“To you is given the spiritual leadership of this post. You will, I know, lend dignity and respect to your office. You should be in close confidence with the commander and the other officers of this post and should attend all meetings of the post. You should be ready upon occasion to take your part in the initiation of new members, the dedication of halls, monuments or colors, and the funeral services of a comrade. All such ceremonies are made more commemorative by the use of our ritual. Into your keeping, we place the spirit of comradeship of this post. May harmony and unity prevail.”
– Charge from the installation ceremony
Remember American Legion chaplains do not have to be clergy; in fact, most are not. Anyone who is willing to serve may serve. However, a chaplain should demonstrate spiritual maturity and be committed to the office. Otherwise, he or she will not be able to provide the spiritual counsel needed by the commander and members alike.
Are you nervous about what to say or what to do? Don’t be; there is help for you. I would suggest these three steps to get started.
1. Read the Chaplain’s Handbook. The handbook can be downloaded and printed from legion.org/publications website. It will explain your duties and how to do them.
2. Purchase a Chaplain’s Prayer Book from Emblem Sales, at emblem.legion.org, the stock number is 755.111 and it $1.50, plus shipping. The book contains prayers for many occasions, so you are always ready.
3. Be the person a chaplain should be: be a caring person, have a positive attitude about yourself, spiritual matters, your post/district, and The American Legion, be willing to serve where needed, value confidentiality, seek to be neutral in disputes between comrades, and seek to be a model in moral and ethical matters.
Remember It is helpful but not necessary to be an experienced public speaker. A chaplain may
read prayers and other comments relative to the office, or rely on notes.
Confidentiality is important to be aware of when people confide in you. If a family informs you of a members health, or hardship, always ask them if this can be shared with the membership. Do not assume it can be, please ask. Also, if a member tells you another member has passed away, check with the family first, if there has not been an obituary published yet. In our age of instant communication, the whole family might not be aware of the news yet, and we do not want a family member to learn of a difficult situation through Facebook or other electronic means.