Andrew Tripp (STH’09, STH’15): Director of Pastoral Care
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment since graduating from STH?
My greatest accomplishment since graduating STH has been my work in spiritual care for those with end stage dementia. Seminary education in pastoral care and CPE prepare you for interventions that work with people who are cognitively able, but do not prepare you for situations where open ended questions and collaborative meaning making conversations will not work. Learning how to provide spiritual care that meets the existential needs of those with diminished cognitive capacity through a ministry of presence has sustained me during challenging cases.
What advice would you give a current STH student?
Consider the many ways you may be a religious leader. Ministry in the parish setting can feel like serving the overserved when there are many other contexts to religious leadership where your values and ethical commitments may be better met. Think expansively about how religious leadership prepares you for nonprofit and medical leadership, and build a resume that allows you employment in a variety of settings.
What skills or experiences would benefit someone wanting to work in hospital chaplaincy or with seniors?
You must learn that pastoral care is not about you, and a client-centered focus means finding out what is of meaning and worth for them. I have seen too many chaplains assume a religiosity that may not be part of the spiritual life of their client, and that presumption prevents a genuine therapeutic alliance.
Can you give us an example of a mistake you have learned from during your career?
Seminary education does not teach effective employee supervision, and as a religious professional, I have had employees take advantage of me being a “nice” person. I had many experiences where staff did not perform appropriately, and at first, I would not engage in employee accountability processes at the outset of a problem thinking that through conversation and understanding that the problem would be corrected. After having that fail on multiple occasions, I now regularly document employee performance issues, both positive and negative, so the employee accountability process is fair while also holding people to professional standards of behavior.
What was the most important experience you’ve had that has helped you in your career?
One patient with advanced dementia, long after he lost the ability to form sentences, took my hand in his after I played music for him and said “It is a very kind thing you do.” Realizing that my work made his life significantly better helped cultivate my sensitivity to those living with dementia, and helped he see the humanity deep inside people working with severe cognitive deficits.