Archive | May, 2014

How do you become a Chaplain?

8 May

That was the question that Karen asked me one day at the winter Farmer’s Market. I had gotten to know her over the several months we had set up a table at the bustling winter market to promote the food rescue and whole food efforts of our Cornucopia Food Pantry. She had a particular interest in prison ministries and wanted to find out how she could volunteer and learn more about helping in those settings.

There was a glitch, though. The officials and members of the church she was attending told her that women could not go into formal ministry, or could not be ordained as ministers or chaplains. She asked me what I thought of that. I responded that my own tradition had been ordaining women and non-white and non-heterosexual people for so long that I did not have to think about it that much. I offered that if only heterosexual men were ordained in my own tradition that we might have faded away a long time ago. I also talked about the richness that diversity in all forms of ministry gave to our tradition and our communities of spirit and faith.

I spoke of the many women pastors that were serving in local churches, in chaplaincies and in ministry settings all across our small New England state. There are so many wonderful examples of passionate, joyful and heartfelt ministry by colleagues that identify as something than heterosexual men, I realized she did not have to travel far to find amazing role models.

Karen visited one recent Sunday morning while I was guest to preaching at a local church. The dynamic female pastor of that church was not there on that particular morning, but the church was filed with active and vital people of all ages and social identities who considered themselves ministers and were rolling up their sleeves to make a difference and to live out the Good News.   I realized it was such a blessing to be able to say to Karen that this church was one of many in our local area that welcomed her and the gifts that she would bring.

Karen has begun to be involved in some of the programs at our campus minstry and in a local church community. She plans to go to a regional gathering of UCC women where she will be in the presence of women of all ages. I know for sure that she will be welcomed, she will be treated with kindness and affection and that she will be valued for the gifts that she can bring and the ways that God is working in and through her. I know that many of the sages and wisdom keepers of our tradition will nurture and nourish her in her own journey of discernment.

I am always perplexed when I encounter the persistent presence of discrimination and bias against women in ministry, or any of our social identities. I wonder why we have not gotten beyond such things? But I am quickly reminded that there are so many beautiful examples of the many ways we have gotten beyond that in many of our traditions, and the wonderful ways that people of all social identities are finding and realizing their spiritual gifts on our campuses and communities of faith.

Karen has had a hard life in her short time on this earth. She is resilient and strong, and is facing the challenges in front of her. And she has God in her heart and by her side as she walks ahead on her own spiritual journey.   She has also found communities that welcome and value her, and will nurture her with love, care and compassion. One of those communities is our own campus ministry, trying to build, as my friend and colleague Paul Cullity once described, “the beloved community, one friend at a time. “

The last time I spoke with Karen, I shared this short Rumi Quatrain with her, and will share it here as it expresses a bit of what we believe at the Waysmeet Center of the United Campus Ministry to UNH.

WHERE JESUS LIVES, THE GREAT-HEARTED GATHER.

WE ARE A DOOR THAT’S NEVER LOCKED.

 

IF YOU ARE SUFFERING ANY KIND OF PAIN,

STAY NEAR THIS DOOR. OPEN IT.

 

                                                            Jelaluddin Balkhi, aka Rumi.

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Larry Fair tradeReverend Larry Brickner-Wood is the Chaplain and Executive Director of the United Campus MInistry to the University of New Hampshire. The UCM, aka the Waysmeet Center, is an ecumenical and inter-faith ministry that has existed at UNH for over 60 years. Larry is an ordained minister in the United Chruch of Christ (UCC) and is in his 15th year at UCM. He served previously as the Assistant Pastor at First Church Congregational, UCC, in Rochester, NH, and spent twenty years in another calling in local government, serving as a municipal manager for most of that time. He has a Bachelors degree in Public Administration from James Madison University in Virginia, a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Vermont, and a Master in Divinity from Andover Newton Theolgical School. He is married and has two sons, who are in college in New Hampshire and Arizona. He loves his work!