By Mary Davis
When both NACC and APC revised the Common Qualifications and Competencies in 2016, updates were needed for the writing guides — the question prompts for the narratives or essays written by those seeking certification. As an extension of the collaborative work done on the CQC, a group from NACC, APC, NAJC, and ACPE met by conference calls to craft a new shared writing guide.
Collaboration is daring and laborious. It takes ego strength, commitment, doses of humility, and a willingness to truly shoulder and share the load of the project or task. The Writing Guide process proved to have all of these elements, ultimately resulting in an amazing work within a two-month time frame.
Initially, the two prior versions of the guide came from NACC and APC. All members reviewed the two versions for each competency, and at first partisan favoritism prevailed. Before long, however, the ranks broke, and suggestions came to blend the wording of one version with the other, or to favor one version for specific competencies. At times, we definitely had difficult and challenging discussions about wording, hard-to-let-go ideas and phrases, and not-so-subtle competition for internal leadership. This is exactly how groups form, grow, struggle, and either make or break to build community or complete projects.
At one point, we stopped entirely and revisited the intent of the writing guide toward the certification interview process: Exactly how much should we assist the applicant, are we being too prescriptive, are we offering too little guidance, how do we retain a spiritual tone and language without overly emphasizing any one tradition?
At another point, we stopped our work again when we realized the guide would be better written in second person — e.g., “How do you access your faith journey …” rather than a more distant tone.
By this point, we were remembering to include the viewpoints of those who could not be present on the calls, growing in camaraderie and respect, taking the material back to our respective groups for refinement, ever aware that we were under a strict timeline.
While it is most important that members benefit from our labors, it is truly remarkable that NACC, APC, and NAJC brought minds and hearts together and were able to so clearly articulate common competencies for future applicants and ongoing members. To have ACPE objectives and outcomes tied to each competency brings chaplaincy education and certification one step closer together — a value the cognate chaplaincy associations have long desired.
The writing guide has been well-received by certification applicants since its inception. The revised version reflects narrative writing prompts for both the CQC and the former and new NACC-specific competencies and can be found here on the NACC website.
Mary Davis, BCC, is Regional Director of Clinical Pastoral Education at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System in San Antonio, TX.