Over a year ago I wrote about community chaplaincy in an article entitled “….Go and Do Likewise.” (Luke 10:37 NVI)
Some may disagree with me, but I think that since the November 2016 election, our country has been experiencing an identity crisis on multiple levels in our collective socio-political consciousness. The ‘browning of America’ is a topic that people are aware of, (about 823,000 Google hits as of 2/24/17 t 1:40 PM EST) and I believe with all my heart is the reason for the nationalist, demagoguery and white supremacy leanings of the current US Administration of Donald Trump. White Anglo-Saxon America is disappearing and with the Caucasian power base is not going to let go without a fight. A perusal of American history shows that the Caucasian race that immigrated to the Americas, took power by force.
The pendulum is beginning to swing the other way and as a nation we are at a point where we have to honestly recognize who and what we are and then decide who and what we want to be, to continue to be, or to become as a society. People on all sides of the political and economic divides are frightened and feel backed into a corner. Attack is the natural response for anyone in this situation. True Christian values (those lived and expressed by Jesus in his daily interactions with people) have been co-opted by political ideologies. Religion, now more than ever, is used by many as an expedient tool to promote a political agenda. As a country, we are losing, indeed some would say, have lost, the ability to civilly talk and reason with members of the opposing teams. We see each other as the enemy that must be destroyed or we ourselves will perish. Common ground has become quicksand. I must be painfully honest. I lost the ability to dialogue ‘with the enemy’. As a Christian, and ordained clergy……ordained by and for Christ, I feel woefully inadequate and consumed by thoughts and feelings that are the total opposite of who and what Jesus was and is. Mankind is designed to be and to function in community and among communities.
This brings me back to the article of a year ago regarding community chaplaincy. As important as it is for clergy to be out and about in the community during periods of unrest, demonstrations and violent protests; it is especially important for clergy to have a ministry or presence within their local communities; I am not referring to the church or parochial community. I am referring to everyday society.
Here is an updated reprint of my article on community chaplaincy. I want to urge all clergy, especially clergy in the independent/convergence movement, to re-evaluate what church is and that where needed, ‘church’ return to an open-air intimate meeting between us as fellow human beings and God, through Jesus His Son. We clergy need to do this so that the healing and conversion of hearts can begin in this country; not only for our fellow citizens but for ourselves as individuals as well.
Go and Do Likewise.” (Luke 10:37 NVI)
A lot has been talked about over the years of churches being missional. The question arises, “What do we do?”, “How can we be missional?” I would like to offer a suggestion on how to be missional that can involve many faith-filled believers with a heart to make a difference in their communities.
There are two topics in Scripture where Jesus points us to how we go about being missional, the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and Jesus’ comments about how we will be judged in the Last Judgment in Matthew 25. There are many people of God from various faith traditions who in the spirit of Christ are visiting the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. Some of these folks serve as professional chaplains and are often found ministering in hospitals, prisons, universities, hospices, and fire and police departments. Some companies even offer chaplaincy services for their employees.
There is a population, however, that is under-served. It is the individual community where we live; the people that we meet daily in our routine activities. These folks are our neighbors, the acquaintances at the coffee shop, or those we often see at the diner we frequent. This group of people needs a community chaplain. Community Chaplaincy is a relatively new idea and certainly is a ministry anyone who has a strong faith and a relationship with God and a heart to serve his or her neighbor, can do.
The purpose of Community Chaplaincy is to walk alongside and accompany a person experiencing a trauma or a difficult situation in his/her life. Galatians 6:2 expresses the duties of a chaplain in these words…” Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Community Chaplains, under the seal of confidentiality, build a relationship with the person they are serving by offering an empathetic ear, moral support and a caring attitude. Community Chaplains help people get through the difficulties of life. This interaction can lead to opportunities for discussion about spiritual matters.
Both clergy and laity of the Independent Catholic Churches and Eucharistic communities can and should become Community Chaplains in their areas through the Community Chaplaincy Ministry Program offered by Corporate Chaplains of America (chaplain.org).
Let’s read a few answers to questions about the Community Chaplains Ministry
What Is Community?
“You are not alone. You belong. We are all struggling in one way or another, but I can tell you that it gets better“. These are just a few words of hope that can be powerful when spoken at the right time in a person’s life.
Why does this matter? In America, we don’t really have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, that is what people would say they want in life; a sense of belonging, a sense of community, true and authentic relationships. As humans, we need to belong…to one another, our friends, our families, our culture, our country, our world, and our Creator God.
How Can You Help Transform Your Community, One Person At A Time?
We were designed to be in relationship; to belong. That is why living in isolation is so damaging to us, harming our sense of well-being, self control, immune function, health and even our intellectual achievement.
Most people want to change the community around them for the better. We all struggle in one way or another with this. We want to come alongside you in a relationship to help you as you seek to transform your community one person at a time.
Why Community Chaplains of America?
Born out of more than 20 years working with Corporate Chaplains in nearly 1,000 business locations, Community Chaplains of America seeks to multiply ministry by partnering with you to provide practical training to equip and empower you to transform everyday encounters you have with those in your community into relationships that can help them understand how to have life eternal in Heaven and life abundant here on earth.
Who Uses Community Chaplains of America Training?
We want to partner with Churches to help multiply your ministry by encouraging, equipping and empowering your Church members to reach out to those around them facing life’s challenges.
We want to partner with business owners to help you improve the culture of your company, answer God’s call to help your employees not only making a living but to find life, and increase the effectiveness of your business as a platform for ministry.
Para Church Ministries
We want to partner with para-church ministries to help you increase the effectiveness of your mission, provide training that would otherwise be cost prohibitive, and to support you in a framework of larger ministry in our country.
Community Organizations & Non-Profits
We want to partner with community organizations and non-profits to help you have a group of thoroughly trained staff, donors and volunteers in a cost effective manner while supporting you through a framework of community caregivers all across our country.
What is the Community Chaplain Training Program?
These are the topics covered in the training materials. Imagine Being Equipped to Care for People Facing:
Building Relationships of Care
Gaining Permission to Care
Confidentiality in Caring Relationships
Sharing the Good News
Health and Hospital Care
Interpersonal Relationship Care
Financial Crises Care
Death and Grief Care
Substance Abuse and Addiction Care
Jail and Detention Center Care
Legal Issues Care
Cultural Diversity Care
Community Chaplaincy is an area of missional outreach that I encourage all faith communities to get involved in, especially communities in the independent sacramental movement. Jesus left the Apostles with the Great Commission…“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NVI). This is the command Jesus left to all ordained clergy. Certainly clergy also can be community chaplains but it is the responsibility of all disciples to follow the example of The Good Samaritan and fulfill Jesus’ order to “go and do likewise”. Community Chaplaincy gives disciples the tools they need to go and do just that!
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
May the Holy Spirit guide you in your service to God and to each other.
Bishop Tom Shortell, OSFC, D.Min. is the Bishop Ordinary for Mexico for the United American Catholic Church and currently resides in Guerrero, Mexico.