VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/18/21)—On Monday night, the inaugural cohort of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) “Chaplaincy Skills for Community Ministry” certificate program celebrated their graduation during an online event. Developed by the Rev. Dr. Patricia Murphy, BCC, ABHMS ecclesiastical endorser, Chaplaincy and Specialized Ministries, the course was offered online through ABHMS’ Center for Continuous Learning. Among the 55 graduates were pastors, regional executives, lay leaders, clergy, chaplains and deacons.
The celebration began with a welcome from Murphy, who invoked Psalm 118:24. She was followed by Chaplain U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Blanchette, a cohort instructor, who delivered the invocation. Stating that the Lord has equipped each graduate to minister to others, he prayed, “Make their paths straight and their efforts fruitful, as they care for those you have put before them.”
The Rev. Willetta Ar-Rahmaan, a program graduate, led the group in reciting a litany she had written: “We are connected to the tree of life as transforming agents in hospitals, prisons, pastoral counseling centers, colleges and universities, racetracks, military bases and churches.”
Cohort graduate the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Carter, executive regional minister of the Cleveland Baptist Association, said her participation was beneficial to both her and the association. “Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to participate in this cohort. I have been completely and wonderfully blessed,” she said. “I will be in a better position to minister to the youth [who come to the association-run center].”
Graduate Elise Rhodes, a nurse, said the program helped her to discern which ministry path to pursue. “I thought I wanted to go one way, but the books and readings helped me figure it out,” she said. “I’ve made a final decision through prayer and what I’ve learned in this class about the direction that I want to take.”
Introduced by ABHMS board member and course participant Trevor Hyde, keynote speaker Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of ABHMS, referenced the ills of today’s world and called for “an increase of laborers of persons of faith.” Offering encouragement, he noted that the graduates’ gifts will open doors. “With great needs come great opportunities for you to serve, to make an impact, to follow your heart and do what the spirit of God is leading you to do.” He added, “Let me affirm that the gifts you carefully stirred and honed in recent months will make room for you.”
Reflecting on the success of the inaugural program, Murphy shared that she was particularly delighted with the diversity of ministry leaders, as well as the geographical representation. “One church in Anchorage, Alaska, sent six members, and we had participants from Puerto Rico as well!” The feedback from pastors and regional executives was also encouraging. “They recognized how having additional skill sets and sharpening their tools are essential to providing care in these challenging times,” she said.
In addition to the program content, Murphy pointed out that the program’s graduates also will enjoy valuable benefits, including associate endorsement through ABHMS; a six-month membership in the American Baptist National Network for Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors and Specialized Ministers; and participation in the active networking community on ABHMS’ ministrElife online platform.
The newly established associate endorsement designation provides those who complete the ABHMS training with a number of advantages, including:
- Credibility with agencies as volunteer chaplains.
- Enhanced credibility in community practice settings, such as emergency services, protests, airports and campuses.
- Possible employment as hospice chaplains with additional experiences (i.e. clergy years of ministry).
- Recognition and affirmation of respective call within the American Baptist Churches USA family.
- Continuing education credits and, in some cases, independent study.
- Pride in accomplishment and professional/spiritual growth.
About ‘Chaplaincy Skills for Community Ministry’
Led by board-certified and endorsed chaplains, this practical course in chaplaincy skills was developed for community contexts, where a ministry of nonsectarian spiritual care is needed. It teaches how to offer a ministry of presence that honors ecumenical and interfaith engagement, demonstrates cultural humility, practices refined listening skills, and responds to trauma with sensitivity and accountability.
The cohort is intended for (1) individuals who are exploring a call to chaplaincy in health care, prisons, military, higher education and (2) those who are already providing community support as chaplains, pastors, deacons or missionaries in other contexts.
For more information about ABHMS’ Chaplaincy and Specialized Ministries, visit abhms.org/ministries/developing-leaders/chaplaincy/.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.