Kanuga (N.C.) Labyrinth, a reflection, by Douglas M. Thorpe, VIPCare Executive Director

Three instructions. Let go of worries as you walk in. Experience God’s presence in the center. Feel at-one with God, people, and the universe as you walk out. Simple.

Ten steps into the labyrinth I had already failed the first instruction. I had not let go of a single worry, I had added to them. I was now worrying that I was flunking Labyrinth Walking 101 by failing to let go of worries. Plus, I was walking too fast. Or maybe too slow - I wasn’t sure. Or maybe speed was not the issue, as long as I managed to let go of worries, which I certainly was not doing. In any case, I clearly was not capable of following even the simplest of instructions for walking the labyrinth.


Kanuga Labyrinth

Kanuga Labyrinth

I Remember Armistice Day by Dr. Donald D. Denton, Counselor and Director of Education, VIPCare

My earliest memory of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is of walking home from kindergarten at age 5, accompanied by my mother. As I saw the American flags that had gone up along Route 51 in northern Illinois, she explained to me that these were in preparation for the parade which would take place the next day. Several years later, in 1956 when the holiday had become Veteran’s Day, I carried one of those flags in the parade as a Cub Scout. Veterans from the Great War were still in abundance. There have been more parades and ceremonies in the subsequent sixty five years than I can count or remember.

The carnage of the War to End All Wars was unimaginable at that time. War had become mechanized with tracked killing machines, automatic weapons that made the Gatling gun look ancient and railroad bombardment artillery that wreaked havoc on nearby towns and their civilian populations. In addition to 40M total combatant and civilian deaths, the resultant Spanish Flu pandemic produced another 2.6M deaths.


Naming the Pain in the Language of Prayer: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon in the Goodykoontz-Crutchfield Education Center at VIPCare


A program led by Donald D. Denton, Jr., DMin and Douglas M. Thorpe, PhD

Pastoral counselors bring to the task of assessment the twin lenses of contemporary psychology and the time-tested wisdom of the world’s major religious traditions.  Too often, the psychological lens dominates the process of assessment and the spiritual perspective gets relegated to a secondary position – or even neglected altogether.

In this workshop Donald Denton, author of two books on assessment, and Douglas Thorpe, who teaches assessment for Doctor of Ministry students, seek to correct the imbalance by focusing attention on methods and resources for spiritual assessment.

Questions? Please call VIPCare at 804.282.8332 or email vipcare@vipcare.org 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

9:00 a.m. – 12 noon

Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care

2000 Bremo Road, Suite 105

Richmond, VA 23226


Emerging Adulthood: VIPCare Counselor Meredith Southwell's Work with Young Adults


Emerging adulthood, a recently described phase of human development coined by Dr. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts), is a stage of growth with “a focus on ages 18-25.”

Distinct from adolescence and adulthood, it is a period that can pose unique challenges and obstacles---when “love, work, and worldviews” are explored in greater depth. Five features of emerging adulthood include: identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between, and feelings of possibility.

Entering counseling during emerging adulthood can be a rewarding and effective way to grow through the periods unique challenges; working with a counselor can help emerging adults tackle the confusion, instability, and questions of identity that may emerge.

Meredith Southwell, a licensed clinical social worker at VIPCare, is passionate about providing counseling to young adults dealing with challenges of emerging adulthood.

To contact Ms. Southwell, please call VIPCare at 804-282-8332 or email her at msouthwell@vipcare.org

For additional information on emerging adulthood, please click on the link below:



Memories of Uncle Bob by Executive Director Douglas M. Thorpe

In April we said our final goodbyes to Uncle Bob.  In keeping with the current demand for “full disclosure,” I need to say that Bob Peterson was not my uncle in the strict sense of relation through biology or marriage.  He was my uncle because he adopted me and the 200 other students who passed through the Ubangi Academy during the years he and Aunt Ruth Ann were dorm parents there.

Uncle Bob taught me many important lessons which shaped my character and habits.  Two of the skills he taught me stand out for the lasting impact they exerted on my life.  Uncle Bob taught me how to play the trombone and he taught me how to sharpen a saw.

Trombone playing was one of the great joys of Uncle Bob’s life.  He played with a warm tone, a smooth legato, a keen ear for the often-elusive pitch of a slide instrument, and a passion he rarely let show in other venues.  As a teacher and band leader his patience never flagged, even when we junior band strugglers mangled the melodies of the simplest tunes.  One of the third trumpets was too nervous to play a tuning C so she cajoled her stand mate into surreptitiously playing the C while she boldly faked it.  Uncle Bob commented, “The third trumpet is flat.  In fact, both third trumpets are flat.”  Maybe he was fooled by their ruse, or maybe he was oh-so-subtly letting them know he was on to them but was not going to shame them in front of the whole band.


What You Can Do To Prevent Suicide by Douglas M. Thorpe, VIPCare Executive Director

Since the beginning of June, old and new media outlets alike have published anguished reports about the rising rate of suicide in the United States.  These stark statistics gained poignant specificity with news that designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had taken their own lives.  Fans, friends and families alike were left grieving, searching for causes, and asking unanswerable questions about any clues they might have missed in the actions of these two highly acclaimed stars of their respective fields.

No single cause adequately explains a person’s choice to kill themselves, let alone the rising rate of suicide across the country.  Depression and other forms of emotional and spiritual pain often play a role, but other factors contribute and place men, especially white men, at greatest risk.  Journalist Mitch Smith, writing in the New York Times on June 10, 2018, quotes Misty Vaughan Allen, suicide prevention coordinator for Nevada: “There are mental health components, but also there’s relationships, employment, a lack of connectedness that we might see in males that increases the risk for suicide.”  A history of trauma can be a factor, contributing to a rate of suicide among veterans that is twice as high as nonveterans.  Easy access to guns also plays a role, not because gun owners are more likely to attempt suicide, but because attempts by firearm are lethal at a much higher rate than attempts by any other means. 

If you are thinking about killing yourself, don’t do it.  You will solve nothing.  You will only hurt those who remain.  Instead, talk to someone.  Tell a friend, a family member, a member of the clergy, or a co-worker.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  Go to a hospital emergency room.  Call VIPCare at 804-282-8332 and make an appointment to see one of our counselors.  There are people who will walk with you through your troubles until hope returns.

VIPCare Counselors Participate in Series at Huguenot Road Baptist Church

on Emotional HealtH and CHAllenges

Huguenot Road Baptist Church Speaker Series: Emotional Health and the Challenges We Face

Wednesday nights, April 11 to May 16, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Huguenot Road Baptist Church, 10525 W Huguenot Rd, North Chesterfield, VA 23235, Room 102-103, phone (804) 272-2072, www.hrbcrichmond.org

4/11 Dr. Dan Bagby, Professor of Pastoral Care, Baptist Theological Seminary – “Stressors We Face”

4/18 Dr. Vic Maloy, Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care (VIPCare) – “When We Grieve”

4/25 Ms. Mary Ann Johnson, Ret. Program Dir. Greater RVA Alzheimer’s Assoc. – “Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease”

5/2 Peggy Newman, VIPCare -- “Caring for Family Members with Mental Illness”

5/9 Dr. Doug Thorpe, VIPCare – “Finding Hope and Healing through Faith”

5/16 Mr. John Tyler, Chesterfield County Mental Health Support Services – “What Resources are Available?”

The series is free and open to everyone.

Counselor Dennett Slemp Retires

April 1, 2018 Last Official Day

Counselor Dennett C. Slemp attended his final staff meeting on Wednesday, March 25, 2018.  During the meeting, he shared his retirement plans to 'seek wonder' and continue to 'see the ordinary as holy.'

He also reflected on his years of counseling work (he has held counseling sessions from St. Stephen's Episcopal Church since the 1970s) and his belief that much of our lives is a search 'to live without despair not knowing.'

Dennett Slemp's last official day is Sunday, April 1, 2018.  

VIPCare's Waiting Room Re-Opens

new furniture to be installed shortly

VIPCare's Waiting Room is again open. Structural improvements have been made to the waiting room, the group room, and restrooms. New furniture will be installed shortly.

VIPCare's office accessibility upgrades are made possible by a generous grant from The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.

Interior design work was donated by RoseMarie Bundy and Lucy Dabney from Evolve Architecture, a Wendel Company. Dallan Construction completed the onsite renovations.

Panel on 'Thriving in Ministry' Saturday, February 24, 2018 at Virginia Union University

Join us as the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care Takes Part in a Panel Discussion:

'Thriving in Ministry'

presented by the The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University

location: Allix B. James Chapel, Coburn Hall, Virginia Union University
Saturday, February 24, 2018
8:30-10:30 a.m.

Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM, Sisters of Mercy, Mid-Atlantic Community (and VIPCare Board of Directors)
The Rev. Dr. J. Elisha Burke, Director of Health Wellness, Men's and Social Justice Ministries, Baptist General Convention of Virginia
The Rev. Dr. Peter Kim, Director of Pastoral Care, Bon Secours Richmond Health System
The Rev. Dr. Mary B. Thorpe, Director of Transition Ministry, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Rev. Janie Walker, Co-Pastoral Director, Richmond Hill

Dr. Jessica Young Brown, Assistant Professor of Counseling & Practical Theology and the Director of the Barry Young Center, Virginia Union University
The Rev. Dr. Douglas M. Thorpe, Executive Director, Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care

Free and open to the public.

For more information, contact STVU at 804-257-5715 or VIPCare at 804-282-8332.