Navy Chaplain Q&A
By Pastor Drew - October 26, 2021
Since I shared a letter last week announcing my call to serve as a Navy Chaplain, Megan and I have received many kind notes of support and well wishes for which we are so grateful. We have also gotten some good questions. As a follow up, I thought I would use the Pastor’s Blog this week to try and answer some of the most common ones.
Are you still going to be a Lutheran pastor?
Yes, military chaplains are still Lutheran pastors. There are about 200 ELCA Lutheran pastors who are federal chaplains serving either in the military, in prisons, or in another federal role.
Will you be on a ship?
There is a very good chance of that, yes. Navy chaplains care for sailors on ships. They also care for Marines and those in our Coastguard. The Navy’s goal is to place a chaplain on every ship. I have learned that in the Navy, they are referred to as “Ships” not “Boats” …except for submarines. Those you can call boats.
How often do chaplains move?
The rule of thumb is every three years. The Navy calls each assignment a “Billet.” A billet could be to a ship or a group of ships, to a base chapel, a hospital, an Air Station, and more. There is a lot of variety.
Why serve in the Navy as opposed to another military branch?
Over the last twelve years, it was repeatedly Navy chaplains who crossed my path. The first was a Navy chaplain recruiter who came and talked with me in seminary around 2009.
Are you actually going to be in the Navy?
Yes, Navy chaplains are commissioned Navy officers. In January, I will go to a three-month long training called Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island. My classmates will be other chaplains, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and so on. I’m prepared for lots of push ups and some very cold weather.
Why does the military have chaplains?
Chaplains come from Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic backgrounds, among others. They provide religious services for people in their own tradition. They help to make sure people of other traditions can freely practice their faith also which is their First Amendment right. Chaplains have a “Ministry of Presence.” They remind service members they are never alone.
Will you carry a weapon?
Chaplains are non-combatants providing spiritual care. They cannot carry a weapon. Chaplains do have an enlisted sailor assigned to them called a Religious Program Specialist. This person carries a weapon and serves as an assistant.
Right now, Megan and I are feeling the same combination as many of you. We are excited about the opportunity to serve Jesus while in the Navy. At the same time, we are going to miss you all at Christ Lutheran dearly. But this is not goodbye. This is a change. A change that we hope you all will continue to be a part of as we reach beyond with the love of Christ.
With love and appreciation,