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Lay Chaplaincy in the ACNA

Lay Chaplaincy in the ACNA
Order for Lay People and Chaplaincy

By Canon Norman V. Beale
November 7, 2017

As the Anglican Church in North America has gone through rapid transformation in the last decade, there have been many refreshing and exciting developments in the reassertion of historic Anglicanism. An important example of this is the growth and expansion of lay involvement in ministry. This follows biblical mandate, the teaching of the church and historic Christian practice.

As Anglicans, we stand with orthodox Christian teaching that all believers, ordained and lay are called to serve God and others in various ways and types of ministry. Of course, some are called to ordination; when ordained in the Anglican tradition, that has almost always been to a ministry, as a parish priest, a missionary or a chaplain. While missionaries are both ordained and lay, parish priests and chaplains must be ordained, right?

Surprisingly, there is actually an increasing demand for qualified, educated and trained chaplains to function in secular settings that do not require the chaplain to be ordained. There are institutions and facilities that accept chaplains who are lay persons. This is true in such facilities as hospitals, hospice, long-term care, and even the VA. This is true for vocational chaplains as well as volunteer chaplains. And while it is true that the education and training requirements remain the same, some organizations actually prefer a chaplain who is not ordained.

Those chaplains who are in this category however, will in many cases be required by their facility or institution to have endorsement by a recognized ecclesiastical leader. For lay persons in the ACNA, this endorser is the Rt. Rev. Derek Jones, Bishop of the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy (JAFC). These chaplains, as well as those not needing endorsement, are organized into Commissioned Lay Chaplains and are part of the Order of St. Martin of Tours, another ministry of the JAFC and ACNA. The Order is growing and envisions the inclusion of lay persons in other kinds of lay ministry, not just chaplaincy. It is an active order (versus a contemplative order) for lay people involved in various ministries, and its Abbot is the Very Rev. Norman Beale. (Many know Dean Beale as the former Dean of Nepal and as a missionary.)

This is not to be confused with the movement in Australia that has suggested the presiding at Holy Communion by Lay Persons, which we do not advocate. This is because some of the ministry and function of an ordained chaplain cannot be done by a lay chaplain. However, there are many aspects of chaplaincy that can be done by a qualified lay chaplain. This includes visitation, counsel, prayer including Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, Eucharistic visitation (similar to a Lay Eucharistic Minister). In all of these ministry aspects, the main thing is to provide pastoral presence and care, attentive listening and godly presence, always with the goal to make known the love of Jesus Christ.

What follows are three accounts from Commissioned Lay Chaplains which give us a window into their varied ministries. Perhaps you would like more information, or this sparks a note of interest for you, or you may have a sense of God speaking to you about this kind of ministry. If so, please contact us regarding Commissioned Lay Chaplains at: DeanBeale@AnglicanChaplains.org.

From Chaplain Bart Kingsley, a Lay Chaplain in Hospice care

I am the pediatric chaplain for our company. Baby Haynes (first name) came onto our service with Trisomy 18, a chromosome disorder that most often results in death soon after birth. His parents were not associated with a Christian community. His father worked lighting at drug culture rock concerts. They were very reticent to allow a chaplain to come but the Lord opened the door through our pediatric social worker.

When I first met his parents we had a long, meaningful conversation about life and spirituality. I shared with them how God created us to be spiritual and that some people are even religious! This resonated deeply with them. As we talked, I asked if I could hold Haynes. As I held him I thought about my own granddaughter who was about that age and is completely healthy and was deeply humbled by that thought. I gently kissed him on the forehead. I later found out that this deeply touched his dad.

A few days later as I was leaving my hospital shift, I received a call that little Haynes had gone home to the Lord. I went directly to their house. Marcy and Derek (his parents) were tearful but very thankful to have had Haynes for 32 days. I was deeply touched at the joy and gratitude Marcy and Derek found in the incredible blessing (their words) to have had Haynes even though for such a short time. They were both appropriately tearful but I could detect no hint of self-pity in either of them.

They waited to call other family for several hours. Our on-call nurse and I sat on the bed with little Haynes and his Mom and Dad and celebrated life and the impact Haynes's short 32 days had already had on our lives. Derek ordered pizza and we shared pizza and a beer as we waited for the funeral home to come and take Haynes's precious little lifeless body away.

Marcy and Derek celebrated Haynes's life at a wake held at a local night club at which Derek worked. They invited me and our wonderfully gifted pediatric nurse and social worker to attend. They asked me to share a short eulogy at the wake. I simply shared that few people I had met in my 60 plus years of life had or would have such deep impact on my life as the few days I had known Haynes and Marcy and Derek. I was able to point to God's grace and love shown in his life and the lives of his young parents.

I do not judge another's spiritualty but I believe that Marcy and Derek opened themselves to the love and grace of God during this experience. They touched me deeply by the sense of gratitude and joy they found in their short time with Hayes. They demonstrated a joy and acceptance of God's will that is rare even in the Church. As I shared in my eulogy, I was forever changed for the better and pointed to God grace by this special family.

I was once again amazed at how God's grace is real and powerful and touches hearts and lives in the most unexpected places. I was humbled to have the opportunity point to the love and grace of God in such a circumstance.

From Chaplain Charyl Stevens, a Lay Chaplain in a Veterans Home

Many people do not know all the things that Chaplains are asked to do. So, when I was asked by every supervisor at the Veteran's home to see this one particular Veteran, I wondered why. It turns out he was trying to commit suicide daily and no one knew what to do anymore. They saw the chaplain as a "Hail Mary Pass".

It was reported that he was a "Wiccan" and I was also warned that he was a "Satanist." Needless to say, I prayed hard as I approached his room. It was dark, all curtains were closed and there was a red glow visible as I knocked and opened the door. Bob also kept the curtains around the bed closed, so it was like entering a dark cocoon to get beside the bed. The room was hot.

He was lying on the bed, wearing a pouch around his neck with a fan on him. He was pale and sweaty. He looked up, took one glance at my ("brothers" -- religious order) collar and reacted! "Get out!! I don't believe what you believe! I have logical well thought out beliefs and you can't change them!! "His voice rose as he became more agitated. "I know why I believe what I do and you need to leave RIGHT NOW!!"

"Ok" I responded quietly, "But before I walk out can I ask you one question?"

"Sure, as long as you leave!" he answered.

Very gently I said, "I just want to know if what you believe brings you peace?"

"PEACE!!!!" He yelled, almost coming off the bed. "There is NO SUCH THING as peace!!!!"

I seemed surprised. "Humph, that's funny...because what I believe brings me peace."

His eyes got wide "Really???" he said incredulously. Then, matter of factly, "Ok, you can come back." Just like that, I was simply invited into his world. It was the beginning of a deep and wonderful friendship. I visited every week, once or twice a week. I never spoke, I just listened. Sometimes, as he unfurled the tragic life he had been dealt, I simply sat there and let the tears roll down my cheeks. Chaplains call this the "Ministry of Presence."

He started telling the staff I was his "Spiritual Advisor", even though I had never advised.

One day, I showed up and he was in incredible pain. He asked me to pray for him. It was the first time. His sudden illness put him into ICU at a local hospital. I was surprised to get a call. He had told the doctor I was his "next of kin." What an honor! What a heartache! I was about to lose my friend, but didn't know it. He was young. His life had been tragic and his reason for wanting to commit suicide was that he was tired of fighting life alone. The cry of his heart was deep loneliness. He had deep spiritual injuries.

I went to ICU and was asked to make the decision to put him on "comfort measures only." Asking the staff to leave the room, I stood beside his bed, holding one hand and stroking his hair. I cried. I prayed. I told him I loved him. I prayed for Jesus to meet him there. I saw peace change the appearance of his face. There WAS peace to be had, and he found it!

After he died, someone who had no belief in Jesus went into his room to say goodbye. They described a "glow" they could not put into words and a sense of "peace". I'm not sure how you might feel about this, but, friends of mine, who had never met Bob, saw visions of him dancing with Jesus in heaven. He was a bilateral amputee and now he was whole. Praise be to God! Bob died one year ago today. I still miss my friend.

From Chaplain Delia Realmo, a Lay Chaplain Working with Women Who Have Been Trafficked

Our memories are often held in the food we eat and the songs we sing, sometimes these go together. This is especially true for the church, we sing many songs of praise, before, after and in some churches during The Eucharist. The Gospels are full of stories of food and fellowship with Jesus even throughout the Bible, food was often an important element in keeping Feast Days. I wasn't familiar with cooking and preparing the meal as an opportunity for developing trust, sharing memories and entering into a sacred healing place, until I met S.

Thus, this was how I began my ministry with "S" as a Chaplain. She looked like a twelve-year-old and in fact she wasn't much older. She came from Central America and spoke very little English which made it hard for her in living in the residential program for women/girls who had come out of the sex trade. She struggled with the food that was served at the residential house, with her difficulty in relating culturally with the other women, and with being in a new country. I had just met her a few days at the Residential Program at The Policy Coalition for Human Trafficking. It was a meeting place for those who are addressing the Sex Trade through policy change. I introduced myself as Chaplain Realmo.

I had been cooking Mexican food at the shelter, and this lead to 8 months of teaching "S" how to cook lots of Mexican food, for all the women who lived at the house, every Tuesday evening. I remember the first meal we cooked, chicken was frozen solid, beans were raw, and she had a huge list of what she wanted to cook for supper having never cooked before in her life. Supper that evening was very, very late. I was invited to join in the meal with the women. The huge celebration that erupted when the women tasted the delicious food was amazing! "S" was so proud and experienced an undisputable sense of being welcomed in the new place which was becoming her home.

As we spent countless hours cutting onions, chopping garlic, and endless jalapenos, "S" began to relax around me, she began to let her guard down with each chop of onion and every spoon used for tasting the food and adding extra Comino.

After several months, "S" asked what Mexicans songs I like. Having grown up with parents who sang old traditional Mexican music, my father on the guitar and my mother on percussion instruments, I knew many, many songs. "S" was too modern to really know any of this music so she decided to bring her little MP3 player to the kitchen while we cooked. Like the food, these songs held deep memories for her. It was as if the words of the song spoke to her pain, disappointment and sorrows. She began to tell me why these songs meant so much to her as we made salsa picante for that evening meal.

Sometimes right in the middle of the preparations she would stop cooking as she shared the deep memories, some joyous and many more very tragic - she would enter into that place but not get lost or stuck in it, the aromas that arose from the stove kept her grounded. Eating the food together just might have had similar effects as the taking of the Meal of Remembrance together when we partake in The Eucharist. We remember the horrible suffering and pain of Christ, and we celebrate the joyous victory of life over death, love over hatred, good over evil... winning over losing... and all the time learning how much we are so deeply loved by God.

"S" needed again and again to hear this truth and learn how to base her life on trusting God as she dealt with the terrible failures of man. We were learning to say:

Thanks be to God! Alleluia, Alleluia.

The Very Rev. Norman V. Beale is Abbot, Order of St. Martin of Tours, Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy in the Anglican Church in North America

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