I’ve seen that, in various incarnations, for a while. So I thought I would discuss my experience with people expressly trained to minister.
My first discussions of chaplains had to do with some we went to church with. The kind that, since he was an officer, had the enlisted personnel he interacted with stand at attention and answer “yes sir” or “no sir” while he counseled with them. He had graduate level professional training on how to counsel with and minister to people.
I really did not deal much more with people who had training for the ministry until I was in the hospital with my oldest child, Jessica. I was assigned a chaplain with experience as a pastor who had a PhD as a part of preparing to be a pastor. Mostly I held space for him and listened as he vented about how unprepared his PhD had left him, something he was hoping to remedy with chaplaincy training.
I saw him last when he was assigned to prepare me for a meeting with the doctors for them to tell us that our daughter Jessica was not expected to make it. His preparation “you’ve dealt with everything really well. I think I could learn a lot from watching how you cope with getting bad news. Would you mind letting me observe and learn from you as you are told your daughter is expected to die?” Guess that is the way that everyone would want to have that news broken to them – and I really think he didn’t realize that he had broken the news to me with the way he asked the question.
Later, when Robin was in the hospital I wandered down to the hospital chapel. The chaplain in charge (and the person in charge of the hospital’s chaplaincy training program) let me know that I was really in the way as they were preparing the space for something and that there were much more important things for her to do than talk to me or even be inconvenienced by my sitting there quietly.
I still don’t know what religious observances are around July 9th, but I got out of her way.
So, forgive me if my experience of people who have been trained for the ministry does not necessarily give me confidence in their superiority. Or if assertions of same do not bring out my unabashed support instead of memories, like the ones above.
On the other hand, I have known chaplains who I thought the world of. My father was a volunteer prison chaplain for several years after being asked by the local church leadership. He was even asked to pastor a church as a result of those who saw him in action. I’ve known others, who I would like to emulate.
I just don’t think that “being trained for the ministry” is always what it is cracked up to be.