To any chaplins out there I have a question; How did you become the chaplin? Were any of you priests, reverands, or pastors with a church before the fire service? I have felt a little pull towards helping others on the spiritual side, especially when they have lost it all in a fire or after a bad car wreck.
I cant figure out if i am just being human and want to lend my shoulder and ear for others or if the lord is trying to get me to advance my knowledge and passion for him though seminary. Any words of advice or direction would be great, and thanks be to god for all of you.
Bobby, I am one of the fire service chaplains who is not ordained. As a lay reader, pastoral care giver and eucharistic visitor, I am very active in my own Episcopal Church. Since I asked to be the chaplain of my fire company, three other emergency service organizations and one hospital CEO have dropped the gavel and said "OK Pete, you'll be our chaplain." Ten years ago I'd have said "You gotta be kiddin." But in the last 8 years I have been the officient in fully half the 46 funerals I've been asked to serve in. In the other half, I 've done the eulogy and offered prayer. I draw my strength and the justification for what I'm doing from the fact that my fire service brothers and their families keep turning to me to connect them to God in their times of greatest need. There is a demand for what I offer. If that was'nt there, I would probably cool my jets and back off. If I were not supposed to be doing this, The Lord would certainly have shut me down by now. I do feel called to it. I pray the same for you. I am also guided by some personal ideas from which I draw strength. One is: It is by our compassion for others, not our adherence to a religion that we will be judged. The other is: My relationship is direct. He is mine. I am His. While I have the the greatest respect for my church and Priests, I believe no middle man is required. Keep The Faith.
You should also understand that, when I am asked, my first question is "Do you have a pastor or priest?". I recognize the great value of seminary and ordination and avoid moving in on someone elses turf. I get called by firefighters and medics because I am one of their family and they have come to trust me. I thank God for that.
Seek Him first with your desires and the Bible tells us that He will give us what we want. Of course it has to be for the right reasons, but a true tool for Christ will be used. Like Padre Pete, I am not an ordained minister, but work under licensure of my local Church. My ministry as a Chaplain is kind of an extension of my Church's ministry, and I am responsible to that local body of believers, and my Pastor as well. I believe this is not only a support for me, but an accountability group as well. I graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA with a B.S. in Advertising. The required religion classes for the school amounted up to quite a bit of time, and last November, after much prayer and seeking, I committed to put that education to work. My involvement with the Church, and Fire Department have provided a base for becoming my Department's Chaplain. I have worked for years with the youth groups, and held different offices in my local Church, and I believe that the Lord has opened my eyes to another need in the community. I have an alliance with the other Chaplain in our county (yeah, just the two of us) and we meet regularly to form a plan of action, and plot what we want to see God do in our departments, as well as attend to the needs of victoms in emergency situations. As a ministry of presence, I would advise you to live a life reflecting the character of Christ and always be ready with an answer.
I agree totally with letting the ones that spent time in class and had the full calling do the "heavy lifting" of guiding the people. I just have that feeling of wanting to do something other than putting out the fire, and i dont think any of the guys on the dept see past my past since my love for the lord has been strengthened only here in the past few years and I've been on the dept for about 8 years.
I believe that God laid it on my heart to be a chaplain. I was talking with a family member about the dept. and how it would/could help to have a dept. chaplain. Probably a month went by and I was approached by the Chief and Dep. Chief about this same subject. It was if God saw a need, and put me in that spot. Granted I'm not a minister, ordained, etc. I'm a layman with Chaplain training that my dept. sent me to. The other members of the dept. I feel respect my position and what I'm there for. So thats it in a nutshell. Mike.
It depends on your individual department as to what education level you must have. The military requires Chaplains to have a doctorate degree to be a full-fleged Chaplain. Most police agencies like to reflect the military model, but a jail ministry can be started by almost any credible minister. Fire Department Chaplains don't seem to have any NFPA type requirements that I've found, but you should check and see if there are any state requirements pertaining to licensure or registation. You also have to determine to what extent your ministry will cover. There will be counselling needs, weddings and funerals. You may want to deferr those to local Pastors and qualified agencies untill you are at the point where you are prepared to handle them. Counselling can be very complicated, and licensed counsellors (with years of education to pay for) will quickly point out that most states require not only a master's degree, but inturnships as well, to be valid. If you need proper accreditation, there is no substitute, you must cover your bases. Remember that if God really has put this desire in your life, He will help you get whatever you need to complete your training and begin a ministry.