In late October, I attended the Kanuga Gathering in the mountains of Western North Carolina. This gathering has historically been the annual gathering of the Southeast region of AAPC. A number of people there trace their participation back 40 years; as one participant told me, “I’d miss Christmas before I’d miss Kanuga!” This was the first gathering since AAPC’s consolidation with ACPE back in April, and the weekend began with some question about what the consolidation would mean for this particular community. As a newcomer to Kanuga, I can say that this is – without a doubt – a vibrant learning community!
The keynote speaker was Dr. Cody Sanders, a Baptist pastor with an academic background in pastoral theology. Dr. Sanders presented several lectures on sexuality and gender identity, with an eye toward issues that may emerge in the therapeutic setting. Workshops were led primarily by members of the Kanuga community, and included topics such as: queer biblical hermeneutics, clergy health and wellness, social media and the therapeutic relationship, and meaning in retirement. Leaders from the community and I presented about some of the structural changes since the consolidation with ACPE, including what it means to be a Community of Practice in ACPE.
Pastoral counselors and spiritually integrated psychotherapists were the primary participants at Kanuga. But there were also CPE Educators, students, chaplains, and people who inhabit more than one of these professional identities. Some of the most interesting conversations I had with folks were in an area that someone from a Systems Centered Theory perspective might call “discriminating and integrating differences.” As we explored our professional similarities and differences, we forged connections and stretched our vision of the possibilities of our life together. The tone of the weekend was warm and welcoming. One of the highlights of the weekend was when a leader among the psychotherapists said to me, “You belong here.” Of course, this was personally lovely to hear, but I sensed his meaning was larger: your people and my people, we are stronger together.
The Gathering at Kanuga will continue on within ACPE as a Community of Practice. The rich traditions and close relationships that have sustained this community for decades are not going anywhere. And the new wineskins of organizational affiliation that will hold and nurture this community bring opportunities for new complexities and growth. We have been waiting for such a time as this.