What is a Chaplain?
When people think of chaplains, they often think of spiritual advisors in the armed forces, such as in the army, the navy, and the marines. The armed forces are one place chaplains are found, but the vocation actually extends to several other areas of life.
Traditionally, a chaplain is the minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, lay representative of a world view attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel.
Though originally the word "chaplain" referred to representatives of the Christian faith, it is now also applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions–such as in the case of the humanist chaplains serving with military forces in the Netherlands and Belgium.
In recent years many lay individuals have received professional training in chaplaincy and are now appointed as chaplains in schools, hospitals, universities, prisons and elsewhere to work alongside or instead of official members of the clergy. The concept of 'generic' and/or 'multifaith' chaplaincy is also gaining increasing support, particularly within healthcare and educational settings.
What are the Different Types of Chaplains?
A chaplain provides pastoral (spiritual) and emotional support for service personnel, including the conduct of religious services at sea or in the field. Military chaplains have a long history; the first English military-oriented chaplains, for instance, were priests on board proto-naval vessels during the 8th century. Land based chaplains appeared during the reign of King Edward I. The current form of military chaplain dates from the era of the First World War.
Chaplains are nominated, appointed, or commissioned in different ways in different countries. A military chaplain can be an army-trained soldier with additional theological training or a priest nominated to the army by religious authorities. In the United Kingdom the Ministry of Defence employs chaplains but their authority comes from their sending church.
Royal Navy chaplains undertake a 16 week bespoke induction and training course including a short course at Britannia Royal Naval College and specialist fleet time at sea alongside a more experienced chaplain. Naval Chaplains called to service with the Royal Marines undertake a grueling 5 month long Commando Course and, if successful, wear the commandos' Green Beret.
British Army chaplains undertake seven weeks training at The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Royal Air Force chaplains must complete 12 weeks Specialist Entrant course at the RAF College Cranwell followed by a Chaplains' Induction Course at Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House of a further 2 weeks.
The United States Navy will often give chaplain training to cadets seeking a theological route in the military. Additionally, they are granted instant employment as a Navy chaplain once ordained. Additionally, in the United States military, chaplains must be endorsed by their religious affiliation in order to serve in any facet of the military. In some cases, like that of the U.S. Navy, a Religious Program Specialist may be appointed to help alleviate some of the duties bestowed upon Naval chaplains.
Jewish Chaplain (Rabbi) Arnold E. Resnicoff wears a kippah/yarmulke made from a piece of a Catholic chaplain's camouflage uniform after his own head covering had become bloodied when it was used to wipe the face of a wounded marine during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing.
In most navies, their badges and insignia do not differentiate their levels of responsibility and status. By contrast, in Air Forces and Armies, they typically carry ranks and are differentiated by crosses or other equivalent religious insignia. However, United States military chaplains in every branch carry both rank and Chaplain Corps insignia.
Though the Geneva Conventions do not state whether chaplains may bear arms, they specify (Protocol I, 8 June 1977, Art 43.2) that chaplains are noncombatants. In recent years both the UK and US have required chaplains, but not medical personnel, to be unarmed. Other nations, notably Norway, Denmark and Sweden, make it an issue of individual conscience. Captured chaplains are not considered Prisoners of War (Third Convention, 12 August 1949, Chapter IV Art 33) and must be returned to their home nation unless retained to minister to prisoners of war.
Inevitably, a significant number of serving chaplains have died in action. The U.S. Army and Marines lost 100 chaplains killed in action during WWII: a casualty rate greater "than any other branch of the services except the infantry and the Army Air Corps" (Crosby, 1994, pxxiii). Many have been decorated for bravery in action (five have won Britain's highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross).
The Chaplain's Medal for Heroism is a special U.S. military decoration given to military chaplains who have been killed in the line of duty, although it has to date only been awarded to the famous Four Chaplains, all of whom died in the USAT Dorchester sinking in 1943 after giving up their lifejackets to others.
In addition to these, five other U.S. chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor: Chaplain (LCDR) Joseph T. O'Callahan, USN (World War II); Chaplain (CPT) Emil Kapaun, USA (Posthumous, Korean War); Chaplain (LT) Vincent Capodanno, USN (Posthumous, Vietnam War); Chaplain (MAJ) Charles J. Watters, USA (Posthumous, Vietnam War); and Chaplain (CPT) Angelo J. Liteky, USA (Vietnam). (Later in life, Liteky changed his name to Charles, left the Catholic priesthood, became an anti-war activist, and renounced his Medal of Honor).
Chaplain Fellowship Ministries Military Chaplains are nondenominational chaplains. To be considered for appointment to serve as a military chaplain, candidates must first be ordained and have an ecclesiastical endorsement by a valid religious faith group recognized by the Department of Defense. Candidates must meet all DOD requirements.
The State has the twofold responsibility about crime and punishment: to discourage behavior that is harmful to human rights and the fundamental norms of civil life, and to repair, through the penal system, the disorder created by criminal activity. Judicial and penal institutions play a fundamental role in protecting citizens and safeguarding the common good. By their very nature these institutions must contribute to the rehabilitation of offenders. So, prisons are a reality of any society. But, quite often, prison causes more problems than it solves.
Dr. Vance Drum wrote and presented a paper at the American Correctional Association on the nature of the professional prison Generally speaking, prisoners are often persons excluded, aborted from society. Prisoners easily can be overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, shame and rejection that threaten to shatter their hopes and aspirations for the future. Within this contex
Rabbi Philip R. Alstat (1891–1976), who—in addition to work as a chaplain in New York hospitals and senior citizen facilities—served for three decades as the Jewish chaplain for "The Tombs", the Manhattan Detention Facility, once described his service as follows: "My goals are the same as those of the prison authorities--to make better human beings. The only difference is that their means are discipline, security, and iron bars. Mine are the spiritual ministrations that operate with the mind and the heart."
Some nations, including the United States, have chaplains appointed to work with parliamentary bodies, such as the Chaplain of the United States Senate, and the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.
In addition to opening proceedings with prayer, these chaplains provide pastoral counseling to congressional members, their staffs, and their families; coordinate the scheduling of guest chaplains, who offer opening prayers; arrange and sometimes conduct marriages, memorial services, and funeral services for congress, staff, and their families; and conduct or coordinate religious services, study groups, prayer meetings, holiday programs, and religious education programs, as well.
Law enforcement chaplains serve in local, county, state and federal agencies and provide a variety of services within the law enforcement community. They should not be confused with prison chaplains, whose primary ministry is to those who are incarcerated either awaiting trial or after conviction. The role of the law enforcement chaplain deals primarily with law enforcement personnel and agencies.
The chaplain responds to these unique needs and challenges with religious guidance, reassuring and trustworthy presence, resources and counseling services. The law enforcement chaplain offers support to law enforcement officers, administrators, support staff, victims and their families, and occasionally even the families of accused or convicted offenders.
Fire departments Chaplains
Chaplains working with fire departments provide the same kind of support to firefighters as do chaplains working with law enforcement, and sometimes face even greater danger, working with the wounded in often very dangerous surroundings.
At the scene of the September 11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center, for example, Franciscan friar and fire chaplain, Fr. Mychal F. Judge, lost his life when he re-entered one of the World Trade Center buildings shortly after administering last rites to a wounded firefighter.
Many hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospices employ chaplains to assist with the pastoral and emotional needs of patients, families and staff. Chaplains are often employed at residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) and skilled nursing facilities (SNF) as well.
In the United States, health care chaplains who are board certified have completed a minimum of four units of Clinical Pastoral Education training through The American Association of Pastoral Counselors, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association, or The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and may be certified by one of the following organizations: The American Association of Pastoral Counselors, The Association of Professional Chaplains, The National Association of Catholic Chaplains, The National Association of Jewish Chaplains, or The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.
Certification typically requires a Masters of Divinity degree (or its equivalent), faith group ordination or commissioning, faith group endorsement, and four units (1600 hours) of Clinical Pastoral Education (the Military Chaplains Association of the United States of America does require more, but they are a dod2088 501c-3 military support group founded in 1954 by Military Chaplains).
In England, Health Care Chaplains are employed by their local NHS Trust or by charities associated with hospice. The majority work part-time, combining their role with another post, either in a local Church or another chaplaincy. The professional body in England is the College of Health Care Chaplains.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the bodies are the Scottish Association of Chaplains in Healthcare (SACH) and the Northern Ireland Healthcare Chaplains Association. Membership of the College of Health Care Chaplains is not compulsory but may be advantageous as it carries with it membership of a Trade Union. Chaplains working in a palliative care setting may also choose to join the Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains.
Some businesses, large or small, employ chaplains for their staff and/or clientele. According to The Economist (August 25, 2007, p64) there are 4,000 corporate chaplains in the U.S. alone, with the majority being employees of specialist chaplaincy companies such as Marketplace Chaplains USA or Corporate Chaplains of America.
According to the Marketplace Chaplains USA, turnover at Taco Bell outlets in central Texas dropped by a third after they started employing chaplains. Workplace Chaplain organizations, such as Marketplace Chaplains Europe and Capellania Empresarial in Paraguay have been established outside the US.
A sports chaplain provides pastoral care for the sports person and the broader sports community including the coach, administrators and their families.
Chaplains to sports communities have existed since the middle of the 20th century and have significantly grown in the past 20 years. The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have well established Christian sports chaplaincy ministries.
Sports Chaplains consist of people from many different walks of life. Most commonly, the chaplains are ministers or full-time Christian workers but occasionally, chaplaincy work is done without charge or any financial remuneration. Often, sports chaplains to a particular sport are former participants of that sport. This helps the chaplain to not only provide spiritual support and guidance to a player, but gives them the ability to empathize and relate to some of the challenges facing the participant with whom they are ministering.
Chaplains are appointed by many educational institutions, including colleges and universities, sometimes working directly for the institution, and sometimes as representatives of separate organizations that specifically work to support students, such as Hillel College Campus Ministry for Jews, and Newman House, College Campus Ministry, for Catholics. The National Association of College and University Chaplains works to support the efforts of many of these chaplains, helping chaplains minister to the individual faith of students, faculty, and staff, while promoting interreligious understanding.
Chaplains often also oversee programs on campus that foster spiritual, ethical, religious, and political and cultural exchange, and the promotion of service. Each day communities respond to numerous disasters or emergencies. Most often, these incidents are managed effectively at the local level.
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