Why a Community Chaplain?

Why does this area need a community chaplain? The following are a few scenarios, adapted from real-life situations that the SoWal Community Chaplain has encountered in the past year:

Sarah moved to Santa Rosa Beach a few months ago after graduating from art school, unsure about what she wanted to do with her life. She got a job waitressing at a local restaurant but finds herself barely able to make rent. When tourist season is over, she knows she is likely to have her hours reduced. She doesn’t know if she should try to get a second job or move back home with her parents in Birmingham. She knows she needs a plan for managing her finances, but she also wishes she had someone to help her think about the larger vocational and life questions she is wrestling with.

Stanley manages a small business that needs seasonal workers who are willing to work long hours during the tourist season. A few weeks into the summer he notices one of his employees seems down and depressed. Upon investigation, he finds out that this employee is going through a terrible divorce. Jack would like to offer some solace or support, but feels inadequate to the task and wonders how involved he should really get as boss.

David runs a beach chair/umbrella service that hires a number of college students during the summer. One of his employees comes in with what he suspects to be a hangover several mornings in a row, and he begins to think the young man may have a serious alcohol problem. He’d like to do more than just fire him, he’d like to offer him some help, but he isn’t sure what all the options are and he doesn’t have time to figure it out. He wishes he had even just a list of resources to hand out or a phone number he could give him of someone to call for help.

Tina is new to the area and complains to her fellow realtor that she is having trouble finding community. She has thought about trying a church—she grew up Pentecostal, but has to work most Sundays and isn’t really sure what kind of church would be a good fit for her these days anyway. Her coworker is Catholic and isn’t sure what to recommend.

Fred is a member at Christ Our Savior Church. He has been feeling a call recently to reach out to help the immigrant community but doesn’t know where to start. His pastor is new to the area and doesn’t know what outreach efforts, if any, exist already. They call 2-1-1 and find out that Catholic Charities offers some legal help to immigrants in Miramar Beach, but Fred doesn’t see how he can easily plug into that ministry.

The Department of Children and Families is starting an initiative to address the Opioid crisis in the county, and wants to get all the different sectors of society involved, including the faith community. Although the employee organizing the initiative has a contact with the Baptist association in the north end of the county, she is having trouble connecting to the churches in South Walton. She can’t find a comprehensive list of area churches and pastors anywhere, and wishes there were some better way to reach out to all the local churches or at least have a representative of the faith community at the table for their meetings.

Now imagine that each of these people is connected with a “community chaplain.”

Now the employer has someone who whom to refer their employee for help or to call for more information about local resources or for support as they struggle with how best to help their employee.

Now the employee has someone to talk to who is not their employer, who will honor confidentiality, who has the time and desire to listen to what it is they are going through, and who has access to community resources and diverse networks of people who are interested in assisting those in need.

Now someone new to the area has someone who can answer their questions about the different churches and connect them because they have actually visited the churches and interviewed the pastors.

Now the Department of Children and Families has someone to contact who can get the word out to local churches and represent the faith community of South Walton at county-wide trainings and meetings, which pastors of local congregations are often too busy to attend.

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, please consider supporting the SoWal Community Chaplain’s ministry through Caring and Sharing by donating to Caring and Sharing of South Walton (with “SoWal Community Chaplain” in the memo line) or contact the Chaplain about getting involved with the Caring and Sharing’s poverty transformation initiative.