Friday, July 22, 2011


Final Essay by Mary McGar

The Master of Chaplaincy Course is deserving of being the core course of the Chaplaincy Program. It is very comprehensive and covers all aspects how Chaplaincy came into being, the calling that is necessary to minister to others, both material and personal “tools” to be able to serve all people regardless of their beliefs, a wide variety of career opportunities, detailed job descriptions and qualification requirements of a chaplain in specific organizations, mistakes to avoid, critical personal responsibility issues and much more. The course offers enough direction for one to be able to decide if this is truly the path that is best for her/him.

Becoming aware of the history of one's chosen field is always an advantage for both the Chaplain and anyone receiving her/his services because relating historical information is an excellent method of initial communication. For some one who desires comforting words but may be hesitant or shy regarding praying with another initially, a little background of how the field of Chaplaincy began can break the ice and be non-threatening. By speaking of something intellectual and pragmatic one can often reduce the emotional tension in the room. I think this would also help people who are searching for answers be more at ease and may pique their interest enough to be more receptive to comforting. This course provided excellent background information regarding the origin of Chaplaincy and how it has grown over the many years of its existence.

I found the lessons regarding necessary personal skills and abilities an excellent reminder of the gifts and virtues needed by a chaplain. Chief among the skills needed is that of a good listener. When a chaplain in present a person needing his/her ministering must feel that the chaplain is truly listening so he/she will accurately understand the situation, thoughts and feelings involved. The next most important skill is being perceptive and observant of the person or persons who are in need of the chaplain's ministering A chaplain would benefit by developing strong skills regarding reading body language.

The lesson regarding both the basic and the finer points of counseling from the first encounter to the last was very helpful. As an example, knowing what information to gather during the first visit,asking how I can help, how to discover the nature of the problem, how to develop a plan to help and recognizing when I can't help were all very instructional. I also appreciated learning detailed steps involved in helping someone change a bad habit to a good habit and exactly what is required of both the chaplain and the other person.

Although I have done volunteer work from the time I was a teenager to the present time and enjoyed fulfillment from each different volunteer activity I felt compelled to become a chaplain late in life. As I am also a Reiki teacher and practitioner each year my spirituality has grown. For years and years I searched for a church group in which I truly felt at home. I have been unable to believe in many beliefs necessary to be considered one of the flock of most churches. For the last two decades the Unity church and the Unitarian Universalist church have been my church homes. Having enjoyed volunteer positions that covered a broad range I learned that I most loved working with individuals one on one or in small groups where I could actually see that people benefited from my actions. 

Along with that I learned how to use different methods to help different people. I am not intending to belittle administrative or retail or any others type of volunteer work. I just learned what suits my personality better. Everyone has something to offer and volunteer organizations, especially, could not survive without the different talents of all concerned. Lately I felt called to broaden my efforts to include the counseling and comforting that a Chaplain gives. From another course I took from ULC I learned one reason I did not feel comfortable with certain belief systems for myself was because, in addition to a few Christian beliefs, I share some of the beliefs of Humanists, Pagans, Druids, Buddhists and quite a number of other religious groups. 

When I realized that I could pick and choose what I believed without feeling that I had to believe everything, or even, the majority of the doctrine of one group, I decided I wanted to be a chaplain. Because my belief system is very inclusive I feel I can minister to people regardless of their beliefs. I also feel that many people are also unable to settle on one religious group with all their heart and perhaps would benefit from a chaplain with similar beliefs. Most chaplains believe, primarily, in one religion and are very adept at ministering to those of other faiths but I think a “mixed breed' chaplain could fill a need. 

Having volunteered in a county jail as a tutor, lay counselor and life skill teacher I decided that was one place I would like to be a volunteer chaplain. Having also had experience in nursing homes I feel that I can be of service there, too. I am already making connections to serve in the capacity of a volunteer chaplain in both institutions as soon as I graduate from the Chaplaincy program. This course educated me as to exactly what would be expected of me as a chaplain in these institutions. Hospitals are other institutions familiar to me through previous volunteer work; they, too, are a possibility. It, however, was most illuminating to me to learn of the great number of institutions that now have chaplains. I would never have thought of some of the options mentioned in the lessons.

The lesson regarding the “chaplains toolbox” was my personal favorite. What a fantastic idea! The items to carry are so practical and, again, I would never have thought of all of them. I will adopt the list of material items and add to it some personal favorite prayers, verses or sayings of as many religions as I can so I can use what is most familiar to the person I am trying to comfort or advise. The reminders regarding appropriate demeanor and ways to demonstrate compassion were also appreciated.

In conclusion, this course will serve as my guide for many aspects of my future position as a volunteer chaplain. It was well-written, extremely informative, useful and highly interesting. I am not aware of anything that would improve this course. It will serve as my “work bible”. On a personal level, it would have been interesting to me to read, at the beginning of the course, a brief autobiography of the author, Rev. Daniel Moore.


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chaplaincy Program

I believe Chaplain serve a very important role in the community. I have been in the military, (23 years), and in EMS, (24) years so I have had constant contacts with Chaplains. I have always been amazed how they always know what to say and do to make a responder, or a victim of a personal disaster.
I also had a lot of contact with military Contact with Military Chaplains while I was deployed. I was impressed in how much they were involved in and the job they do. While most folks in the military are upward bound motivated with their careers, the Chaplain was always thinking about the other soldier. This is the pattern I want to use for me in my Chaplaincy.

Monday, July 18, 2011


As a Masters level professional counselor who has worked for years in mental health crisis intervention, I had some difficulty revisiting concepts and techniques that I use everyday. The text relies heavily on anecdotal examples of the concepts and tasks of the pastor in crisis situations. Because of this I found it somewhat repetitive and sometimes oversimplified. But, perhaps because of the repetition, I had little difficulty understanding the intent of the writer and the concepts being presented. What is new to me is the view of crisis from the perspective of the minister.

As I stated above, I have been a crisis intervention counselor for many years but never from the role of minister or chaplain. I can see immediately that I may have to work very hard to understand and compartmentalize my roles in some situations. Within my professional community I am known as a mental health first responder. In my capacity as a chaplain I must be aware that there is the possibility of role confusion by others. One way I can "show" in which capacity I am functioning is to wear my "chaplaincy" attire. Another is displaying my "CHAPLAIN" badge. My biggest challenge will be to separate these roles in practice.

Dr. Switzer breaks down pastoral crisis management into a few separate but equally important areas. In this approach he is able to distinguish what is and what is not part of the job. Again, relying heavily on anecdotes and personal examples, he is able to present these concepts in a workable and easily understandable fashion.

Before we put ourselves "out there" as a care provider, we must have a sound spiritual as well as specialized knowledge base. Not to do so puts others at risk of further injury and crisis. A caring individual knows what his/her limitations are and has a firm grasp on what is being asked of them. We must ask and answer the question, "What makes me a caring person?". Is it enough to just want to be helpful? Well, sometimes this is enough. Filling sandbags during a flood requires little more than a strong back and a willingness to help. Almost everyone can help out at a food pantry in some capacity or another. But to promote ones self as a spiritual leader and helper to those in crisis requires much more.

First of all, we must adopt the rule to, at the very least, do no harm! This comes from the medical Hippocratic Oath and for good reason. When we are asked to intervene in a crisis situation we are being asked to be helpful, not to cause more problems. A crisis situation is not the time to evangelize or criticize someone for past behaviors. We must also know our limitations. I like to think of myself as an educated man. However, I have very little understanding of some other faiths and there rites and rituals. I would be less than helpful for me to try to assist in the death rites of a faith that is foreign to me. In that situation the but practice would for me to offer compassion on a personal level while helping the family connect with a practitioner of their faith. It would be very important to ask the family what they need from me, knowing that I respect them and their faith.

Addressing crises in hospital environments is my forte'. But my experience in this area is limited to the role of mental health crisis first responder and counselor.

However, in this capacity I have had the opportunity to witness the chaplains in their work with the same families. I found that they had one special function that I was not comfortable using, Prayer. The ability to offer a grieving family or patient a prayer is far and away more valuable in most situations than all of the explanations about the illness or treatments any doctor or mental health counselor could provide during the emergency. Everyone brings some form of belief system to the table. Some may have a deep faith in God and practice it in their daily lives. Some may not be able to put a name or face on what they believe, but they may feel very strongly that what they believe is correct, even if what they believe is that there is no God at all. In these cases it becomes the role of the chaplain to offer an ear to the sadness and anger of those effected.

A chaplain will also be called upon to assist in crises of faith. When that happens the individual chaplain must be strong in his beliefs if he is to be able to assist those who are experiencing a period of weakness. A chaplain who is unsure of his faith will not be effective in helping others.

A lot of content is dedicated to what is (or could be) appropriate to do and say in hospitals, hospices, and when attending to the dying. I found this information both accurate and appropriate to this discussion. Many times I have witnessed a minister taking on the role of advocate in their attempts to minister to the sick, injured, or dying patient. This is almost never the role of a minister or chaplain. To do so is to tell the medical and nursing staff that they are inept and incapable of making the correct decisions on behalf of the patient. It is of vital importance to remember the scope and limitations of the role of chaplain. It is never appropriate to second guess the doctors or to recommend a course of treatment. It is always appropriate to support the patient and family as they make difficult decisions and to offer the spiritual perspective to those decisions.

Conclusion: Pastoral Care Emergencies is a well thought out and presented text book for those of us who are contemplating entering the world of the crisis intervention chaplain. It addresses the general issues of faith as a tool of healing and the specific functions and responsibilities of the chaplain in emergency situations. The text deals with some "do's and don't" when attending in a hospital of other medical environment. As a practitioner of mental health crisis intervention in these venues, I found this information both accurate and complete. This text helped me to put into perspective the differing roles of crisis intervention counselor and chaplain, and how I will be challenged to keep these roles separate in familiar settings.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chaplaincy Studies

Master of Chaplaincy Studies Lesson 18

  • Look at your ministry. What are the stressor points? What is your week like? Develop your spiritual care plan. Write a brief description of it.

  • In my capacity, time is my biggest stressor point.  Not only do I have my chaplaincy responsibilities, but I have my association functions and ministries as well as my full time job to contend with.  I just need to make sure I control my schedule as much as possible, setting aside the appropriate time for each thing....most especially my family; knowing that an emergency situation can call me away at any time.  I have developed my spiritual care plan by having both morning and evening devotional times...time for prayer, reflection, and scripture. On top of that, I do a bible study online and another with my Association.  I also address my spiritual care by playing mandolin in a gospel bluegrass band.  This not only praises the Lord in song, but fills my spirit and soul with the Word.

    May God Bless you.....
    Luke 14:23

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Chaplaincy Studies


  • Who in your ministry do you see as a potential soul-friend?  Do you have more than one potential soul-friend?  Describe in a paragraph or two how you have been or become a soul-friend to this person and how you would like to improve this relationship. 

  • I have many potential soul-friends.  I am the Chaplain for my local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclist Association and each of the members is, or is a potential soul-friend.  My duty as the chaplain is to be a soul-friend to all...offering comfort and prayers in hard times, celebrating celebrations, and being there in confidence if someone has a personal concern or problem. The best way to improve on this is to be a sincere witness in my walk with the Lord and to be available in time of need.  Building strong relationships and trust is a huge component as well.

    May God Bless you.....
    Luke 14:23

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Chaplaincy Program

    I am retired from the military so I have had a lot of contact with Chaplains. Most of the time it was when I was deployed. The Chaplains I have had contact with have with have been very helpful for me when I was away from home. When I was deployed the church was the only constant in my life. When I was outside the church everything was military, but once I step into the Chapel I felt close to home.It wasn't the Chapel itself that made it comfortable, it could have been a tent or a fixed facility, it was the Chaplain. The same care and concern that my Minister at home had for my well being was the same I received from the Chaplain. I was a medic and at times I dealt with situations that taxed my emotions to the fringe, and the Chaplain was always there.
    The examples that were set by the Chaplains are what I plan on following in my ministry. I will show the same caring and concern that they did. I feel they set the best example to follow.
    Rick Robbins