Thoughts from Navy Chaplaincy: Tidbits for “Being Church”

As many of you who’ve come across my blog know, I identify as a “multi-vocational” person – I’m pastor, Navy Chaplain, wrestling coach, husband and family member, among many things.  I like to make connections between the things I experience and learn and bring them into the other “vocations” or “spheres” of my life – for example, how does coaching wrestling inform what kind of pastor I am, or how does being a pastor inform what kind of husband I am.  In short, I’m always thinking about how God shows up in my life (or doesn’t)….in all aspects of it.

My time training at the Navy’s Chaplaincy School, as part of my basic leadership training as a Chaplain, is such an example.  For the past three weeks, I’ve been learning some of the basics of what it means to be a Navy Chaplain, and what it means to do ministry in a secular institution that invites people like me to minister publicly to its people because it believes it is beneficial for their lives….especially in a profession that raises so many moral, ethical, personal, and spiritual challenges.

I’ve enjoyed it a lot….and I’ve enjoyed it because what I’ve learned has got me thinking about the church, and doing ministry in a congregational setting – in the church.  I think the Navy Chaplaincy approach to ministry offers a lot of good things to think about for parish ministry (and I hope to talk with my two congregations about them when I get back!).  So, as I enter my last week of training, I want to offer you some of those tidbits from this past week – thoughts on some of those topics that frankly, congregations and pastors are always thinking and talking about.


is about growth – personal and spiritual growth – of the individual.

Growth is defined as people growing within their own tradition and beliefs – and the Navy Chaplain’s role is to help…..provide for those who are within our own faith tradition, and facilitate for the growth of those outside it.

Outreach then, is not about the preservation of a space/building/membership.

Social media….

fosters a lack of ownership and accountability for one’s thoughts and comments that face-to-face communication demands of people.

Does social media restrict the development of critical thinking, deeper thought? (We only think beyond 400-800 word blogs, 140 character tweets, etc)

Philosophy and Approach to Institutional Ministry…..

The institution (Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard) has invited us (ministers, pastors) to publicize religion in a world where its privatized.  That is a privilege.

Our mission, then, is to help people see they have value…because our faith says that about humanity.

It means in a pluralistic environment, we have to put aside our “entitlements” and our theological commitments, and unit by a commitment to care for all people (institutional-mandated commitment).  Pluralism is complimentary in this approach.

Our challenge is to find language to speak to issues of dignity and humanity of people – to define these things as well as the medical profession does.  We speak to issues of shame/guilt – how do those we minister to see themselves?  How does those we minister to define shame and guilt?

Relevancy is an important issue….while the leaders and people we serve may think religion is irrelevant, and they will believe what they want….our role is to fulfill the institution’s commitment – to care for all people.

That means we make ourselves irrelevant when we close ourselves off from caring for all.

Well, that’s it.  What do you think?  How do you see any of this helping how we think about ministry in a parish/congregational setting?  Or do you think that institutional ministry – in our Armed Services – is simply disconnected from the ministry we do in the church?  

I’d love to hear what you think….as for me, our class is headed to Mayport, FL to visit a few surface ships and the Coast Guard station to experience that world a bit, and then we spend some time at Parris Island, SC at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot – watching young men and women become completely transformed from civilians to U.S. Marines!  It’s definitely feels like I’m going back to my U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman days – summer cruise/training!  But it should be fun…..

PS: All the best to the young men and women who will be sworn in July 1st for “I-Day” at the U.S. Naval Academy – the beginning of Plebe Summer and a 4-year journey unlike any other!


1 Comment

Filed under Missional Thinking & The Church, Navy Chaplaincy

One response to “Thoughts from Navy Chaplaincy: Tidbits for “Being Church”

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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