Present-Day Trends in Chaplaincy

At one time in my life, I moved to change jobs. I looked for a rental in a new town, while my wife stayed behind to ready our home for sale. I had been given the name of a landlord to speak with. I met with the woman, and I noticed something different about her. I felt compelled to ask her if she happened to be a reverend. As it happened, she was an ordained reverend who held services every Sunday for those campers who visited the campground she owned. She became my first exposure to what a chaplain was.

Perhaps you’ve experienced something like that yourself. You noticed something unusual about a person. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it. On some level though, you found the answer. You likely felt the Divine Mark upon that individual.

The guidelines for chaplaincy is still growing and evolving. Since the beginning, it has evolved to answer whatever unique circumstances it is presented with. As people change, so does the work of the chaplaincy. Folks need to work and survive. People will have times in their lives when they leave home, go travelling, go to school, settle down for a period of time, perhaps go through an extended illness. A career choice may limit a person’s ability to gather in fellowship with a community on a regular basis. This is where chaplains can fill a void. A few places where chaplains can be found are:Major truck stops along major highways.Businesses.Retirement communities.College or school campuses.Police and fire departments.Shopping malls.Most chaplains, at least within the U.S., have come from the Christian faith. During the first part of the 20th century, the armed forces only recognized three religious groups as chaplains: Catholic, Protestant and Jew. Unitarian chaplains tended to enter under the Protestant label. Now chaplains have begun entering the military from Wiccan/Pagan or Muslim groups. Hospitals and hospice centers have also followed suit.

Another trend is the increase of nearby pastors and religious leaders also being available to businesses or schools to serve in a “chaplaincy” role. School shootings as well as additional crises have opened up these possibilities. I once visited Baltimore together with a mission team to study how to create new churches. As part of the program, we had been given a bus tour of Baltimore by the Baltimore Police dept.. Driving by the school, we were told that the Baltimore school district is asking for assistance from ministers and clergy to assist on the campuses, serving as chaplains. They’ve found the presence as well as the counsel of chaplains dramatically reduced school violence.

Change is an inevitable part of life. Modernism has been replaced by a group known as “post-modernism.” More and more communities are becoming melting pots of cultures and religions. Being a child growing up, I noted that folks tended to congregate in communities based upon common income, culture, and background. There was usually one dominant religion. Inside the community I now live in, 50 years ago of the county was 80 percent Roman Catholic, 10 percent Episcopalian, and the remainder consisted of Protestant, Jewish, or no religion. Now of the county has about 50 percent Catholic with the remainder filled by Protestant, two Jewish congregations, Unitarian, Christian Science, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many new age groups.

The chaplain has been facing a greater variety of individuals together with differing spiritual paths. Today’s chaplain must possess a lot of religious or spiritual tolerance. It is also essential that today’s chaplain must know as much regarding other religions as possible to best serve of the needs of their flock. Of the ULC Seminary offers an excellent program on Comparative Religion, which will help get you ready. That material is very useful when conversing with persons of differing backgrounds. Authors Naomi Paget and Janet McCormack have this to say about it:

The need has been great.

Everywhere in the world, people become hurting. You find individuals who are sick and dying belonging to hospitals needing comfort. There are individuals, living in communities, who work unusual shifts and miss worshiping together with other people from the same faith. Professionals such as police and firefighters need a person when the need arises, to pray with or to seek understanding whenever evil raises its ugly head.

Chaplains are often there for just such people. A chaplain has been there for people who have been religiously unattached, but still have a need for help. For those who have been lonely or afraid, a basic blessing, kind words or caring touch does more than you might imagine.

A Chaplain’s charge is to ‘keep the sacred’ – this has been done by ministering to other people. It is our job, as ministers, to care for the spiritual life which has been given us. It’s a type of ministry which The supreme being accepts and honors. It reflects Divine Glory.

Susan is the author of multiple books on Spiritual Development and Growth.

The following is an excerpt from the Universal Life Church Seminary’s Chaplaincy Studies program, authored by Rev. Daniel Moore.

If you wish to learn about how to become a chaplain, this is an outstanding class, teaching you what is expected of you as a chaplain and the best way to minister to people of varied backgrounds.

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