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2010 John Rea Thomas Award

Presbyterian Association of Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM)

Presented to San Francisco Theological Seminary and to the Rev. John F. and Julia P. Shaw

People at a podium

From left, the Rev. Laurie Garrett-Cobbina, Julia P. Shaw, the Rev. John F. Shaw, the Rev. Dr. Laird Stuart, the Rev. Susan Hill presents the 2010 John Rea Thomas Award on behalf of PASPM. Photo by Tom Robinson.

The John Rea Thomas Award, presented by the Presbyterian Association of Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM), is given to persons, organizations, institutions or congregations that have demonstrated excellence in the fields of pastoral care and counseling.

For 2010, PASPM recognizes the Rev. John F. and Julia P. Shaw and San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS).  Through the generous gift of the Shaw family, SFTS created the Shaw Family Chair of Clinical Pastoral Education, the first fully-endowed chair in the discipline of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in an institution for theological education.  PASPM honors SFTS for their commitment to a mission of educating students in "spiritual formation, critical theological reflection, and the skills and arts of ministry."  SFTS is also the first Presbyterian seminary to seek accreditation from the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) and offer a community-based CPE program.  The first appointment to the Shaw Family Chair is Laurie Garrett-Cobbina.

“There really isn’t another CPE program quite like ours,” Garrett-Cobbina said. “Our program directly links the academics of theological education with pastoral care to the community of believers. It really is a cutting-edge education opportunity.” 

PASPM’s John Rea Thomas Award is named for one of the founding members of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association. Thomas, whose ministries included military and hospital chaplaincy, fought for the recognition of ministers in specialized settings throughout his career.

A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and currently a PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union, Garrett-Cobbina was pastor of Smallwood Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., where she also served as ACPE faculty for the Carolinas HealthCare System from 2000-06. The ACPE supervisor, pastor and chaplain joined the SFTS faculty in 2006 as the Shaw Family Chair for CPE, the only endowed CPE chair in the nation.

“The wisdom of the Shaw family should be commended,” Garrett-Cobbina said. “They are not only investing in the Seminary, but in future leaders of the church.”

The CPE program at SFTS uses an action-reflection method of learning that focuses on developing professional identity and pastoral skills. Intense involvement with persons in need and feedback from peers and faculty help students develop new awareness of themselves as a pastor and person. The integration of personal awareness, theological reflection and academic foundations enhances their ability to provide pastoral care and counseling to those they serve. 

What makes the SFTS program unique is that CPE is integrated into the SFTS curriculum. “When you have the scholars, the spirituality focus and the counseling focus that SFTS uniquely offers, it makes the learning in our CPE program very rich,” Garrett-Cobbina said. “It makes it interdisciplinary in a whole new way.”

Self-reflection is the starting point for all CPE students at SFTS. Self-reflection along with theological reflection on human situations leads to new understandings of ministry, self, others and God. Garrett-Cobbina believes pastors are much more prepared to meet the needs of others if they reflect on their own values, beliefs and assumptions.

Read excerpts from SFTS News.

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