e-connect asks Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd for their views on Salvation Army social work, the territory’s social endeavours and their experiences within Australia and their native Canada.
Commissioner Tracey Tidd: Chaplaincy is an important part of our ministry and service.
We are appreciating the focus upon chaplaincy in this territory.
Commissioner Floyd Tidd: We have chaplains in many of The Salvation Army programs in Canada. The territory has put a fresh focus upon chaplaincy in recent years. The Booth University College in Canada has provided a certificate in chaplaincy. There is a Spiritual Life chapter in the accreditation process in Canada, which highlights the roles and effectiveness of the chaplaincy component of a program.
We are appreciating the emphasis upon chaplaincy in the Australia Southern Territory. Significant resources are being allocated to the focus upon chaplaincy. During our recent visits to programs since our arrival in the territory we have been encouraged by the conversations with chaplains and directors about the role of the chaplaincy in the programs.
e-connect: Recent tragedies have resulted in some stand-out examples of chaplaincy, people standing alongside folks in harsh situations such as the 2009 Victorian bushfires. What’s your response to holistic chaplaincy, not so much as a means of proselytisation but as a means of invitationally sharing the kingdom; bringing the kingdom into being?
TT: Chaplaincy is about sharing a journey with people, but I see it as a bridge building role: a bridge between people, and helping to build a bridge with people in the spiritual part of their lives. I am not an official chaplain, but I’m all about going down to the different departments, and meeting and connecting with people. I try and do that as much as I can when I am on the building.
If I can build a relationship, then that’s good. I don’t know who is a Christian and who is not; I want to build relationships with everyone and plant seeds. That’s me doing my part to share God’s love, even if I don’t have the official title of ‘chaplain’.
FT: In many of the programs we are seeing the official role of chaplains filled well. There are, as well, opportunities for those who are not official chaplains to build bridges with people as we journey with them. I think this is where the language of ‘pathways’ is helpful as well.
e-connect: As in the programmatic response in the Northern Victoria Division?
FT: Yes, but more than the program; the vernacular use of the term is prevalent, in terms of community outreach and service. For example, Mainly Music is a great community outreach, but what’s the pathway from this program to others? Whether it’s in providing welfare support, or support with addictions, what is the pathway that will move a person from that experience to a different experience?
TT: As the kids finish at four years of age, in Mainly Music… What’s the next pathway for the parents and the children, so we don’t lose that connection with them?
e-connect: What would it mean to see chaplaincy really thrive here in the Australia Southern Territory?
FT: Let me link that to our hope to establish pathways in people’s lives. That’s where chaplaincy kicks in for all of us. For all of us, in our interactions, can identify where we are on the journey with people, and ask ourselves, how are they travelling? Where is this person at in their journey? What’s the next step in life for them? That’s the holistic nature of chaplaincy and the role, in walking a path together.
I think, in terms of the professional chaplain role, I look for people who are able to help establish bridges. All of us have that role, but the professional, ‘designated’ chaplain is the one who helps people make a quantum leap jump towards spiritual, mental, physical health and that more serious transition. That bridges to another community of people, which bridges into a relationship with God through Christ; that’s where I am anticipating the chaplain’s role is the ‘connector’.
We all have a caring, sharing, journeying role. It’s no longer a matter of giving a hand out. Nor is it, as I was challenged by one of our homelessness directors, a matter of simply giving a hand up. It’s about stretching out a hand, and walking together.
The idea is true, whether I fulfil an official chaplaincy role or not. I am broken in my own self, and I am on a journey towards health and wholeness and healing. I can do that together with someone else, who may have a different brokenness.
Chaplaincy is walking hand in hand on the journey that’s ahead of us. Life. The professional chaplain is someone who is well-trained and suited, and who is intentional in helping people making significant bridges in their lives [towards God and health], picking up the pieces which is sometimes the harder more involved pieces of life.
e-connect: Similar to Henri Nouwen’s concept of the wounded healer?
FT: Indeed, we’re all pilgrims on the road.
TT: The chaplains have a role to bridge people into the corps to be supported, by the corps officers and people and ministries. In this corps community, people can continue their journey feeling cared for and cherished while they continue to develop and be discipled.
FT: You are asking about what we can learn from each other, Canadians and Australians; one of the things we are learning from Australians is the prominence of the chaplaincy role here – the number of people who are officially assigned as chaplains in their mission field. That speaks of the clarity of the mission intentions to care for people, to transform lives and make disciples.
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