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Chaplaincy and the EPC

I had the privilege, last week, of spending time here in Colorado with many different members of the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) during the denominations’ 39th annual General Assembly. The General Assembly was hosted by Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (one of our partner churches) and featured a week long gathering with worship, leadership and education tracks, networking, and conducting church business (voting on constitutional pieces, etc.).

The week started, for me, on Monday by joining some of the pastors up at Beaver Ranch Disc Golf Course for a round of disc golf. Of course, one of my favorite activities and hobbies on one of my favorite courses here in Colorado. The event was headed up by the Presbytery of the West Presbytery Chaplain Mike Anderson (whom I had to teach a thing or two)! I ended up shooting a 71 (2nd place) on the day. Only bested by a national pro for the 60’s age group who has a ministry to the disc golf community —Eagles Wings.

Chaplains from around the EPC gather for the one-day workshop hosted by EPC Chaplain Endorser, Mark Ingles

Tuesday, the chaplains gathered for a workshop that featured a couple of talks by brain-cancer fighter/survivor Michael Moyles, a retired United States Air Force Colonel, who is now a Christian speaker and author. Clergy in Crisis, was another topic and theme and the group watched Indivisible together which was based on the story of an Army chaplain and his wife. I had the chance to briefly share about Soccer Chaplains United and certainly was in the minority in the room. Of the approximately 70 chaplains currently endorsed in the EPC, most are in the military with a healthy secondary coming in the form of healthcare and first-responder chaplaincy.

Presentation of chaplains at the 39th General Assembly of the EPC (see if you can spot me)

The remainder of the General Assembly was filled with a number of powerful speakers — I was especially touched by Andrew Brunson’s personal story. Andrew, a missionary in Turkey, was imprisoned for 2 years and accused of terrorism and espionage. His release finally happened last fall and he shared his story with the Assembly. I was struck by several of the things that he shared, but one was particularly encouraging for me in the season of chaplaincy that has been for the past couple of years.

Andrew shared that early in his imprisonment he had expected that God’s presence was fundamental. But he said that after the first week in prison that he had lost the feeling of God being present. And during his two years he came to learn that the fundamental experience is not presence but a “simple devotion, a simple faithfulness.”

I was struck by this — as a chaplain, much that is key to our work amongst people — whether in soccer or in military or in hospital is a ministry of presence and a sense of the Divine presence as we listen, and as we minister and serve. Certainly, in my own experience of chaplaincy, there have been key moments where one cannot feel the presence of God, but I have often experienced this in short terms and short-spans. To hear Andrew share that there was little glorious about his prison time (he repeatedly mentioned that he “broke” under the pressure). Andrew confessed to a romanticized idea of being in prison. One that I likely have as well.

Are you just the God of conferences?

Andrew Brunson, one of his questions of God during his Turkish imprisonment

The rest of the time was filled with other moments of worship and teaching and business, but I believe that I will likely take Andrew’s story and reflect on that for some time to come.

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