How Can I Become A Chaplain

How Can I Become A Chaplain – Rev. Nathan Ferrell, a reserve chaplain in the United States Navy, was commissioned on April 23, 2017. Photo: Adam Burt/Two Infinite Things, via Bishop’s Office for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries

[Episcopal News Service] Joshua Woods first felt a call while ministering to hospital patients in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

How Can I Become A Chaplain

Many patients were military veterans and spouses. As he counseled them, Woods, a lay chaplain, listened to the impact the military chaplain had on their lives.

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That was when Woods, now 34 years old, knew he wanted to be a military chaplain. Such a chaplain is a member of the clergy who provides spiritual leadership, counseling and religious services to an institution that is not a parish, such as a prison, university, hospital or branch of the armed forces.

But the process of becoming a military chaplain in particular is difficult. Woods knew of no seminary with a military chaplaincy concentration, and there are so many requirements from both the church and the military that it can be a difficult and frustrating path to navigate.

“One of the reasons it was a long and winding road for me was because I was doing it without direction,” Woods said, though he had Rev. Faculty member of Southwestern Seminary in Austin, Texas.

Woods is now a senior at that Episcopal seminary, but it should be easy for those who come after him. On September 12, Southwestern Seminary announced the launch of a military chaplaincy concentration for its master of divinity degree. It is the first of its kind among Episcopal seminaries.

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The seminary did not create this concentration from scratch, said Eric Scott, the seminary’s director of communications and marketing. For 15 years, Southwestern Seminary has been the only Episcopal seminary to offer an accredited master’s degree in mental health for students to become licensed professional counselors, Scott said. It is a clinical degree, completely separate from the religious world.

Retired Rear Admiral Don Muchow (left) and two military recruiters dine together during a Sept. 12 event announcing a new military chaplaincy concentration at Southwestern Seminary in Austin, Texas. Photo: Southwestern Seminary

“Because of these counseling classes, and because a large part of what a military chaplain does in practice is mental health counseling, the pastoral side, we can offer those optional classes for specific topics like these counseling classes, for PTSD treatment, addiction and recovery – all Things that we know soldiers are dealing with,” Scott said.

Seminarians in military chaplaincy courses will take the required courses as Master of Divinity fellows, while using their elective courses for concentration.

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It also helps that the seminary is less than 100 miles from three of the nation’s largest military bases, so seminarians can do their work in needed locations in nearby parishes that support troops and their families: U.S. Army Fort Hood in Killeen and U.S. air force Force’s Lackland and Randolph bases.

RT Rev. Carl Wright, suffrage bishop for armed forces and federal ministries, visited the Austin campus as the program officially began. Wright provides ecclesiastical oversight for 130 Episcopal military chaplains on the federal payroll and wants to double that number if he has enough chaplains trained and called to ministry. He sees the growth in specialty ministries as a trend in the Episcopal Church.

“The M.Div. military track is innovative, and it’s the wave of the future in our church, because we’ve always known that not everyone feels specifically called to parish ministry,” Wright said, recalling his visit. He praises Southwestern Seminary, “not only for recognizing other callings but also for creating a way to fulfill them.”

Reverend Hope Benko, Director of Registration, and Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, suffrage bishop for armed forces and federal ministries, participated in the Sept. 12 proclamation program at Southwestern Seminary. Photo: Southwestern Seminary

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These seminarians receive training in suicide prevention, marriage and relationship counseling, and ministry to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction problems and other types of crisis. The degree also includes fieldwork at Veterans Affairs hospitals and other medical facilities.

There is a shortage of Episcopal chaplains in the military, where there is a need for spiritual guidance and counseling for those who do not fall into more conservative beliefs, Scheider said. He oversees the seminary’s three graduate programs aimed at lay people and clergy in counseling, pastoral and spiritual formation. Scheider will mentor the military chaplain students.

“The ability to serve everyone in units across the political and theological spectrum is a challenge. It’s really hard to do, and we want to train them,” Scheider said.

He wants chaplains to enter the military equipped to overcome political culture and pressures, such as young servicemen, often minorities, who are able to advise them to join the grassroots to get out of poverty. Clergy also have to gain the respect of higher-ups, who tend to be more conservative, Scheider said.

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The number of sexual minorities in the military has increased, but the number of chaplains from denominations that accept their beliefs and lifestyles has decreased, he said. During the week when chaplains are not conducting services, they counsel people who are going through serious problems, and although they are not officially mental health counselors, they may be the most available members on the unit.

Reverend Dave Scheider, Rt. Rev. Carl Wright and Rev. David Peters, Southwest Seminary alumnus and U.S. Army chaplain, attended an announcement event at the seminary on Sept. 12. Photo: Southwestern Seminary

“All they have to do is go to a chaplain and say, ‘Hey you have a minute,'” Scheider said, and a service member can expect complete privacy even if they have suicidal intent. Chaplains are considered clergy, not medical professionals, and are therefore subject to federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) regulations, as well as state exceptions, which require or allow strict disclosure. Patients’ impending thoughts. to harm oneself. These rules, requirements and exceptions, along with the liability involved, can be onerous, but the goal is to protect the person seeking help, and to build enough trust to do so.

“Chaplains are extremely safe for service members to open up and not experience any consequences,” Scheider said.

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During his last ten years of active military service, Scheider specialized in helping couples in love affairs, some of whom married young to get out of the barracks and receive benefits. She earned additional counseling degrees and a marriage and family therapy license to do this well.

“All couples need to have that level of support and not be discriminated against, and we’re one of the few denominations that encourages our clergy to provide that kind of support to same-sex couples,” he said.

Above all, Scheider and Woods agree that a military chaplain should be a priest first and a military service member second. This is why a strong foundation in seminary is so important.

Until now, there is no specific path within an Episcopal seminary for students who want to train to become military chaplains rather than serve a parish. The Episcopal Church has a program for seminarians to become “priestly candidates.” They enter the reserve for training in the summer between their junior and senior seminary years. Those priest candidates continue to train and prepare as reservists until they complete the mandatory period of parish experience (up to two years), Rev. Leslie Nunez Stephenson, Bishop’s Canon of the Armed Forces and Federal Ministry.

Chaplain Certification Program Home

Interested seminarians or priests must enter the US military chaplain recruitment process and, at a certain point, receive the so-called ecclesiastical approval of their denomination.

Rev. Todd Delaney is a chaplain in the United States Army who conducts services wherever he is stationed. Photo: Bishop’s Office for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries

Some men were first in the military, and then left to be ordained and their priestly training in seminary. Others were first priests, and then entered the army. For example, the U.S. Army describes three main hurdles: receiving church approval, earning a bachelor’s degree, and being a full-time graduate student at a seminary or theological school.

As for Woods, he first had to figure out if he wanted to be an Episcopalian. He previously served as a pastor and assistant pastor of a non-denominational church. Before that, he earned a master’s degree in theological studies from Vanderbilt University Seminary and was following the teachings of his childhood church, the Assemblies of God. But as Woods grew up, he found the denomination limiting, and he liked the openness of questions and the inclusiveness of the Episcopal Church.

Us Military Chaplaincy: How To Become A Military Chaplain

He was convinced when he saw an almost equal number of Republican and Democratic political stickers in the parking lot of his first visit to St. Simon’s Episcopal Church during the Obama-Romney presidential election.

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