What is San Francisco Night Ministry (SFNM)?

SFNM is cutting edge ministry with a long history. Since 1964, we have been offering care to the nighttime people of San Francisco, with ordained clergy and spiritual care leaders walking the streets while volunteer phone counselors minister to people in crisis. SFNM is a religious non-profit providing spiritual care and community, particularly to people living on the margins.

 Mission:  Night Ministry increases access to spiritual care and multifaith community – at night, on the phones, and on the streets – in a manner that is nonproselytizing and nonjudgmental.

 Vision: We envision a world in which everyone can connect to their inherent sacredness and express their unique humanity in spiritual companionship and community.

SFNM is an orchestra with five musical sections: 

This article in the Journal of Reflective Practice explains more about SFNM’s current and evolving vision.

SFNM is an organization undergoing a significant transition in its long history. Included is the transition into an executive director model of non-profit operations, along with changes in policies and procedures as we live more fully into our non-profit structure. Students are invited to learn about what it means to be with an organization in transition, and to learn their own gifts and growing edges around organizational dynamics that may arise. 

What is the goal of CPE?

Development of spiritual formation, spiritual competence, and spiritual reflection.

Traditionally, CPE is ministry training required by many religious denominations for ordination and required by many hospices and hospitals for professional chaplaincy. 

CPE at the SFNM more broadly provides training in the “ministry of presence” and deep listening skills for people who are deeply rooted in a spiritual community, tradition, or practice, and who cultivate a heart of service in the world.

For more information about CPE generally, go to www.acpe.edu 

Description of SFNM's CPE Center and ministry settings.

SFNM is fully accredited to offer Level I, Level II and Supervisory CPE by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (One West Court Square, Suite 325, Decatur, GA 30033, phone: 404-320-1472, www.acpe.edu). 

The CPE program works with the regular night ministry programs to offer spiritual care services and spiritual community to people on the streets at night in San Francisco, on the phones on our Care Line, and in our community programs. Clinical hours are also obtained in our “ministry of awareness" (see below).

Students in a distance learning or online CPE program at SFNM can use the telephone Care Line as their primary clinical setting, supplemented by the ministry of awareness clinical hours and a local clinical site of their choosing. There may also be some opportunities for ministry in our virtual community programs. For example, the Tuesday Gathering has been meeting virtually since the outset of the pandemic. Regardless, students participating in a virtual program, but who are available in the Bay Area, may also choose to do night walks or in-person community programs as clinical hours.

What CPE programs are currently scheduled?

We accept Level I and Level II students. We are not currently accepting applications for Certified Educator Candidates.

Upcoming units:

Winter 2024 Extended  - October 9, 2023 - April 12, 2024:  A part-time, 15-20 hours/week, CPE unit with an online-only option. This unit is full and we are not accepting further applications.

Summer 2024 Intensive Unit (full time), June 3 - August 23, 2024. A full-time, 40 hours/week, CPE unit. This will be an in person only unit. Applications now accepted on a rolling admissions basis.

Winter 2025  Extended Unit (part time), October 2024 - April 2025, dates TBD. This unit can be completed as an in person or online only unit. Online only students must secure a local clinical placement for 100 clinical hours, and pay the Clinical Site Placement fee. Details are in the FAQs. All education hours will be online. As for clinical hours, students may complete all clinical work in-person at SFNM, or may enroll remotely as an online-only student. Online-only students must complete 100 clinical hours at a local site in which they will do one-on-one caregiving, and these students also pay an additional clinical site placement fee (see below).  Applications now accepted on a rolling admissions basis.

Important note: The CPE unit and the specific start and end dates are conditioned on filling the given program. All accepted students are conditionally enrolled into the program until final confirmation. Start and end dates are subject to change. Students should indicate in the application process if they are not flexible with start and end dates of the program to which they are applying.

Even the extended CPE unit is an intensive experience, with late night hours and spiritual/emotional processing. Please undertake a CPE commitment with discernment and in balance with your other daily life obligations.

SFNM also accepts externs -- students who are in an external CPE program and who would like to use our telephone Care Line or Night Ministry Ambassadors program and ministry of awareness as a clinical placement. Externs also include other people in external programs with a volunteering requirement, such as the Sati Buddhist Chaplaincy and Upaya Zen Chaplaincy programs, or school programs or classes for academic credit. Externs must sign a clinical placement agreement to volunteer on the Care Line to fulfill outside program requirements (see below FAQ).

Where should you submit pre-application questions?

First, please read through the entire FAQs section and website to answer questions. There is also a time for specific questions about your situation during the live interview, if you are selected for an interview.

Sometimes candidates have specific questions they would like answered when deciding whether or not to apply. Submit specific questions by email:  cpe@sfnightministry.org.

Please refrain from calling our office number or leaving a voicemail. We are blessed to receive a great deal of interest and inquiries, though we have limited capacity to return calls prior to candidates either applying or simply asking by email. If the emailed question or situation needs attention prior to the candidate applying and there is capacity to do so, someone may be able to call and speak by phone. Thanks for your understanding!

Who can be a CPE student?

CPE training at the SFNM focuses broadly on how to be present with suffering in ourselves, with others, and in groups for the purpose of transformative healing. Our programs are open to all people who have successfully completed four years of college, or have equivalent experience, and who are deeply rooted in a spiritual tradition, community, or practice. 

Spiritually-driven “helping professionals” – such as social workers, therapists, and nurses – are welcome to apply!

Upon completion, students will receive certified credit for one unit of Level I/II CPE by ACPE, Inc.

SFNM does not discriminate against persons on the basis of race, gender identity, age, faith group or spiritual tradition, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. 

Can students do online CPE?

Yes. In a post-pandemic reality, SFNM plans on running hybrid CPE units, where all educational time will be on Zoom regardless of student locations (unless otherwise noted in the particular program details). 

Distance students completing CPE entirely online will utilize the Care Line as their primary clinical area. Distance students are also required  to find another, local clinical site where they can complete 100 hours of their clinical experience. SFNM will need (1) a signed clinical placement agreement with the other site prior to the unit starting  (see below FAQ) and (2) payment of an additional distance clinical site fee to be arranged by the CPE Educator for the unit. The extra payment accommodates the impact of training students for placement elsewhere (i.e., to be in integrity with SFNM donors who fund our CPE program, as well as our mission statement).

What is required for the external clinical site? Must the site be accredited?

This applies only to online, distance-only CPE students enrolled in an SFNM CPE program. Such students must do 100 clinical hours at a local site. The site needed not be a hospital or an accredited ACPE CPE or location. See details below.

* The external site must be a location where the student can offer some counseling / pastoral / spiritual care to people. This means the student will do one-on-one spiritual care.

* We only need you to have an onsite supervisor called a Preceptor who can account for your hours and be in regular communication with your CPE Educator, including informing the educator if there are any issues / feedback… this is the “Clinical Preceptor” in the Clinical Site Placement agreement, which must be signed prior to commencing CPE at SFNM.

* ACPE has the following definition of the Preceptor:  A contextually relevant professional practicing in and recognized by the clinical placement site and the ACPE Certified Educator. Recognition for this role requires one or more of the following: (1) professional licensing, professional certification/authority to function in their role; (2) an advanced degree in their field of expertise; (3) faith group endorsement/local equivalent process.

* Prior to the start of the CPE Unit: The student is responsible for: (a) identifying the Preceptor; (b) getting the Clinical Placement Agreement signed; (c) paying the SFNM Clinical Placement fee; (d) ensure the Preceptor is aware that they must view the ACPE preceptor orientation presentation prior to the start of a unit (see below); and (e) ensure the Preceptor submits their resume to SFNM for the file.

ACPE PRECEPTOR ORIENTATION PRESENTATION - Go to "Preceptor" link on this site.

* The student also submits the placement fee of $1,000 (see FAQs). Oftentimes the student is able to negotiate with the external clinical site to pay this fee to SFNM as a "stipend" for the student's 100 hours of service. Otherwise, the student must arrange to pay the fee directly.

* Re: Clinical Site Placement agreement signed prior to the CPE unit starting:  The form is on our website www.sfnightministry.org/cpe. Let us know if there any problems navigating to it. The student must complete the SFNM Online CPE form — here is direct link.

Can SFNM sponsor a US Visa for an international student?

No. Unfortunately, SFNM does not currently have the capacity to arrange for or sponsor student work, study, or travel VISAs for the program. Students coming from outside the U.S. may apply for a VISA and enroll in an an in-person program. Or non-U.S. students may complete one of our online only CPE programs and secure a local clinical site for 100 hours, as described above. 

Care Line as a clinical placement for CPE hours at another center ("externs").

This FAQ applies to CPE students enrolled in CPE at an external site (not in SFNM CPE), and students enrolled in other outside programs seeking to acquire clinical hours or experience at SFNM. SFNM accepts CPE students from other CPE centers who want to participate on the Care Line or in Night Ministry walks and services in order to obtain clinical hours. All such students and their CPE educators or program teachers or administrators sign an SFNM Clinical Placement Agreement. Persons in other programs or licensing tracks may also use the Care Line as a clinical placement. 

There are 2 opportunities for clinical hours:

(1) Care Line - SFNM operates a telephone Care Line providing spiritual care to people all over the world between the hours of 8 PM – 4 AM (Pacific). The Care Line is largely staffed by trained volunteers who work from home. CPE students at SFNM participate on the Care Line and act as shift supervisors. 

(2) Night Ministry Ambassadors - There is also an emerging program of Night Minister Ambassadors, where students local to the Bay Area acquire 100 hours over 5 months doing direct community chapliancy service. Contact us for more details, at admin@sfnightministry.org.

All such persons are externs at SFNM and must sign a Clinical Placement Agreement to volunteer on the Care Line. Please contact us if you are interested. Here is a link to a webpage with more details. Note students in this category sign the "extern" placement agreement.

How is time spent in a CPE program?

ACPE accreditation of one full unit of CPE is as follows:

A unit includes a minimum of 100 hours of structured group and individual education and a minimum of 250 hours of supervised clinical practice in spiritual care. While individual centers must meet these minimum hour requirements, they may utilize the remaining 50 hours as best supports their program. The syllabus for the unit should provide a breakdown of the hours for each component.

CPE centers like SFNM must require a minimum of 400 hours for ACPE, divided as 300 hours of ministry experience in the clinical settings of SFNM and 100 hours of education in seminars and individual and group supervision. SFNM programs typically require between 410-430 hours of total participation over 18-21 weeks for extended units and over 11-12 weeks for intensive units. 

Because we are a night ministry, most of the clinical hours occur in the night-time hours of Pacific Standard Time. For that reason, we typically schedule education hours from 2:00 PM (PST) onward on any given day. The one exception is the first two weeks of each program, which is orientation. Orientation is a more intensive time commitment. Students are encouraged to plan for those weeks accordingly.

What are the hours for the clinical responsibilities?

CPE students who are local can gain clinical hours in four areas: 

Night Ministry, 9:45 PM – 2:15 AM walking the streets and visiting bars, coffee shops, transit stations, etc.; 

Care Line, working as a Care Line Counselor (CLC) or shift supervisor (see below); 

Community Programs (see below); and 

Ministry of Awareness, including community relations, social justice work, peer-to-peer fundraising, social media.

With respect to the Care Line, there are three nightly shifts to be staffed, all in Pacific time (PST), counting as five (5) clinical hours each: (1) 7:30 PM – 12:30 PM, (2) 9:30 PM – 2:30 AM, and (3) 11:30 PM – 4:30 AM. Students generally have some flexibility when signing up for the Care Line shifts in terms of the days and shift period; however, students only sign up after regular volunteers sign up for their shifts. Students must first sign up for any vacant shifts before adding themselves to covered shifts. Other policies and procedures about the Care Line will be explained during orientation.

Each student, regardless of whether they are doing an in-person or virtual CPE program, must complete a certain number of late night “third shifts,” going from 11:30 PM – 4:30 AM (Pacific). Typically, each student is required to do about 3 of these third shifts per month in the program.

With respect to Community Programs, when the CPE student is involved with the Open Cathedral, the time usually is 2:00 – 4:00 PM on Sunday or 5:30 – 7:30 PM Thursday. Monday Meditation Group is held 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Tuesday Night Gathering is held from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. LGBTQA+ programs and Open Shabbat and other programs are held intermittently. During the pandemic, the main community program operating is the Tuesday Gathering virtually. We are opening our Open Cathedrals, following governmental safety protocols for outdoor religious services. Check in for updates.

How does the CPE student do the clinical work?

Night Walks. The CPE student will accompany one of the night ministers when meeting with people of the streets at night. When it is determined the student is sufficiently acclimated, the student then will be paired with another CPE student for ministry on the streets. Students may eventually minister alone on the streets at night.

Care Line. When the CPE student is working as a Care Line Counselor on the telephone Care Line, the student will be paired with an experienced Care Line Counselor for training. When it is determined that CPE student is sufficiently acclimated, students will be trained as shift supervisors who debrief the volunteers, create community, and train incoming volunteers. All hours on the Care Line can be done virtually, at-home, and from a distance. Priority is given to our volunteer Care Line Counselors for shift sign-ups, after which CPE students and externs sign up for shifts. Full coverage of all Care Line shifts is the priority.

Community Programs. When working in the Community Programs, CPE students follow the direction of the program manager and ministers. CPE students may offer worship or meditation or like spiritual services depending on the program. 

Ministry of Awareness. Students will be supported by our Media Minister in crafting their peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and cohort community projects.

What is SFNM's Ministry of Awareness?

Ministry of Awareness is the media and communications aspect of our work that connects our supporters, staff, and the people we serve. We seek to tell the stories of caregivers and people in our care -- respectfully and with permission -- so as to broaden the awareness of our larger community. How does a particular social event impact the people living on the streets at night or calling into the Care Line? How is it seen and felt from the perspective of someone on the margins or someone whose life is largely nocturnal? How can we invite people to access our spiritual care services and community programs?  How can we attract supporters who share our mission, vision, and values so we can resource our ministry? These are the questions that our Ministry of Awareness seeks to address.

Spiritual care is evolving beyond traditional structures and organizations. Most CPE centers operate and are funded in health care contexts. SFNM is a nonprofit organization funded by donors and staffed in large part by volunteers. SFNM values cutting-edge approaches for creating and sustaining ministry and for connecting communities across social location and economic differences.

CPE at the SFNM offers students the opportunity to learn about grass-roots nonprofit operations and ministry in the digital age. Students will acquire skills for social media outreach and community building in our ministry of awareness – which is sacred communication through all mediums that connect our supporters, donors, partner organizations, and relatively privileged residents of San Francisco with the folks we serve. 

Students participate in 3 Ministry of Awareness projects:

(1) Peer-to-peer Fundraising (P2P) - Students set a fundraising goal to raise support for SFNM in a peer-to-peer campaign (see below FAQ). 

(2) Cohort Community Project - Students will also engage with their peer group cohort in a community awareness project of their choosing.

(3) Outreach - This ministry awareness project involves each student doing community or media outreach. Example projects include volunteering at SFNM booths at street fairs or doing a social media campaign for new callers on our nightly Care Line.

P2P Fundraising Goal

Accepted students will set a goal to raise $3000 from at least 10 distinct donors within their own circle of friends, family, colleagues, and community in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign supporting the SFNM and its mission. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) involves a personalized campaign designed by the students through Give Lively (Click “I Want to Fundraise For This”). Setting up the campaign is relatively easy with the Give Lively tool.

Students commit to using their best efforts to achieve this goal. This is a requirement to earn a full unit credit. Students may set a higher goal if they wish to do so. SFNM will work with students for whom the amount of goal would prevent or impede them from applying for or joining the program, such as some international students or students in a community facing economic hardship. 

This feature is one of the unique learning opportunities that SFNM offers. The ability to claim one's ministry, communicate effectively about, and generate support and resources is a critical skill in any ministry context -- from working in a hospital chaplaincy unit to a congregational setting. Our Media Director will train and support students in these campaigns and in learning these communication skills. In the program, students will practice skills for sustaining nonprofit ministry through ongoing social media outreach.

What are the hours for educational time?

Each CPE unit schedule and syllabus is unique. Generally speaking, We will hold our CPE education hours on 1-3 weekdays after 2 PM PST (depending on whether the program is extended or intensive, see below), usually in a block from 2 - 6 PM or 3 - 7 PM on a weekday night- Pacific time. The first two weeks of every CPE unit are orientation weeks, and require almost nightly training, including the weekend. 

CPE is an intensive program, both in terms of hours and pastoral formation / emotional work. Please weigh your commitments carefully.

Extended Units

Part-time, 20-25 hour/week (on average) “extended” unit programs occur over approximately 18-21 weeks, though we are also running some "winter" units over 27-30 weeks. Every effort is made to accommodate the daytime schedules of students, many of whom continue to work or go to school during an extended unit program. Please note that even part-time CPE is an intensive emotional and formation experience. Students are advised against having any more than one other significant outside commitment aside from CPE (e.g,. work, school, internship, etc.).  The first several weeks of the extended program involves more intensive orientation activities. Thereafter, group work and seminars occur on 1-2 afternoons per week, between the hours of 2PM - 6PM on Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays, depending on the particular program. Individual education and clinical hours are tailored to each student, with the understanding that all CPE hours are completed by the end of the program.


Intensive Units

Full-time, 40 hour/week "intensive" unit programs over approximately 11-13 weeks. Every effort is made to accommodate the daytime schedules of students; however, due to the number of hours committed and the emotional work involved, it is recommended that students weigh outside commitments carefully. The first two weeks of the program will involve more intensive orientation activities. Thereafter, group and seminar work occur on two afternoons per week. Individual education occurs during a morning or afternoon, and clinical hours are arranged five nights per week, with an occasional afternoon.

Who supervises the CPE units?

The Rev. Trent J. Thornley is the Director of CPE at SFNM and an ACPE Certified Educator. Trent is an ordained Buddhist Dharma Leader in the Nyingma tradition of Anam Thubten and Dharmata Sangha. Trent is also an ordained minister of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a progressive Christian denomination with an outreach to the LGBTQ+ community. Trent holds a master’s degree in Buddhist Studies from the Graduate Theological Union and a Certificate in Buddhist Chaplaincy from the Institute for Buddhist Studies. He previously trained to be a certified educator at UCSF Medical Center. Trent is also a Certified Professional in the International Enneagram Association (www.livingenneagram.com). Trent's supervision is heavily insight-based.

The Rev. Cathy Schreiber is a contract educator with SFNM and an ACPE Certified Educator. Cathy is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She received a Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2008. She previously trained to be a certified educator at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City . Cathy became a Board-Certified Chaplain (BCC) with the Association of Professional Chaplains in July of 2018 after serving as a hospital chaplain at the Huntsman Cancer Center, Promise Hospital and Lakeview Hospital in Utah. She feels honored to be affiliated with the San Francisco Night Ministry.

The Rev. Silvia Tiznado-Smith is a contract educator with SFNM and an ACPE Certified Educator. Silvia earned her Masters of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology. She was ordained a minister in the Disciples of Christ Church in 2006. She has been an Interfaith chaplain since 2004. She has been a Board Certified chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains since 2007.  Silvia helped to start the SFNM CPE while training as a Certified Educator Candidate with Rev. Rod Seeger. Since 2018, she has been an ACPE Certified Educator. She served as an ACPE Educator at San Francisco Ministry and now at Templo Cristiano Central CPE Center. Rev. Tiznado-Smith served in the U.S. Army for five years from 1991 to 1996.

The Rev. Rod Seeger is an ACPE Certified Educator who started the CPE program at SFNM. Rod is a towering figure in the Bay Area CPE community, having had a hand in the training of most Bay Area educators and programs at some point or another. Rod is retired after serving 30 years at the director of spiritual care at UCSF Medical Center. Rod serves as the President of SFNM's Professional Advisory Group (PAG) and as a member of the SFNM Governing Board. Rod supports and advises our CPE programs, though does not engage in direct supervision.

Students should contact us for information about the particular supervisor who will lead the program to which they are applying.

What is the style of supervision at SFNM?

CPE is adult education in a clinical context -- practical, hands-on, and in the field. Supervisors journey alongside students offering a combination of affirmation, clarification, and challenge. We value a supervisory style that supports a collaborative learning environment and that seeks to identify and support the strengths each student brings to the program and to their service in the world. We strive to adhere to best practices of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as trauma-informed care and supervision. SFNM tends to be more flexible and self-directed than other CPE centers in institutional settings.

What is unique about CPE training at SFNM?

* SFNM offers an innovative, community-based CPE program serving the most marginalized populations in our society. Students will receive extensive experience in crisis counseling.

 * Students will get exposure to the workings of a nonprofit organization as a clinical context.

* SFNM CPE is highly flexible and self-directed. We are also a community in transition. Students will learn in an environment of significant organizational change. Students seeking highly structured settings will be challenged, but often grow in unexpected and beautiful ways as a result.

* Students will acquire skills for social media outreach and community-based fundraising.

 * SFNM is the longest continuously running night ministry of its kind. SFNM enjoys a 55+ year history in San Francisco and a citywide reputation for providing compassionate care to people.

 * Students are challenged to provide a listening presence to people experiencing crisis in what may be perceived as the impersonal setting of the streets of San Francisco. Spiritual care to all people encountered in the night is another important aspect of the CPE Night Minister’s role.

 * Students will learn to offer spiritual care by telephone, and in community and one-on-one settings.

 * As a part of the SFNM, students will collaborate with other professionals and organizations within the San Francisco ecosystem of community services.

 * SFNM values an openness to learning and responsible functioning in a multifaith setting.

 * Students will work with the Enneagram, a spiritually based personality typing system increasingly used across many fields and institutions.

 * Students in the Winter/Spring CPE program often focus on a specialty area. In the past, we have run programs with Buddhist-inspired spiritual assessment models and other Buddhist-specific approaches and teachings, including a Buddhist Enneagram, as well as an arts-based CPE program.  

Can students speak with a current student or alumnus?

Yes. We will make every effort to arrange with prospective students a conversation with a current students or alumnus of the program.

How do students apply?

To apply, a prospective student must submit a completed ACPE CPE application and a non-refundable application fee of $35.  

Both of these items are submitted online as follows:

Use this ACPE CPE Application

You can also find this application directly on the ACPE website (acpe.edu) and at www.sfnightministry.org/cpe.

Please include your clearly identified email address in the application.

Please indicate clearly which CPE program or programs you are applying for.

Please include three references on the front cover page.

Please submit all self and faculty final evaluations from CPE units you have previously completed.

Email your completed application to CPE Director Trent Thornley at cpe@sfnightministry.org.

Pay application fee here

You can also navigate to the payment page by clicking the button at the bottom of www.sfnightministry.org/cpe.

Direct any questions to Rev. Trent Thornley at cpe@sfnightministry.org.  

Students are accepted into a rolling admissions process until each program is filled. We also file applications for future programs. Once a program is filled, SFNM may select alternates.

It is best to apply early!

Selection Process

All applications are acknowledged by email within 30 days of their receipt. 

If SFNM decides to proceed with your application, you will sit for a personal interview, usually conducted virtually. Unlike typical job interviews, students are invited to bring their emotional and vulnerable selves to the CPE interview.

At the interview, we will give you a timeline for informing you of our decision. Students who are not invited to join a SFNM program may nonetheless be good candidates at another CPE Center. We strive to place students into a SFNM program and into cohorts based on their alignment with Night Ministry’s core mission, with the educators’ styles, and with each other, in order to form a diverse and complementary peer group and learning environment. 

If accepted, you will secure your place in the program by submitting a deposit of $500 within two weeks of your acceptance. The deposit will serve as tuition. The deposit is nonrefundable, except in the case of serious illness or unexpected catastrophe. Tuition may be paid by donation to SFNM on this webpage

Contact cpe@sfnightministry.org with any questions.

Tuition & Stipend

There is no tuition beyond the $500 non-refundable deposit that students send to SFNM to secure a place in the program to which they are accepted.  Distance students enrolled in an all-virtual program are also required  to  submit  an additional distance clinical site fee.

Students will receive a stipend of $800 upon successful completion of the program.

More Questions?

SFNM has limited capacity to speak to prospective students by phone. Most questions are answered in these FAQs, and follow up questions can be addressed if the student is selected for an interview. If you feel you have a pressing question that fundamentally relates to your discernment about whether to apply, please email us at cpe@sfnightministry.org. Blessings!

Thank you for your interest in CPE at SFNM…

 … and blessings on all you do to create a better world!