VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/13/21)—On Monday night, the second 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 (CCL). Among the 41 graduates were pastors, lay leaders, clergy, chaplains and deacons.
The celebration began with a welcome from Murphy, followed by an invocation by the Rev. Florence Li, ABHMS’ national coordinator of Asian Ministries.
“We gather here from all walks of life,” Li said, “to bring our joyous hearts to this special occasion.”
A litany was led by the Rev. Kathryn Johnson.
“We are one in the Lord,” she said.
“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,” answered the group.
Rev. Rebecca Irwin-Diehl, director of the CCL, brought greetings, saying, “This is a season in life when everyone is worried about the future of the church,” she said, “but when we have 50 in the first cohort and 41 in the second cohort … I know that the gospel ministry that Christ entrusted to us is still healthy and that God is still at work in the world.”
The graduates—from beginners to those who are seasoned chaplains—provided testimonies about their class experiences.
“I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken me to another level,” said Gary Sheets. “I serve as chaplain for seven different organizations. Now I feel like I know what I’m doing.”
Added Troy Wong: “I knew nothing about chaplaincy coming in. This class was a great exposure to all that a chaplain does and can do. I was encouraged by all the presenters.”
Instructors also lent their voices to the event, expressing good wishes and providing inspiration to the graduates.
“Sisters and brothers, I told you during class, but I’ll tell you again: Not a single one of us here can give you the heart to love people. It’s a God thing,” said Dr. Jan McCormack. “Not a single one of us here can give you the courage to love people. It’s a God thing.”
The Rev. Dr. Anne Dondapati Allen said she seconded what McCormack said, adding, “We’re simply coming along side for the rest of this journey with you.”
“As we talked about in our class, everyone grieves differently,” said Dr. Jose Tate, who taught the class Grief, Loss and Pastoral Approach to BioMedical Ethics. “Loss impacts people in different ways. It’s so important for us to be there to be empathetic. Our world is going through so much today. People have all types of grief, hurt and pain.”
Murphy reminded the group that it was impossible to have taught them everything they need to know as chaplains. “Tonight,” she said, “I want to charge you, wherever you are, to bear good fruit. No matter what it looks like, hold on and maintain your joy. Your joy comes from the Lord. Whether you’re in a Zoom room or a building where you worship, people are in need at this time.
“Not all needs are visible,” she continued. “I have come to realize that the greatest need of humanity is a spiritual need.”
Irwin-Diehl and Murphy took turns reading off the names of graduates.
The event concluded with a benediction by Dr. Donald Kelly.
“Even though we came as individuals, we leave as a group, as a cohort,” he said. “We can lead, teach and listen better than when we came in.”
Throughout the program, music was provided by the Rev. LaThelma A. Yenn-Batah, senior pastor of Flemington (N.J.) Baptist Church.
While attending the class Grief, Loss and Pastoral Approach to BioMedical Ethics, student Gail Henderson was inspired to begin a nonprofit called the Nana Project, for which she and her daughter appear on the TV news to discuss the death of their mother and grandmother from gynecological cancer.
Benefits for graduates
The program’s graduates 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.