This article discusses the current trends in the realm of chaplaincy. It discusses what chaplains do, the reasons they do what they do, and the great need in our communities for this one-of-a-kind type of clergy. The article further talks about the changes in our communities and the way that alters the spiritual requirements of the various religious and spiritual groups in our midst.
I once accepted a new job, located in a distant town. My wife had to remain behind to get our home ready for sale, while I forged on to find a rental in the new town, 120 miles away. I was given the name of a landlord to speak with. As soon as I met with the landlord, I noticed something unusual about her. I just had to ask, “Are you involved with a ministry?” As it happened, she was an ordained minister who held services every Sunday for those campers who frequented the campground she owned. She became my first exposure to what a chaplain was.
Perhaps you have experienced something like that yourself. Some people stand out to you as different. Hard to pin point exactly what the difference is. Something inside of you, your spirit, already knew the answer. You likely felt the Divine Mark upon that person.
Chaplaincy is always evolving. It has always been a creative response to ever-changing conditions. As people change, so does the work of the chaplaincy. Individuals continue on in their lives doing what they need to get by. Folks will experience times in their lives when they leave home, go traveling, finish their education, settle down for a period of time, perhaps endure an extended illness. A career choice might limit a person’s ability to worship with a community on a consistent basis. This is a place that chaplains are able to fill a void. A few types of places in which chaplains may likely be found:
Ski and holiday resorts.
Emergency response teams.
In the United States, the majority of chaplains come from the Christian faith groups. During the 1st part of the 20th century, the military only recognized 3 religious groups as chaplains: Catholic, Protestant and Jew. Unitarian chaplains slipped through under the Protestant label. The military has since widened their standards to include Wiccans or Muslims as well. Hospitals and hospice centers have also followed suit.
Having pastors, serving as chaplains, making themselves available to businesses and/or schools is another increasing trend. School shootings as well as other problems have opened up these opportunities. To learn about how to start a new church, I once went with a mission team to Baltimore, MD. As part of the program, we had been given a bus tour of Baltimore by the Baltimore Police dept.. Driving by the school, we had been told the Baltimore school district was requesting help from ministers and clergy to assist on the campuses, working as chaplains. They had determined that the presence and counsel of chaplains dramatically reduced school violence.
Change continues to be an inevitable part of life. Modernism has been replaced by a group termed “post-modernism.” More and more communities are becoming a mixing bowl of cultures and religions. Throughout my childhood, I noticed that individuals tended to gather in communities based upon common income, culture, and background. There was generally 1 dominant religion. Within the community I now live in, 50 years ago that county was 80 percent Roman Catholic, 10 percent Episcopalian, with the remainder consisting of Protestant, Jewish, or no religion. In last check, the area is about half Catholic, with the rest consisting of Protestant, Jewish, Unitarian, Christian Science, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and a host of New Age groups.
As you will be able to see, chaplains today become faced with many more belief systems to deal with. Today’s chaplain must possess a lot of religious or spiritual tolerance. Or the chaplain has to be far more knowledgeable of other religions as well. The ULC Seminary offers an excellent class on Comparative Religion, which will help you be ready. Knowing where other people are coming from has been essential if you ever wish to converse intelligently with them or minister to them. Authors Naomi Paget and Janet McCormack have this to say about it:
The need is great.
There are hurting people everywhere. Belonging to any hospital, there are lonely individuals, sick or dying, who need to be comforted. There are individuals, living in communities, who work non-standard shifts or miss sharing fellowship with others from the same faith. Professionals like police or firefighters need someone occasionally, to pray with and to seek help in understanding whenever evil raises its ugly head.
Chaplains may be there for just such folks. This unique clergy is still viewed as the “keeper of the sacred” for those who're unconnected to a religious congregation. A prayer, a few words of advice, a simple ritual, or the touch of a caring hand does much for people who are alone, without friends, or afraid.
A chaplain keeps the sacred by ministering to other people. As the universal consciousness has given existence, we go and care for that existence. The Supreme Being – The Universe – All that is Divine, honors and accepts a ministry from the heart. It truly is ‘Divine Glory’ defined. For more information about becoming a chaplain, visit the ULC Seminary’s Chaplaincy Program.
This is an excerpt from the Universal Life Church Seminary’s Chaplaincy Studies program, authored by Rev. Daniel Moore.
If you desire to learn about how to become a chaplain, this is a phenomenal course, showing you the things that are expected of you as a chaplain and how best to give counsel to those of different backgrounds.