Many branches have non-military chaplain programs in local institutions (prisons, hospitals, etc.). This is called institutional work. The Mother Church has an Institutional Committee Liaison who works with individuals and branches in the United States who have questions about institutional work. This Liaison, Toni Gaspard, can be reached at email@example.com.
Below we offer more information about the distinctions between military and non-military chaplains as well as for how to become a non-military chaplain in your local community.
In most cases, chaplain is a term reserved for ordained clergy; however most institutions rely on lay ministers who are not ordained. Paid full-time professional chaplains who have to have the Seminary graduate studies and the ordination or endorsement of their national church headquarters normally fill a supervisory position to organize and run expanded ministry opportunities in institutions. They require additional in-house training for volunteer workers that many churches provide.
Since Hurricane Katrina and other disaster relief, Red Cross, FEMA, prisons, etc., have been requiring documentation of some sort from church workers. Most organizations want a character reference and proof of training. In some cases those requirements may even include a specific type college course or some form of educational requirement. Each person or branch church sponsor interested must contact the specific institution to find out their requirements.
The Mother Church only provides endorsements for our military chaplains and Seminary students for their military Reserve commissioning packets. The institutional lay workers in our branch churches or societies are usually given a letter from their branch or State Institutional Committee verifying their appointment to represent their branch. The letter includes information such as they’re members in good standing and of sound moral character. Some institutions require training provided by the paid professional chaplains that supervise the services, etc., at those institutions. For contact information for State Institutional Committees supported by local branch churches, please see here.
For a Christian Science Minister to Armed Forces Installations near them, the military chaplains on Post need some sort of appointment and “bona fides” for access to the military installation or Post and service members. The same sort of letter from the branch church or society they represent is appropriate. These are usually signed by the Clerk of the Church or the current Board Chairperson.
Here are samples of the letters that go either to the Institutional Chaplain Letter of Introduction or to the Senior Installation Chaplain at nearby military installations where branch members may volunteer to provide Christian Science services or Christian Science Sunday School as well as Christian Science periodicals and books.
For more information about military chaplaincy for those who want to or have attended seminary and will be commissioned as chaplains in the military services, please click here.