What Do Chaplains Do Anyway? Part 1

Why have chaplains in the United States Military? From my perspective it's about what we do which I see as having two major interrelated dimensions. I am here to help meet the spiritual needs of our people. I am also here to provide support to help keep our troops fit to fight. Taking care of people so they can take care of business -- that's what we do.

So what kinds of things do chaplains do?

Chaplains Lead Worship

I list this activity first, not necessarily because it is the most important, but because it is the most typical and I suspect expected function.

Chaplains lead worship services for people of their faith group. For example, Catholic priests will provide worship and sacraments for Catholics, Protestant chaplains will provide services for protestant Christians, chaplains of other faiths will provide services for their traditions and so forth.

Don't think though that a worship service is an exclusive product of just the single chaplain. For one our chaplains are constantly busy today. We are often away for training or deployment. While a service may have a predominant leader, there are always backups ready to step up to the plate when the regular chaplain is called away to serve elsewhere. I typically lead the formal/liturgical service, but have filled in for a variety of other services as well.

In fact the team is wider than just the chaplains. There are the chaplain assistants, our enlisted folks, who take care of the facilities and have the various worship sites set up and ready to go each Sunday morning.

Then there are all the many volunteers who provide essential support to keep the services flowing. There are those who sing in choirs, provide musical accompaniment, run slide show presentations, monitor the sound systems, take care of flowers, keep up with annoucements and member news, and so forth.

And of course there are the many faithful attendees of the services. Active duty folks are often coming and going as changes in posts necessitate their moving. But each service often has a core of retired folks who play essential support roles in keeping the services going.

Worship communities are also busy reaching out to their wider community. For example, one major project operated by the chapel community at Andrews is the support of S.O.M.E (So That Others May Eat). This is a major project to feed the homeless in the Washington D.C. area. And this is just one of the major projects they support along with designated offerings for various support groups that are out there taking care of folks.

Taking care of folks -- that's what it is all about.

And our worship communities are reaching out to take care of our active duty folks as well with adopt-a-squadron initiatives. Activities and outreach events are targeted to active duty folks and especially the families of our forward deployed troops.

Chaplains are on the front lines of encouraging our worship communities to reach out with their gifts, talents, and resources to help take care of others -- in our Air Force community and our wider community.

One question comes up often in the context of worship: what kind of stuff can a chaplain say? I'll just state that during worship, people voluntarily come to the service of their preference according to their traditions. And so in the spirit of integrity, which is so important in our Air Force, I proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to my best understanding. Chaplains are here to accommodate the spiritual needs of people, and so I preach God's Word providing for those who have come to hear that Word of God.