Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Religious, but not coercive -- a new kind of faith for Israel

They came ready to listen, but with lots of questions: Israelis involved in trying to establish a real profession of chaplains and spiritual caregivers here met Wednesday evening with a delegation of American chaplaincy leaders -- like Teresa Snorton, above, the executive director of the Association for Clincial Pastoral Education -- to pepper them with questions about how to go about setting up professional standards. But the Israelis heard about more than just professional standards. They were also impressed with the open and diverse vision of spirituality the Americans brought. "It's very religious, but not trying to convert," said one Israeli participant. "That's something that's very rare in Israel."

The concerns and questions the Israelis had were not so different than those Americans tend to have about chaplaincy, but I was impressed by a difference in emphasis. One participant asked if "someone who does not believe in God can qualify to do [chaplaincy] training." And while there are many Americans who do not believe in God, this seems to a much more burning question for Israelis than Americans. I shared my answer -- yes, certainly, but the chaplain student would still be able to talk to others about questions of holiness, about what makes ultimate meaning for them.

A big concern was about the length of the training. The Israelis did not seem too happy to hear about it taking years to become certified as a chaplain or a chaplain supervisor. Rev. Snorton assured them that some other efforts to apply CPE outside the United States have found reasonable ways to handle this challenge.

The Israelis also had questions about whether there was a place in this kind of training for people into "New Age" kinds of spiritual expression.

Admissions criteria also seemed to be a very big concern for the Israelis. My guess is that this reflects a difference in the Israeli scene than what chaplaincy training has come to be in the States. In the States, the high standards bar doesn't come at the beginning -- it comes at "the end," when a student seeks professional certification. I don't think things will end up that way for the Israeli system.

From Israel Spiritual Care Conference, 2010

But, of course, I don't know how the Israeli standards will end up -- that is, as John DeVelder, here representing the United States' CPSP, said when he spoke yesterday, for the Israelis themselves to figure out, to figure out there own way of making an "indigenous" application of Clinical Pastoral Education that is particular to the Israeli scene. Helping Israelis to find their own way -- rather than telling them what to do -- is a main motivation for putting together the American delegation, an effort organized by the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and its executive director, Cecille Asekoff

My hope is to be, like Snorton, a part of helping with that effort -- standing beside Israelis as they find their way forward to making this important work a part of their healthcare system.
Posted by Picasa

No comments: