Thursday, June 21, 2012

Master of Chaplaincy Studies Lesson 19

I admire the ideas included for this lesson. My toolbelt is somewhat more compact. My specific form of chaplaincy deals mostly with people who have BIG QUESTIONS about religion, faith, G-d and many other, sometimes seemingly trivial concerns. To suit the needs of my current chaplaincy, I do have a set of tools I will use frequently (daily).

A Bible - I have an old NKJV Bible that was donated by one of the nursing homes where I am a volunteer Chaplain. I use this to study and to teach, to share a word of advice and the Word of Truth. In addition to my own personal set of Scriptures, I maintain a rather large collection of Christian Scriptures in various formats and in various translation versions. This helps when studying to compare the sayings in one version with this of another and also enables me to give away a copy to someone who wants a copy but can't afford one for themselves. I find that giving someone a Bible and offering to study it with them can change a heart over time.

A notebook - I keep on hand at all times a legal pad for taking notes.  When I help someone or provide counseling, I will very often break out my pad and jot down the important details that they are willing to share with me concerning the particulars of their specific situation.  Knowing that I have the details written down allows me better assess how I might best serve their needs. I also try to keep two pens (black ink ball point) handy and on my person at all times when I am out of the office.

Business Cards - I got 250 printed online for the price of shipping only. They're really nice looking and it makes it easy to pass your info when your done and especially if you're in a rush. Gets the information into the hands of someone who may very much need to talk to you about their life and concerns.

A credit card/gift card - I don't carry cash for various reasons, but one of my all time favorite things is coffee, and I find it to be fitting for most occasions. I will frequently be asked a question and offer some "time with the Chaplain over a cup of coffee" to ease the discomfort and break the ice. With a card the beverage is only a swipe away! I also picked up a gift card at a couple of the convenient stores and coffee shops/internet cafes that I frequent.

Extras - After studying this lesson, I will have to invest in some
extras for my ministry. Some of these "extras" will include:
    Some of the new testaments from the seminary
    Some mints pocket tin mints
    Some kleenex tissues
    Hand sanitizer (Need a new one anyways)
    Read-The-Bible-In-A-Year Cards
    10-Commandment Cards
    "The Good News" tracts from a local bookstore
    Others as they become known to me

I know that this is not a paragraph, but it wouldn't fit that way.  Thank you for another wonderful lesson and I look forward with great pleasure to next week's lesson. God Bless you all!

    ULC Victoria

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chaplaincy Studies Essay by Jack Anderson

By Reverend Jack Anderson
Spiritual direction: Finding the key to our inner souls
Inside each human person, say pastoral ministers, is a deep desire to connect with what is most beautiful, joyful, peaceful and true about the world and about each person's unique call from God to be of service. But the noise, and trying to meet deadlines, and pressures of contemporary life often leave many people too frazzled to experience God's presence for more than a nano-second here and there.

How do people maintain virtues of hope, joy and love and not be overrun by becoming bitter, despairing or resentful?

Enter the Chaplain--a skilled spiritual person assisting other people of faith to discover God's presence in his/her life, build a vibrant prayer life, learn spiritual tools for discernment and decision-making, and develop a close relationship with God. Christians who are serious about their faith recognize they can't do it alone.

As a Chaplain I will be able to offer a helping relationship to anyone seeking answers to spiritual questions and wanting to develop a spiritual background that supports their call. I can offer advice about solving problems as a pastoral counselor and help a person tap into God's guidance and to sort out God's voice from other pulls or tugs that come from the culture or elsewhere.

As a trained Chaplain I will provide counseling or therapy that is consistent with my skill level. My role will be to help individuals deal with a particular issue where they feel stuck. A Chaplain is using a microscope to help in locating and dissecting the problem for effective remediation..  A Clergyperson asks, Where is God in this particular situation?  That person would be using a telescope to identify that a problem exists.

Many lay people become interested in seeking a Chaplain's guidance when facing life-altering decisions like whether to change careers, move to another city, or choose a marriage partner.

God has given each one of us the key to understand our inner souls. I don't think we were taught to trust that feeling by ourselves but were made to understand with clarification from your clergy.

Choosing the career path of a Chaplain should also be guided by faith. You should meet with other Chaplains and/or clergy to get a sense of the job and then to choose, as time allows, the path you will take.

People are going to ask, 'How will I know this is the right path?' I would then have to respond by saying  'I don't know, but I know you'll know.'

It's already moving out into the world as Chaplains apply their ministry in hospitals, homes for the elderly, prisons or homeless shelters.

Immigrants often lack extended family and trust the church as a place where they can be listened to. Occasionally that is not enough and the Christians will seek the friendliness of the Chaplain as they can counsel at the person's home or living abode. Sometimes the people may choose the atmosphere of the Church setting. The really important thing to me is that the troubled person has someone to talk to and confide in while seeking spiritual and emotional answers.

Students quite often will be an excellent choice for enrolling in the Chaplaincy program as it gives them a real opportunity to see how people of the community may have a multitude of problem both spiritual and being a human in general. A good portion may not have received a "calling" but it is critical for questions to be answered.  Students will come to a sense of their own answers within. Speaking with different clergy men and women gave me a birds-eye view of the profession (calling in general). I would only suggest this program to require you to visit different clergies and not just your own faith.

Students' deepest dreams or desires are planted by God and the students need to sense God's deep love for them. What will bring someone the greatest fulfillment, greatest joy and peace? A student's desire, a dream, if they really listen, is not going to go against who they are and who God has created them to be in their uniqueness.
During the early days in the Prison Systems, chaplains were exclusively Christian. Their unabashed objective was to convert everybody to their particular brand of Christianity, and it was either Jesus' way or no way. Though much of this remains the status quo in some places, prison chaplaincy has become increasingly pluralist in the ensuing 117 years, and chaplains find themselves dealing with more contemporary issues.
Though Christians still dominate the landscape of prison chaplaincy, diversity is now the order of the day. Proselytizing is still active in many prison facilities, but it is officially prohibited or generally discouraged. Chaplains are still a mainstay of prison operations, but many of their positions are being eliminated. Prison religious programs are still widely available to all inmates. Religion itself is still an integral element of correctional programming, but even it is being redefined by the courts.
As a Prison Chaplain I will need to look at each of these issues,
Christianity vs. Diversity  As the country's prison population has dramatically increased, so has the religious diversity of inmates. Though more and more minority clergy have been answering the call to prison chaplaincy, they are often excluded by qualifications that are based on Christian type ordination and pastoral education standards. Likewise, prison religious programs are all too frequently limited to Christian modes of practice, whereby inmates of other faiths are often obstructed in fulfilling their religious obligations. The world is made up of much more than just Christians and all faith traditions should be honored and accorded equal treatment in prison environs.
Permitting vs. Prohibiting Proselytizing  As inmates are literally a captive and vulnerable audience, proselytizing is rightfully prohibited in most prisons. Yet, inmates are regularly subjected to subtle and active forms of proselytizing by dominant faith groups subtly, by way of heavily focusing on certain faith programs while limiting others, and actively by using outside volunteers and inmate "disciples." This behavior is highly offensive and disrespectful to targeted inmates of other religions. Again, all faith traditions must be honored and adherents of all faiths should be free of proselytizing pressures from others.
Professional Chaplains vs. Volunteers  Correctional chaplaincy is a professional discipline, requiring extensive training beyond that of one's own faith group. Staff chaplains must have sufficient working knowledge of divergent faith requirements in order to properly administer the activities of all faith groups. When properly augmented by contract clergy and community resources of other faiths, staff chaplains are highly effective, contributing significantly to the orderly operations of correctional facilities and the rehabilitation of offenders. However, some correctional systems have recently fallen prey to offers of "free" chaplains from religious organizations whose agendas are self-centered. Consequently, religious programs in those places have suffered greatly, and the religious rights of many inmates have been trampled upon. The integrity of religious programs can be best ensured by retaining professional correctional chaplains and fully using their expertise.
Open Religious Programs vs. Faith Based Units  In the past few years, prisons have been experimenting with inmate living units that are operated in accordance to faith-based principles a promising development but one that is ripe for abuse. Though most of these programs profess to be open to inmates of various faiths and "interfaith" in nature, many are actually operated out of a single faith contingent's mission and are proselytizing machines. Furthermore, in some systems where these units have been established, they have become the entire focus of religious programming. Fortunately, however, some truly "multi-faith" unit programs are proving themselves to be the preferable alternative because inmate participants are being taught about their faiths by members of their own faiths and proselytizing is discouraged. These multi-faith units should be encouraged, but only so long as they do not detract from religious programs that are available to inmates elsewhere.
Religious vs. Civil Law  Recently, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was enacted to ensure the religious freedom of all inmates. Likewise, some state and local religious freedom initiatives have been enacted to ensure the religious freedom of all citizens. Some may view this as being burdensome on or intrusive of correctional operations. The alarming development, however, is that civil courts have been ruling that a supposed "sincerely held belief" in a given faith is the proper test for determining an inmate's religious affiliation. This directly conflicts with the standards (i.e., religious laws) by which bona fide members of various faith groups are affirmed and it would also appear to violate proper separation of church and state. It has created a nightmare for prison religious program administrators in that they are essentially being required to accept the faith claims of inmates who are not recognized by the faiths themselves as well as accept some claims that are not even linked to any particular faith tradition. As religious freedom is a hallmark of American life, it should be protected at any cost, even if it requires correctional administrators to step out of their familiar operational box. However, when the courts start making religious decisions, they should be actively challenged. Likewise, correctional systems and personnel should be vigorously defended against inappropriate religion related lawsuits.
Though chaplaincy is facing new and old challenges, it is of proven benefit and deserving of the utmost support. As a Chaplain I will be asked to perform a myriad of tasks that encompass a broad knowledge base. If this is to be my career pursuit, I must begin now to enhance myself both intellectually as well as spiritually.
I chose the prison chaplaincy as some force brought it into my mind and has continually reminded me that this is the path I need to travel. I have let God control what I need to do and I merely obey and follow to the best of my abilities. ULC has been a huge part in my decision making process. Everything from the seminary styled courses to the weekly messages from Reverend Amy have helped in my decision making process.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Master of Chaplaincy Studies Lesson 18

The stress points in this field are varied as much so as the people
served. Most of my work-related stress involves the emotional
instability and feelings of others. I deal with this in a timely and
immediate kind of way. This can be especially true during the
counseling session (particularly one-on-one sessions, but can also be
true during semi and group sessions). My solution works for me and it
is extremely simple once you "get it." The solution I am referencing
here is called, by some, the observance process. This process involves
becoming non-participatory. It can be demonstrated by seeing yourself
on the outside of a situation, not directly experiencing the issue,
and not directly affected by it (moved). It is based on observance,
which means truly viewing the issue from outside of the environment in
which it is occuring, in spite of being in such an environment. It
takes time and lots of practice to achieve some level of comfort and
naturality with this technique, but helps grealty in situations where
people need an objective and non-biased counsel and advise. This
technique is a wonder for anyine called to "LISTEN" to others.

At this time my week is filled with about 10 hours of schooling and
studies, including scripture and language studies. I am currently
learning three languages (Ancient Hebrew, Egyptian Arabic/hieratic,
and Tokelauan), as well as bible studies and seminary courses. At the
same time, I do set aside certain days and hours each day for
counseling and volunteering efforts. With such a schedule, it is
important to have some form of time management and stress management
in place upon which you can rely. My method of time management (after
trying many of them) is very simply this: I ""don't schedule anything
unless I have to"". This  helps me to ascertain a steady flow of
events in case somethings happens, emergencies and unexpected events
come up, which we all know will happen.

My Spiritual Care Plan involves taking time each day (lunch) as well
as one day per week off and a one week vacation per year. If in the
future I oversee others in this work, I will enforce the same as a
standard. During these times I relax, pray, meditate, etc. Exercise is
important to me because of my martial arts experience and becuse I
teach others martial arts (private lessons). This requires great
sacrifice, but is essentially who I am. To comply with this part of
self, I arise earlier than I normally might and I use the day off of
ministry for helping my students achieve knowledge in the martial

Please note that these all are a work in progress and as I continue to
develop my ministries I will update this information regularly.

Thank you,
    Dr. Rev. Aaron Norris

Friday, June 8, 2012

Master of Chaplaincy Studies Lesson 15

In my position as a community chaplain, I will be performing worship services in all types of environments and settings, and these will consist of both regular services (scheduled) as well as on-demand or on-the-spot worship and prayer.

My services will be dependent upon what's going on at the time as well as who it is that I am providing the services for. In general I try to keep it real with personal contact and scripture readings, prayer and time to discuss things. I plan to follow the patterns practiced by the Universal Life Church. This includes an opening prayer, Scripture readings, a short sermon, time for others to share the podium, and then a closing prayer.

If at all possible I would like to have in the dedicated "chapel" area several items to enhance the experience for those I am to serve. This might include a bible, several small new testament bible for the people to take for free, A Framed picture of Jesus and other items as they are available.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Master of Chaplaincy Studies Lesson 17

    1. To God
    2. To The Organization
    3. My Mentors
    4. To Others
    5. To Self
I have found in my following the calling to serve, that it opens up doors in my life, sometimes doors which I prefer not being opened, such as the doors to temptations. While I am not married at this time, I once was. I find that by placing myself in a position of services to others, while necessary in my ministry, will put me into contact with others which may be attractive to me. This can be very difficult as a chaplain and I have found ways to seek accountability on many levels. The first and most important level to which I am held accountable is to God. I know who I serve and who did the calling. I know what I'm there for... and what I'm not there for. While ministering, I do many things to keep focus on Christ and on the calling I have received.

I thank God for rules and regulations. In many environments where a chaplain will be called to serve, these will be firmly in place and heavily advertised. This truly protects all involved and make it just a little easier to stay focused on the goal.

My mentors help me to remain true to the cause by being honest with me. They know I will not ie to them about what's happening in my ministry, and I find this to be a wonderful tools of accountability.  It would not feel very nice to know that they were ashamed or disappointed in my words or actions or in-actions. This tends to keep me on the straight and narrow, especially knowing that many of my colleagues are local to me and see me on a very regular basis.

As most of my ministry takes place in the community and is generally not a one-on-one experience for the most part, I am able to be seen by many people  during most of the time. This reminds me to stay on track in a way that not much can compete with. Also, by keeping appointments and agreements with those I serve, fulfillment of trust becomes a measure of accountability which speaks very loudly either for or against me.

Finally, I hold myself personally accountable for what I do and say in my ministry. This is essential and I think common to the chaplaincy.  I must do and say what I know to be right. I have a strict personal guideline which prohibits lying, cheating, stealing and more. If I know that I've done something I shouldn't have or vice versa, I'm gonna feel terrible about that. In chaplaincy, words and actions, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, have drastic affect on the ears and eyes and hearts of those they fall on. I keep this foremost on my mind.

I have several mentors. The one I hold in highest regard as long-time friend and experienced mentor is retired chaplain Emory L. Johnson.  Emory is much more to me than a mentor, he is in fact a close friend of mine. I have called on him to help to me grow in understanding and building solid relationships, prayer and guidance in life and in ministry. I now call on him often and we discuss a variety of issues and topics as they come and he often shares stories concerning his time in the ministry and chaplaincy and how he dealt with particular issues, doubts, questions and much more. Emory has more involved in active ministry for more than 35 years and served as the chief chaplain for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, serving state hospitals, prisons and elsewhere.

I have been so blessed by this relationship. Through his experience, Emory is able to understand things in ways that I am not yet capable.  He teaches me from Scripture and tells me stories for the purpose of discernment and knowledge. I'm sure that he is teaching by example. He encourages me to pray to God about the things I ask. He encourages me to become active in seeking opportunities to serve others in the community and to seek out volunteer positions. He has been a great blessing to me and my ministry.

I have many other mentors as well.