Why chaplaincy?
Subject: Chaplains (Services)
Chaplains (Analysis)
Author: Fair, David J.
Pub Date: 09/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Fall, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 208639919
Full Text: I'm often asked that question.

Our country today operates with basic spiritual underpinnings. Regardless of the faith tradition one follows, our country was founded with spiritual roots.

America has become a melting pot of cultures and religions, all bringing with them various rituals and customs. No matter what the setting, there is a need to provide chaplain services to all, regardless of faith, tradition, or venue.

Some fear the word chaplain because of its negative connotations. People often get the mental picture of a Bible-thumping preacher spouting fire and brimstone. But nothing could be further from the truth. A chaplain is a person who is there to offer practical assistance in most any situation.

The first tenet of chaplaincy is to do no further harm. It is often said, "A preacher does not necessarily a good chaplain make." Unfortunately, well-meaning members of the clergy from all faith traditions can do more harm than good.

A minister is free to preach the party line from the pulpit, but when he or she walks out the door and puts on his or her chaplain's hat, it becomes a whole new ball game.

The main thing chaplains are taught to remember is that it should always be about the person; it should never be about the chaplain. If they keep that in mind, they will be a good chaplain.

I'm a Protestant with a Jewish heritage. I remember my peers not understanding why I obtained a certification from the National Islamic Chaplain College. My explanation was simple: to be able to know enough about the religion to facilitate for Muslims in the hospital or law enforcement agency where I served.

I am reminded of a story I once heard about a patient in a hospital. When a nurse walked in the room, she was horrified to see a person with a bloody chicken near the patient. She called for hospital security. Fortunately, someone called the knowledgeable hospital chaplain. He discovered the patient had called for a Santeria Priest and the chaplain was able to facilitate taking the patient to an unused operating room. Here, the priest could conduct the ritual and the room could easily be sanitized when finished.

People fear what they don't understand. There are some ministers who fear they are compromising their own faith if they perform services for someone of another denomination or religion. But the fact is that most clergymen are not that insecure.

Chaplains who have a combination of good education, training, and experience do an outstanding job whereever they serve; they perform a much needed service.

In hospitals, for example, they assist families and staff in dealing with end-of-life issues, often helping to bring family members to one accord on difficult decisions.

In law enforcement, chaplains can bring comfort to the family who has lost a child or the officer going through a divorce.

While serving in the workplace, the chaplain may assist a worker with an anger issue or help the management to institute a wellness program.

It is hard to think of a venue where chaplains don't serve. While their primary jobs were once only in hospitals or battlefields, chaplains are now found in schools, universities, nursing homes, wellness centers, and just about anywhere an encouraging word will be of benefit.

No longer do chaplains just do marriages and funerals; they are found doing many practical jobs in virtually any venue.

As a chaplain, we don't have to say a lot; it is just being there that counts. This is why it is called "The Ministry of Presence."

David J. Fair, PhD, CHS-IV, ACMC-III

David J. Fair, PhD, CHS-IV, ACMC-III holds a PhD in Pastoral Counseling and Psychology from Bethel Bible College and Seminary.

Dr. Fair is President of the American Association of Police Officers and CEO of Homeland Crisis Institute. He is Certified in Homeland Security Level Four (CHS-IV) and Certified by the Academy of Certified Chaplains Level Three (ACMC-III).As a member of the Academy of Certified Chaplains Advisory Board, he also serves on the curriculum committee of the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security as well as the editorial advisory board for Inside Homeland Security.

Chaplain Fair is a Chaplain for the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Military Forces, TXSG-HQ. He is a Reserve Deputy/Chaplain for the Brown County Sheriff's Department and Chaplain Emeritus of the Brownwood Police Department. He retired as a Chaplain for Brownwood Regional Medical Center after 25 years of service. Fair serves on the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the Center for Crisis Management/American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and is Board Certified as a Crisis Chaplain and in Forensic Traumatology. He is the immediate past Chair of the International Conference of Police Chaplains Education Committee and a former ICPC Board Member.
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