Saturday, July 30, 2011

CPE Graduation

The annual CPE graduation ceremony took place in the chapel of the VA Medical Center this past Thursday. There were a total of fifteen graduates from the programs at the SLC VAMC and Alta View Medical Center. As an annual event, it was a celebration together of people who have completed the program during the past eight months. We were joined by family and friends, patients, staff and volunteers. I'd met quite a few along the way, and enjoyed visiting with them again. Presence of KSLDeseret News, and a big cake also added to the atmosphere of commencement.

I served in the VA program, finishing up my year in November. It is a bit odd to have eight months between completion of requirements and the graduation itself, and good, too. This in-between time created space for pondering. November was very full. I was glad for opportunity to consider more deeply, beyond such rush.

John 13 tells the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Simon Peter questioned and resisted, then sought more than was offered. Jesus' correction is significant: Peter had been made clean already, and his need now was to be freshened up after the usual encounters of life. Jesus' instruction is significant, too: "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." I have been a recipient of much love and learning, and I am intent on sharing also with others.

As a graduate, I had a front-row seat, which was great for watching people and even taking some pictures...

As is typical in graduation ceremonies, there were platform people. Jeff Price is one of those. I haven't talked much with Jeff, but seeing him reminded me of one interaction in particular. It was a group setting, and the group was an interesting mix of engaged and distracted. Jeff was quiet and attentive throughout. When he spoke, it was apparent that he'd been listening through the surface, and he was both willing and able to speak to the deeper parts. I remember him for that, and am grateful both for his genuine presence and his example. It reminds me that one person, even just one interaction, can make a difference in the life of another, and I want to be attentive to those opportunities.

Chaplain Mark Allison is the CPE supervisor. Much like his leadership in the CPE process itself, Mark listened during the graduation quite a bit more than he talked. He is a gifted chaplain and skilled supervisor, and both are important. Even more, I found over time that I could trust his character, which is foundational. His example has taught me much about grace, hope, courage, and respect, in addition to helping me develop skills in ministry.

Four students spoke during the graduation. Each approached it a little differently, which reflected their individual personalities, backgrounds, and experiences. As I listened, it represented to me the uniqueness of each person in the program, in the hospitals, in our communities, in life. Every person has a story, and every person's story matters.

The traditional Blessing of Hands followed. Washing with water symbolizes purification; oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit at work, healing, and an offering to God. As Chaplain Slade read the blessing, I thought of God's message to Abram in Genesis 12: "I will bless you... and you will be a blessing." As in John 13, God's blessings are wonderful gifts to be received and enjoyed, and it follows that others will benefit also from what God does in the life of each individual.

Rev. Esteban Montilla was a special guest in this graduation. Rev. Montilla is serving as President of CPSP, the organization which accredits the CPE programs at the SLC VAMC and Alta View Hospital. Rev. Montilla spent two days in Utah, watching, listening, speaking (more on that later), and otherwise engaging with a variety of people. I've had a few opportunities to interact with him, and see him serving well in leadership of a unique organization.

This being a graduation, the "now what?" question naturally comes up. What will we do next? Our stories moving forward from here will be as varied as they were before we started. I  look forward to seeing what God will do next.

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