Mar. 25, 2019.
As I near the close of my time at Chaplain Basic Officer Learning Course (CHBOLC) here at Fort Jackson, SC, I’ve been asked to reflect on how this course has helped forge me as a chaplain. CHBOLC is an odd mixture of orientation to the Army and ministry because people arrive for the course with different levels of familiarity with each piece of the job. We spend most of our days in classrooms learning about regulations, Army writing and pastoral skills in the pluralistic environment. We do have the occasional opportunity to do cool Army things like the Victory Tower (rappelling 40 feet), the Night Infiltration Course and the Fit-2-Win obstacle course.
The aspect of CHBOLC I have found most valuable is the amazing ability of chaplains from various backgrounds to come together and agree to serve for the good of the soldiers rather than to further any one particular faith tradition. While I am the most progressively minded chaplain this session, the group is able to transcend differences with grace and compassion. It’s not a perfect situation – things are still very Christian-centric and heteronormative – but it is a hope-generating one. This is how we live into Beloved Community. We recognize the sacred tension of authentically representing a specific faith and yet vow to meet the spiritual needs of a diverse population alongside a diverse group of chaplains. We trust each other not to harm the hearts and souls of those to whom we minister and, what’s more, we trust each other to aid in the nurturing of those very hearts and souls.
While the daily practice of working out for an hour followed by 8 hours of classes can be taxing some days, the majority of my time here has been life-giving and affirming of my call to military chaplaincy. I don’t think any of what I have learned here is mind-blowing, but it is refining my understanding of myself and specifically how I fit in the bigger roles of chaplaincy and the Army. Prejudices I wasn’t aware I had are crumbling as I get to know my classmates well. I wouldn’t give the official CHBOLC program credit for the transformation I’ve experienced, but it does offer the space for transformation to occur. As in life outside CHBOLC, being open to these opportunities for growth and learning is the biggest part of forging awakening. Chaplains are forged by what they put into their own development within this context. I’m grateful for this particular chance to refine myself further.