Note from Mychal

Rabbi Mychal B. Springer
Director of the Center for Pastoral Education

When I was training to become a CPE supervisor, my own supervisor, The Rev. Denise Haines, of blessed memory, shared with me that when she told her entering students what to do on their first day visiting patients she would always say: bring me back a story. Students were sometimes surprised by the simplicity of the assignment. After all, they were seminary students, steeped in religious discourse, learning the art of pastoral care. All she wanted was a story? Denise knew that as the students listened for stories they would become attuned to the fullness and complexity of the lives they encountered. As the patients spoke and felt attended to perhaps they would arrive at a deeper sense of the meaning of their words.

Passover is approaching, and so is Easter. For the Jews among us, the Seder is the time when we tell our collective story. “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deut. 6:21). This is the story that we are obligated to repeat. It is the story of oppression and redemption. It is the story that orients us. It tells us where we have been and where we are going. We are challenged to open our hearts to the lessons of oppression and to nurture our capacity for gratitude and wonder in response to redemption.

As I send my students off to visit their patients, I know that they will be shaped by the stories they receive. They will become witnesses to the lives of those they care for. They will be attuned to suffering and participate in redemption through holy listening. They will discover the mysterious interconnectedness of religious narratives and personal ones. May the weeks ahead be full of sacred storytelling and the kind of listening that participates in the transformation of the world.