The face of chaplaincy has changed considerably over the past two decades. While chaplains have strong Christian faith and express that faith, proselytising is not a chaplain’s role. That is not to say that chaplains cannot or do not help people come to experience the Christian faith.
That does happen, at the request of those who are engaging in a search for spiritual understanding – I would emphasise, however, that this happens at the acceptance of an invitation, offered by the chaplain or initiated by the client or person with whom the chaplain is in relationship with as part of the chaplain’s duties.
Chaplains respond to clients’ needs, not the needs of the organisation whom the chaplain belongs to or is employed by; the example for this prioritising of the integrity and priority of relationship is set by Jesus Christ himself.
There is no external funding for the majority of Salvation Army chaplains, save for those engaged in specific areas such as military chaplaincy or chaplaincy to the fire brigade, etc. This does put financial strain on organisations such as The Salvation Army that recognises the good work done by chaplains and the good will generated by the ministry and mission.
We are currently undertaking a pilot training program for 13 chaplains, at a diploma of chaplaincy level. This is regulated by ASQA, the Australian certifying body, and is being done in recognition that for The Salvation Army to employ or deploy chaplains they have to be individuals who are equipped, trained and
Training is a fee for service process, with weekday class attendance over five to seven intensives. It is an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting process for the members of this pilot. These are people with a compassionate heart who have or who are developing the requisite skill sets. They have a knowledge of the duty of care that they take up in their role. They are aware of the issues of mandatory reporting in some areas of law, and the nature, place and boundaries of confidentiality. These are good people.
A chaplain is often placed in a communicative role with people best described as being in the ‘pre-awareness of faith’ stage, or increasingly people who are from an ecumenical or different faith background, with multicultural factors (CALD, ‘cultural and linguistic diversity’, etc.) that require active listening skills and the knowledge of other people’s experiences and belief systems.
Chaplains sometimes work with those who have come through or who are enduring traumatic crises and events. People who are battling profound loss, grief, alienation, depression or sorrow. They may be clients with complex needs. They are often lonely, and feel isolated.
It is my hope that this pilot program will lead to future training, and inclusion of people who would like to explore chaplaincy as a vocation and a call on their lives.
Territorial chaplaincy director Major Anne Farquharson