Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Lay chaplains?


  • Please log in to reply
24 replies to this topic

#1 David Lemont

David Lemont

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 06 April 2009 - 11:35 PM

I have been trying to find some information to determine whether there is such a thing as a lay chaplain in Orthodoxy. Is anyone aware if this is a possibility? I have a lot of interpersonal communication with people with people who are hurting and or looking for answers to life's challenges. After having a very bad experience in a nursing home where a number of people have been totally abandoned by their church I thought of spending some time volunteering to bring them some measure of their faith and spirituality. My mother is in a home where a Lutheran minister and the Salvation Army doing bible studies and singing hymns. The only other group the home has been able to get out to visit is the Mormons who send both missionaries and lay people.

If I am going to do something like this I would like to have some formal training, I am familiar with dealing with geriatrics (dementia, cancer, etc) as I cared for my mother for several years. I was not planning to go there in any official capacity as a representative of the Church but rather just a Christian who wants to brighten the lives of people who have been marginalized and thirsting for some spiritual connection.

#2 Cyprian (Humphrey)

Cyprian (Humphrey)

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 314 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 09:24 PM

FWIW, my understanding is that the qualifications and requirements for chaplaincy are determined by the organization that one would be a chaplain for, not necessarily the religious body one represents.

For instance, it would be the nursing home that would have stipulations on what is required before being approved as a chaplain. Of course, the Orthodox Church being organized as we are, all around the bishop, it would be up to him to endorse one as a chaplain as well, and he may have different requirements as well. We can't just appoint ourselves chaplains - but the hurdles can be easily vaulted if God is behind the calling.

I understand the motive of what you're trying to do. There's a huge need for it. The priests we have are overworked, and there's far too few of them. This kind of ministry is one that we can't just shrug off onto priests and deacons. I think it just starts with checking with your bishop first, to see if he'll bless you to start investigating this and heading down this path, and then check with the home as to what qualifications or endorsements they require.

May God bless you in your future ministry.

Monk Cyprian

#3 D. W. Dickens

D. W. Dickens

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 287 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 09:36 PM

Is it possible that Orthodox Churches need some form of quazi-ordination for lay persons doing blessed work in obedience to their Bishop or Priest?

I have been told that even the familiar homily during the Liturgy is not technically reserved for a Priest or Bishop alone. Certainly many in my parish are "blessed to read" though not made Readers "proper".

However, for many outside organizations (US Government, etc) the word "ordination" carries a specific legal classification and gives access to certain things for which lay persons are not given.

Or perhaps the problem is that we simply need many more Deacons, Priests and Bishops... possibly many more.

It's a sort of catch-22. There's work that needs doing that an official hand can do when an un-official cannot. Either we expand our notion of official or we dilute our sacred trust.

#4 Christopher Dombrowski

Christopher Dombrowski

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 133 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 10:21 PM

I think this topic really touches on an even broader topic that really opens up a whole can of worms for our Church. We haven't really much touched on the subject of lay ministry at all in the EOC, aside from speculation on the mystical nature of the "royal priesthood". Of course we cannot take this so far as to deny the necessity and place of Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders, but I do think that the EOC needs to explore the ministry of the laity significantly more than it has so far.

And yet further, I think there are plenty of ministries performed by lay people within the Church that are legitimately diaconal, and yet for some reason we seem resistent to recognize them by Holy Ordination to the Order of the Diaconate.

#5 Cyprian (Humphrey)

Cyprian (Humphrey)

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 314 posts

Posted 08 April 2009 - 11:59 PM

I doubt any quasi-ordinations would help anything. If he wishes, the Bishop could make the candidate a Reader or Sub-Deacon, which makes the man technically clergy anyway.

You're kind of right that ordination carry's a legal status. It's actually when one is licensed as a minister, one has the ability to perform legal marriages and burials. Ordination is generally (though not always!) the requirement for licensing. And depending on what country you're in, sometimes baptismal records are used to certify citizenship - although I'm under the impression that most have gone, or are going away from that practice (the documents are too easily forged allowing for bad guys to create fake identities).

So, the two are technically separate. One is may be ordained to serve the Church in diaconal or presbetyrial roles, or even consecrated to the episcopate. That is all within the Church's purview and control.

One can also be licensed to create legal marriages, and dispose of human remains. That's a vital statistics role that the government is usually interested in.

#6 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:13 AM

There is a professional certification for chaplains but it is not necessary to be certified to be a chaplain in all situations. One of the requirements for chaplaincy certification is that one is ordained by one's own religious group. In addition to ordination, there is a required training/internship program (about three years worth). Its a pretty intense program (I took one unit of training, before deciding the professional chaplaincy was not for me).

OTOH, not all chaplaincy positions require certification. Even police and fire positions as well as some hospital and nursing home or prison and municipal chaplaincies do not necessarily require a certified person.

An Orthodox Christian who wanted to work as a professional chaplain would not necessarily need to be ordained, however, I think that it only makes sense that he would need to be endorsed by his Church (probably a recommendation by the parish priest would do). There are a lot of opportunities other than paid chaplaincies that an Orthodox Christian could use to provide emotional/spiritual support. As a therapist (in my previous life) I often brought my spiritual perspective into a counseling/training session to help my client develop their own spiritual context for their lives - I presume that this would be possible in any of the helping professions.

Fr David Moser

#7 Cyprian (Humphrey)

Cyprian (Humphrey)

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 314 posts

Posted 09 April 2009 - 12:17 AM

Just a further thought to my last post, if you'll allow me.

It's the disposal of human remains and legal marriages that is really all a ministerial license is about. But, when you think of it, it's still not really required!

Imagine if a couple wants to get married, and let's presume there are no impediments to it, but they just object to paying the government the silly fee for a marriage license. They go through the proper ceremony with an Orthodox priest (I'm assuming the couple is Orthodox here!), and as far as the Church is concerned they are properly married. End of.

But as far as the state is concerned they are common-law! Brilliant! And, at least in Canada, the common-law marriage is just as legally binding as any other kind!

Now, for burials, I am under the impression that most funeral home services can do the proper paperwork for legal burials. They must because there are atheists and such, and other denominations that refuse to have ordained ministers like the Plymouth Brethren out there, and they manage to bury their dead. Maybe someone who is a licensed minister or funeral home director out there can confirm this for me, but I'm sure there's a way to do it without having a government licensed minister.

So, I'm not even sure there is a real need for our priests to have ministerial licenses. From my perspective it looks like a government cash-grab for minimal convenience.

But, sorry, that's highjacking the thread a bit.

I think lay-chaplains and lay-ministers are a good thing. Just so long as we understand that they wouldn't be able to do anything sacramental except emergency baptism (which any Christian can do anyway!). There's lots of social and welfare related tasks that need to be done.

Christ's Great Commission was given to all Christians, not just the ordained ones.

#8 Rick H.

Rick H.

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,231 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 April 2009 - 11:55 AM

. . . I thought of spending some time volunteering to bring them some measure of their faith and spirituality.

I was not planning to go there in any official capacity as a representative of the Church but rather just a Christian who wants to brighten the lives of people who have been marginalized and thirsting for some spiritual connection.



Dear David,

You have some great input in the posts above about your question of a lay chaplain in Orthodoxy. But, after reading your post (viz. your motivation and how you would function), I wonder if the question of a title really matters? This does not appear to be either a vocational position or a bi-vocational position that you are speaking about.

I would think the consideration of such would be centered on how you would function.

In the past, with other non-Orthodox Christian churches, I have observed that sometimes people think they have to have a title in the church before they are able to do anything. Other folks seem to want a title before they are willing to do anything. But, overall, it seems the people who are gifted to work/volunteer in a given area--especially in an environment like a nursing home or a retirement village--are the people who simply apply to be a volunteer and begin in whatever areas are open (usually activities).

But, I guess I am unclear about what you are asking about, what you are proposing. When you speak about:

-- Bringing them (the residents) some measure of their faith and spirituality, and

-- Brightening the lives of people who have been marginalized and thirsting for some spiritual connection.


I'm not clear about what this means. Especially, the reference to "their faith."

Does this mean that you want to volunteer in whatever capacity is needed and minister to the residents 'one-on-one,' possibly during an activity time in the activity hall?

Or, possibly, you are considering having a Bible study 'group' there once per week with whoever is interested? Or, possibly, you desire to be there on a Sunday to have a type of worship service with the residents like the Lutherans, or the Salvation Army ministers do?

This is a good question that you have raised; however, I wonder if you could be more specific about your desires/intentions so that we could examine this question in a more clear and thorough way that might yield some answers.

Thanks for bringing up this topic, I think it is a question that needs answered as it relates to the ministry of Christ to any group which offers assisted living, retirement services, or as others have said, hospitals, police, fire, or other.

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 09 April 2009 - 12:11 PM.


#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 09 April 2009 - 11:58 AM

Monk Cyprian (Humphrey) wrote:

Imagine if a couple wants to get married, and let's presume there are no impediments to it, but they just object to paying the government the silly fee for a marriage license. They go through the proper ceremony with an Orthodox priest (I'm assuming the couple is Orthodox here!), and as far as the Church is concerned they are properly married. End of.

But as far as the state is concerned they are common-law! Brilliant! And, at least in Canada, the common-law marriage is just as legally binding as any other kind!

Now, for burials, I am under the impression that most funeral home services can do the proper paperwork for legal burials. They must because there are atheists and such, and other denominations that refuse to have ordained ministers like the Plymouth Brethren out there, and they manage to bury their dead. Maybe someone who is a licensed minister or funeral home director out there can confirm this for me, but I'm sure there's a way to do it without having a government licensed minister.

So, I'm not even sure there is a real need for our priests to have ministerial licenses. From my perspective it looks like a government cash-grab for minimal convenience.


For marriages in Canada, accredited ministers receive a certificate from the provincial government. This then means that when the couple bring the marriage certificate to the church, that after the marriage the authorized minister (ie in our situation the priest) has the legal authority to sign the marriage certificate. At this point the couple are legally married. This authority of the minister derives from British common law. It is equal to power of attorney. For this reason until recently we were among the few categories of profession that could legally verify passport applications.

Of course though in the eyes of the Church if you get married in the Church according to the sacrament of crowning you don't need a legal marriage. It's just that at least in our experience about 99% of our people prefer this option. I've only one had one couple choose the 'Church marriage only' option. But later on they came back with a certificate for me to sign also!

Funerals however are different. Legally these are also under provincial authority like marriages (usually the Dept of Vital Statistics). But the funeral certificate is processed through the funeral home. The minister/priest only receives a copy of this from the funeral home when the body is brought to the church and is not asked to sign anything.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#10 Cyprian (Humphrey)

Cyprian (Humphrey)

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 314 posts

Posted 09 April 2009 - 02:57 PM

Thank you Fr Raphael for correcting me about funerals.

So, really, a ministerial license is for nothing more than legal attestation that the signatures on a marriage license are not forged?

Wow. That seems so.....

trivial.

Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 09 April 2009 - 05:53 PM.
corrected what is trivial to the rest of the post so someone else could answer it....ech canadians!


#11 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 09 April 2009 - 03:08 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack wrote:

Of course though in the eyes of the Church if you get married in the Church according to the sacrament of crowning you don't need a legal marriage. It's just that at least in our experience about 99% of our people prefer this option. I've only one had one couple choose the 'Church marriage only' option. But later on they came back with a certificate for me to sign also!


This is not always the case. In some places it is illegal to perform a marriage of any kind without the marriage license from the state. Our Archbishop here lives in one of those states and so is sensitive to the issue. He is quite clear that he does not bless his clergy to perform a marriage without the marriage license (I'm sure there might be the possibility of some exceptional situation, but I have yet to encounter it.)

Fr David Moser

Edited by Fr Raphael Vereshack, 09 April 2009 - 06:04 PM.
fixed quote tags


#12 D. W. Dickens

D. W. Dickens

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 287 posts

Posted 09 April 2009 - 03:53 PM

I was thinking much more simple and practical. As many hospitals will allow clergy in with immediate family to visit people or provide special parking for them. Prisons, youth facilities, even other Churches deal with the ordained person differently.

In Higher Education we've had a massive title inflation problem. It used to be that all the departments had managers, then one by one all the departments (still largely the same size in terms of employees and scope in responsibilities) had their managers upgraded to directors and now a few of them have gone to Assistant Deans or full Deans. This is because of how other schools, agencies, programs, etc treat different titles.

If you call a millionaire alumni and announce yourself as Alumni Services Manager, they brush you off, but if you are the Dean of Alumni Relations they want to have lunch with you.

I know this is deliberately manipulating, but if lay-folks have gifts their priest or bishop believes are good for them to put to use, they need to give the right "signaling mechanisms" to those they support doing such work.

I certainly don't mean to imply that the Church change it's orders or anything silly like that. I'm just saying we have to be aware of the vocabulary/language the world uses. Just like we translate services into English we have to translate, "Church Approved/Official Representative" into something the community/government understands.

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 09 April 2009 - 06:00 PM

Thank you Fr Raphael for correcting me about funerals.

So, really, a ministerial license is for nothing more than legal attestation that the signatures on a marriage license are not forged?

Wow. That seems so.....

trivial.


No...it takes a legally certified minister of some sort (you can be a priest/minister/rabbi/imam/etc) so that the marriage is then a legal civil marriage.

His performance of the marriage is necessary.

However if you die that's different. Then you can do whatever you want. But it may in court be considered an illegal death. They may have to bring you back to life again in order to drag you into court to straighten everything out.

Luckily though we don't have the death penalty in Canada so at least that won't be the penalty for an illegal death. :)

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 09 April 2009 - 06:13 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack wrote:



This is not always the case. In some places it is illegal to perform a marriage of any kind without the marriage license from the state. Our Archbishop here lives in one of those states and so is sensitive to the issue. He is quite clear that he does not bless his clergy to perform a marriage without the marriage license (I'm sure there might be the possibility of some exceptional situation, but I have yet to encounter it.)

Fr David Moser


How does that work practically Father? Does the couple already have the valid marriage license or need to bring it to church when the marriage occurs?

Here in Canada because of the peculiarity of British common law where a religious minister has a limited power of attorney the couple brings the marriage form to the church. On the form is already completed all the required information including signature from a governing authority from Vital Statistics. But the form is only valid once the marriage ceremony has been completed and the officiating minister signs the form. The couple then returns the completed form to Vital Statistics.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,033 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 April 2009 - 06:20 PM

I can only speak for English law though Canadian, Australian and New Zealand law may be very similar. A legal marriage ought to be entered into in addition to a church marriage. The possible consequences for a couple on the death of one party or their separation/divorce are very different according to whether the couple were legally married or not. The law on cohabitation is one of the main subjects I teach, and the courts are crammed with cases concerning the property rights - or lack of them - of unmarried couples. In English law there is no such thing as a common law marriage (not since 1753 anyway) yet around 70% of the population think there is. It is possible for a woman (say) to live with a man for many years without being legally married to him, bear children and keep house, and, when the relationship breaks down, get not one penny. A church marriage could not change this if it had no legal effect.

#16 Cyprian (Humphrey)

Cyprian (Humphrey)

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 314 posts

Posted 09 April 2009 - 08:45 PM

It is possible for a woman (say) to live with a man for many years without being legally married to him, bear children and keep house, and, when the relationship breaks down, get not one penny. A church marriage could not change this if it had no legal effect.


I didn't know that about the UK. In Canada it is legislated by the individual province or territory. But, the main differences are WHEN the common-law status takes effect. From what I recall from when I was a clerk in the Armed Forces: in British Columbia a couple must co-habitate a minimum of 6 months unbroken, and then they are considered legally common-law and one would have all the entitlements half the household assests, bank accounts, alimony etc. In Saskatchewan, it was as soon as they moved in together. Regardless though, once you are common-law according to the provincial statutes, it is of the same effect as marriage regarding the division of assets.

The only difference I know of in Canadian law is that a divorce of a legal marriage is handled in the Supreme Court, while the "fallout" of a common-law marriage breakup is handled in the Provincial Court.

Edited by Cyprian (Humphrey), 09 April 2009 - 08:46 PM.
added a word for clarity. I type like I'm wearing mitts.


#17 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,033 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 09 April 2009 - 09:21 PM

As I said, I can only safely speak about English law.

#18 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 10 April 2009 - 03:03 AM

How does that work practically Father? Does the couple already have the valid marriage license or need to bring it to church when the marriage occurs?


The couple goes to the county clerk and there they apply for a marriage license. If they are found to be eligible, a license form is issued. The clergyman, or other officiant of the wedding (for example a judge at a civil ceremony) then performs the wedding, completes the form which is signed by the officiant and two witnesses (for us that would be the priest, the bridegroom and maid of honor) and the form is then sent back to the county clerks office where the marriage is registered and a certified copy of the license is then sent to the couple to verify their marriage. Some of the details may differ in different municipalities, but there are no real differences.

Fr David Moser

#19 Rick H.

Rick H.

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,231 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 10 April 2009 - 02:07 PM

I was thinking much more simple and practical. As many hospitals will allow clergy in with immediate family to visit people or provide special parking for them. Prisons, youth facilities, even other Churches deal with the ordained person differently.

In Higher Education we've had a massive title inflation problem. It used to be that all the departments had managers, then one by one all the departments (still largely the same size in terms of employees and scope in responsibilities) had their managers upgraded to directors and now a few of them have gone to Assistant Deans or full Deans. This is because of how other schools, agencies, programs, etc treat different titles.

If you call a millionaire alumni and announce yourself as Alumni Services Manager, they brush you off, but if you are the Dean of Alumni Relations they want to have lunch with you.

I know this is deliberately manipulating, but if lay-folks have gifts their priest or bishop believes are good for them to put to use, they need to give the right "signaling mechanisms" to those they support doing such work.

I certainly don't mean to imply that the Church change it's orders or anything silly like that. I'm just saying we have to be aware of the vocabulary/language the world uses. Just like we translate services into English we have to translate, "Church Approved/Official Representative" into something the community/government understands.



Hi D.W.,

I'm not sure that I'm following you in this as it relates to the topic of 'Lay Chaplains in Orthodoxy' here in this thread. I don't see the point, or how titles would matter in this. I seem to be a little distant these last few days, so if I am missing something, please forgive me and hopefully help me to see more clearly what you are saying.

I think it was Fr. David who pointed out that different places have different minimum qualifications to be a chaplain for their own organizations/associations. For example there is a small police department in the township next to mine, that really has no requirements for their chaplains other than being known by one of the good ol' boys on the force. On this police force education, work experience, and titles are not a factor. However, there are some places where these things do come into play . . . for example, there is a retirement village in my area that is advertising presently for a chaplain and in this the requirements include:

1.) MDiv. with a DMin. preferred
2.) Ordained
3.) "Board Certified" by the APC [Association of Professional Chaplains]

I'm not sure how suggesting to provide a kind of nomenclature change in Orthodoxy would be necessary or helpful to the one who would pursue a position as a chaplain somewhere. No matter what Orthodox 'signaling mechanism' we would come up with, it would not matter to the groups who do not require ordination, and for the one's who do require their chaplains to be ordained, or for those like the APC who certify, it would be a complete lie for a lay person to attempt to represent himself as being ordained by the Orthodox Church to a perspective employer.

I do think I see what you mean about making a move to the practical in the above, and I appreciate your honesty about the 'deliberate manipulation' of the title . . . but, do you see what my question is?

--Within Orthodoxy, without misrepresenting oneself (to the places that require ordination for their candidates), the honest answer from a "lay person" would have to be "no I am not ordained." Regardless of the title one has or could possibly be given, either one is ordained or one is not.

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 10 April 2009 - 02:38 PM.


#20 D. W. Dickens

D. W. Dickens

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 287 posts

Posted 10 April 2009 - 05:31 PM

I'm simply focusing on the practical situations that come to my mind.

When I was young I did very briefly (I think it was in 8th grade when they make you chose a career via a test) consider being a military chaplain. However, my father informed me that it was unlikely since the church we went to didn't ordain. It had caused him problems as a conscientious objector during Vietnam as well.

Not ordaining was an important theological position in my previous tradition, but it created problems because we had elders, deacons, preachers and the like which served the roles that public chaplaincy expects.

Being dishonest in manipulating titles bites both ways. If every other Church "ordains" the head of their education department then it complicates dealing with such relationships if we don't have some form of similar official designation. We recently had a controversy at the library where an employee was upset that they were going to give her a fancy title (I don't remember what it was) but she just wanted to be called a "Cataloger" because any other title would make it difficult to get her next job even if it sounded better. I don't want the Church to be defined by the world, but we can't have our own private code and expect the anyone else to understand us.

Society tries to offer special access to services and resources (even as simple as a convenient parking space at a hospital) to those they understand as "designated" by their Church to be representatives who may perform officially for the Church.

This is a dilemma if we don't have enough ordained priests around to do all that needs done. Either you have to ordain more priests or you have to use things like sub-deacon as was suggested previously in this thread. Another option would be "ordaining" lay persons not in the Holy Orders at all, but in some sort of lay-order for these public sector applications.

As a side note, I have no particular fondness for external certifications and educational credentials for Church officials. I go to my spiritual father for his Chrism, not his degree in psychology. And yes, I know this puts me in the distinct minority.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users