Master of the Chaplaincy Studies
What did you learn?
This course enriched my understanding of what Chaplaincy is. I say IS because I now recognize that the ministry of Chaplaincy continually grows, expands and, in a sense, is a living ministry. Throughout the course I was exposed to the variety of needs that a chaplain can be called on to serve. Military, hospital, community – these are only a few of the areas where a chaplain can bring the message of salvation to those in need or who are hurting. Hospice programs and schools ca benefit from the services of a chaplain (although we need to be mindful of the type of school so as not to cross boundaries set up by the ACLU and our government).
This course identified that a level of formal education and practical experience is also needed. Before practicing as a chaplain, we need to be confident in our abilities to serve both effectively and efficiently. Effectively, so we do no harm but facilitate efforts to satisfy the needs of those we minister to. Efficiently, so we utilize our time and resources to the best of our abilities. Allowing us to spend time when necessary and where necessary, yet recognize when it is time to move on to the next individual or situation.
Education does not stop simply because we have attained a specific level of knowledge or understanding. As Chaplains, it is vital that we continue to expand our knowledge in human behavior, psychology, sociology and our religion. We need to be multi-talented and skillful voices that are able to respond to various situations. Continuing our education cannot guarantee we will always be ready, but it sure does arm us with skill sets that can surely aid us when needed.
To professionally serve others, we need to be professionals ourselves. This requires a level of ethics and ethical behavior. All professions adhere to a code of ethics. Chaplains also need a code of ethics that call for us to serve when needed, where needed and in a professional manner that causes no additional harm. Most established religions maintain a code of ethics (cannon Laws) that guide ministers. We are the examples and can be held to a much higher level of responsibility. This is both appropriate and necessary.
What helped you?
The format this course uses (internet lessons delivered on a weekly basis) is very appropriate for us "Older" students. It allows us to work on the course material at our own pace without arbitrary time limitations (due dates, etc). Although we had the opportunity to communicate with other students through the Seminary bulletin board, I found it cumbersome to do so. Without a set number of students going through the course together, it is difficult to talk about a particular issue or lesson as others are not at the same level (some ahead and others still behind).
Since the lessons are designed to be completed as an individual, I did not have any difficulties. The knowledge gained was not limited or hampered because I was studying alone. This speaks well of the lesson plan and materials supplied.
What could improve this course?
I have a few recommendations for improvement.
1. Include a reading list that corresponds with the lessons. I used the internet to gain additional information on being a chaplain. With all of the specialized areas a chaplain can go into, I can envision a substantial listing of books, pamphlets and articles that could be used to enhance this course.
2. Although individuals can start this course at any time and complete it in 20 weeks, they do not have the advantage of communicating with classmates unless others begin and end this course at nearly the same time. I believe it would benefit students to begin this course at the same time. A list of students names and e-mail addresses then could be shared and the mutual support could greatly enhance to learning process.
3. If the seminary does not want to begin the course for all students at a specific date, then at least identify among the students currently enroll who is in the program with their e-mail address. Then we can communicate with each other directly.
4. I know it is difficult to manage a large number of students at one time (I taught college courses at Washington College) but it is important to maintain student – instructor contact on a regular basis. Maybe every 5 lesson a short question and answer quiz could be inserted where the instructor can monitor student progress and comment on the answers supplied by the student. This serve several functions:
A. The student must respond to the questions before progressing to the next level
B. The instructor will review answers and guide the student as needed.
C. The student benefits from direct instructor comments.
What you hope you will accomplish as a result of taking this course.
As a minister and a social worker, I am always looking forward to opportunities to expand my knowledge and understanding of my roll. I also look for better ways of assisting others. This course has helped along those lines.
The other benefit is the diploma or Masters Degree in chaplaincy which, in today's society, stands for formal recognition of an educational accomplishment. I gain a professional skill set needed to perform in a particular setting. Obviously as a social worker I am required to maintain currency in my field. As a minister, this should also be required, even if self imposed. The Seminary programs helps me maintain currency in fields of study needed to serve.
Rev. Phil Herman, OblSB
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