Master of Chaplaincy Studies
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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