I enrolled in the Chaplaincy program offered by ULC because I felt called to serve the spiritual needs of more folks. I have enjoyed facilitating weddings and other rites of passage as an ordained minister for some time now.
I have come to view all positive faiths as beautiful, however my experiences in facilitating religious services have been centered on my own spiritual path. In speaking with people of other faiths I have found that my personal beliefs, in all the significant aspects, mirror theirs. Folks always assume that I am of their faith. It has become apparent to me that I am being called to be of more use to my community. The most common service that is requested is counseling in some form, even if it’s just to lend a sympathetic ear.
I would like to work in hospitals, nursing homes and perhaps a prison ministry, as well as sharpen the skills needed to assist those already coming to me for guidance. I felt that enrolling in this course would further my development as a spiritual leader and after taking the Master of Chaplaincy module I feel I made the right decision.
Through this course I had the opportunity to give some thought as to what someone who has received a spiritual calling looks like. I am fortunate in that I am literally surrounded by ULC ministers. I see the calling in each of them. They all have a sincere desire to serve the needs of others, a kindness of spirit, a calmness that is reassuring, and an aura about them that attracts others seeking their message. The most flattering comment my wife and I have ever received was “You guys are so much more than ministers you’re more like Buddha or Gandhi”. The reference wasn’t in regards to our spiritual path or how we dress, it was in relation to our attitude toward life, our acceptance and love of others, and a welcoming feeling that a wide variety of folks were attracted to spiritually. It was a reference to our ability to find the common ground among all spiritual paths.
Though this course does not qualify anyone to offer pastoral counseling, it does at least make you aware that those skills will be needed to be an effective chaplain and gives you an understanding of the ethical concerns in regard to offering spiritual guidance to others. Some things are just common sense. For instance not putting yourself in a position that could get you in trouble or discredit your ministry, such as avoiding personal relationships with those you are guiding. What was nice to see in the course were the sections on other pitfalls to avoid such as unhealthy relationships and transference. The advice in avoiding those problems was spot on. There are many counselors of different modalities that use similar methods, such as limiting the number sessions up front.
The sections concerning the multitude of opportunities for chaplains to serve, was very thorough and laid out not only what types of work you might expect but also the type of educational background and other requirements that each type of opportunity would expect you to have to qualify for the job. Depending on the type of facility or company you plan on serving you will probably need to have ministerial accreditation, possibly a certificate stating you have passed a state certification to counsel and a back ground check among other qualifications.
Some of the places that use chaplains are Nursing Homes, Hospitals, Prisons, Corporations, aboard ships, Military, Fire Departments and Police Departments. I grew up in area where the most famous chaplain was the Fire Chaplain. We have a bridge that was fairly popular as a spot to commit suicide. This was no low bridge, it was quite high. The chaplain was constantly in the paper because he would climb up to the jumpers and he had a pretty good record talking them down.
I grew up in a home that was Navy friendly. I met many chaplains when they would join our family for the holidays. Most times these chaplains were the only folks available to serve the needs of many service men of different religious backgrounds. I believe exposure to military chaplains sparked an interest early in my life and led me to be very open minded and accepting of people of different faiths.
More recently, my wife and I volunteered some of our time to cleaning a local church. We were there once a week for about 5 years. It was an Episcopal church. Down the street about two blocks is a Congregational church. The ministers would cover for each other when needed. In our area many hospitals have Priests, Rabbis and Ministers that would alternate acting as chaplain in much the same way. The hospital doesn’t need a full time chaplain because everyone dedicates a little time to see that the spiritual needs of the patients are met. I am a member of an organization that has a good percentage of members that are elderly and of different religious back grounds. There are many in nursing homes. Because they are aging they also spend a bit more time in the hospital for one reason or another. I plan on serving the needs of those folks at a minimum. My hope is to cultivate relationships with the staff and management of those facilities over time as well. Maybe I can get a per deim volunteer position.
There is a lot of information in this course but I will try to keep this essay within the parameters of 1000 to 1500 words. That said, I will discuss the tools I plan to use.
The most important tools are education, understanding, the ability to listen and empathize, and the ability to understand and execute the rites of different religions should you be the only one available and it being proper to do so. The second would be a working relationship with, and directory of, other religious leaders of different backgrounds and mental health professionals to refer folks to.
As for material tools, the most efficient and necessary is my smart phone. Not only does it store my documents and contacts phone numbers it also stores a searchable copy of the Torah, Koran and the King James version of the Bible. The searchable editions are free apps that I downloaded. I also keep briefcase at the ready. It keeps all the things I might need in one place. I have soft cover editions of the same books of holy writ that are on my phone, a pad, pens, Holy water and consecrated oil, stick incense and other assorted interfaith items. Being that most religious observance can be conducted without the aid of props, most things in the brief case are for convenience and comfort.
I work six days a week at two jobs and facilitate around 30 observances in the course of the year. This course was convenient for me take because it was accessible from my phone. I enjoyed it and believe has laid a solid foundation upon which to build as I complete other courses needed to complete the chaplaincy program.