Gary A. Buddoo-Fletcher, DMin, JP, is a pastor and the chief chaplain of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Kingston, Jamaica.

Having been told briefly about clinical pastoral education (CPE), I was enthused to participate, not knowing what it fully entailed. To apply to the program, I was required to write an autobiography, which proved quite reflective and challenging. It helped me realize how my childhood expe­rience impacted my adulthood, worldview, and pastoral ministry.

Real-life application

I read, “The program facilitates the development of pastoral identity, interpersonal competence, pastoral assessment skills, professional collaboration, group leadership, pastoral care and counseling, and pastoral theological reflection.”1 I discovered that it dynamically integrated psychology and theology into ministry, equipping me to minister to persons of all faiths and to persons of no faith.

This clinical method of learning, involving action, reflection, and new action, has been my new approach to achieving personal and professional growth. As I practiced ministry to law enforcement officers during my CPE training, I was able to make necessary changes in my pastoral practice based on feedback I received from my peers and supervisor. I was challenged, as a part of my goal, to use the behavioral sciences as a diagnostic tool in my encounters with my clients. This provided a learning experience second to none.

The benefits

I can truly testify to the great benefits I received in the development of core competencies from the CPE program, which provided the opportunity to offer clinical pastoral care to the police officers in Jamaica.2 Some of the benefits are outlined below:3

  • Making use of the clinical process and the clinical method of learning.
  • Cultivating the understanding of the self as the principal tool in pastoral care and counseling. This includes the ability to reflect and interpret my own life story, both psychologically and theologically, and to use this understanding in an empathetic manner in counseling and/or pastoral care.
  • Establishing and deepening pastoral bonds with persons and groups in various life situations and crisis-ridden circumstances, including providing appropriate religious/spiritual resources.
  • Offering basic care and counseling skills, which include listening, empathy, reflection, analysis of problems, support, conflict resolution, advocacy, theological reflection, and the development of a critical eye to examine and evaluate human behavior and religious symbols for their meaning and significance.
  • Conducting a critical analysis of my religious tradition as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and fostering collaborative relationships with other chaplains and community clergy of various faith groups.
  • Working as a pastoral member on an interdisciplinary team, including appropriate documentation, awareness of and integration within the culture and systems, and being a moral and ethical voice in the organization.
  • Making effective use of the behavioral sciences and human development in my ministry as a clinical chaplain.
  • Increasing the development of my leadership ability and personal authority balanced with an awareness of appropriate boundaries and ethical conduct.
  • Becoming more familiar with the basic literature in the field—clinical, behavioral, ethical, and theological—and incorporating such knowledge into my ministry.

Being more effective

The CPE program has surely been inspirational, transformational, and educational to me as an individual, as part of my family, and as a clinician. It has opened a new world to me as far as pastoral care and counseling are concerned in both church and law enforcement settings. I am eternally grateful to this program for equipping me to be an effective clinical chaplain so that I may offer the best care, whether at the bedside or with my law enforcement officers. I will continue to promote the great benefits of this program to my pastoral colleagues and to those with whom I serve as a law enforcement chaplain.

  1. “Clinical Pastoral Education,” St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Episcopal Health Services, https://ehs.org/services-departments/clinical-pastoral-education.
  2. “First Adventist pastor appointed chaplain of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.” https://jmunion.org/first-adventist-pastor-appointed-chaplain-of-the-jamaica-constabulary-force/
  3. Adapted from the Episcopal Health Services (EHS) objectives taken from the CPE Handbook of the EHS Clinical Pastoral Education Resident/Intern Training Manual, page 27.

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Gary A. Buddoo-Fletcher, DMin, JP, is a pastor and the chief chaplain of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Kingston, Jamaica.

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