Each fall, COMISS Network: the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings, sponsors a week to recognize and affirm Pastoral Care providers. This year’s theme is Spiritual Resilience. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship endorses over 728 chaplains and pastoral counselors who provide pastoral care in a variety of specialized settings. This week we will hear from six of these as they reflect on spiritual resilience in their ministries. As you read their reflections take a moment to express appreciation to those who provide pastoral care in your community.
By Chaplain Mike Strickland
For more than four years it has been my honor and privilege to serve as a chaplain in Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. As a member of the largest volunteer chaplaincy in the world, one of my tasks is to promote the well-being of our CAP members, both youth (cadets) and adults, which includes enhancing their spiritual resilience so they can be prepared to withstand the storms that we all inevitably encounter in life.
Civil Air Patrol is approaching its 75th birthday, having been founded Dec. 1, 1941, shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II. CAP supports America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development and promotion of air, space and cyber power.
CAP operates a fleet of 550 aircraft and performs about 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 78 lives annually. Civil Air Patrol’s 56,000 members nationwide also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. Its members additionally play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 24,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet program. Performing missions for America for the past 75 years, CAP received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014 in honor of the heroic efforts of its World War II veterans.
Through most of its history, local CAP squadrons have had chaplains assigned, but not until January 1950 was a CAP Chaplain Corps organized under the guidance of the Air Force Chief of Chaplains. The CAP Chaplain Corps was modeled after and partners with the Air Force Chaplain Corps. Appointment as a CAP chaplain requires the same academic and ecclesiastical credentials as appointment as a U.S. military chaplain. I am endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
The mission of the CAP Chaplain Corps is four-fold:
- to enable the free exercise of religion by CAP members;
- to promote CAP core values in all CAP activities through education, presence and advice;
- to respond to emergencies with skill and professionalism; and
- to conduct themselves with compassion and respect towards all members of CAP.
Although spiritual resilience is not directly stated in this mission, it is encompassed by all of its components.
As a CAP chaplain, one of my most frequent duties is to conduct character development instruction for our cadets at a local squadron. CAP’s cadet program for youth, ages 12 to 21, requires that local squadrons provide one hour of character development training each month to be led by a chaplain or CDI. This instruction is not religious in nature, but it is based upon the core values of CAP.
Specific curriculum material is provided and approved by the CAP chief of chaplains and usually presented in a case study format. Although character development material is not religious, it obviously has a spiritual component as the cadets consider life situations and how to apply values such as integrity and respect. In fact, the chief of chaplains has asked that all squadrons conduct a lesson supporting National Suicide Awareness Month in September this year and everyone was provided an online resource at www.capchaplain.com/resiliency to assist.
As a CAP chaplain, I also provide worship opportunities for members whose duties require them to be away from their homes and normal places of worship. For example, when cadets attend an overnight activity like a basic encampment, a chaplain will always be present to conduct a worship service for any members of his or her own faith and assure that others have the opportunity to attend worship services of their faith in the local area. I have also had the privilege of serving a chaplain for a national CAP flight Academy conducted at Fort Pickett, Virgina, for the past five summers where I have led worship, transported members to off-base worship services and been available for individual counseling and discussions.
As part of CAP’s emergency services program, chaplains must be prepared to minister to members and to non-members facing critical stress situations. The CAP Chaplain Corps recognizes that developing spiritual resilience is a component of being proactively prepared for these situations. My personal experiences have included casualty notification to family members and participation in memorial services.
CAP chaplains regularly participate in ceremonies and celebrations that include public prayers and recognize spiritual aspects of our members. For several years, I have participated in a CAP memorial service at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, to remember the CAP volunteers who have passed away the previous year where the names of each member who died are read. Last year, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the CAP members who served during World War II. Survivors and family members were honored at a presentation at the Capitol and at a dinner in Arlington. I had the honor of providing the invocation and the benediction at the dinner. Recognizing our past and the courage and devotion of those who have preceded us is an important way to enhance our spiritual resilience.
As a CAP chaplain, I am working to provide our volunteer members, both cadets and adults, with the resources they need to become spiritually resilient and meet the challenges they face in life. Although there is no pay involved in being a CAP chaplain, the opportunities are tremendous.
Chaplain Mike Strickland is a CBF-endorsed chaplain serving as a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol. Visit http://www.capvolunteernow.com for more information.