he served as a Chaplain Fellow and completed a chaplain residency at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia; pastored Mennonite churches in Colorado and Virginia; and been a chaplain manager at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, Colorado and at Goshen General Hospital in Goshen, Indiana.
Shawn and his wife Rachel have three sons, Owen, Connor, and Zachary. Outside of his time at work, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, playing sports, camping and hiking, and traveling.