Communications in the New Army Chaplaincy
By Chaplain (Captain) Michael L. White
When Dan Michel contacted me about writing for his forthcoming new magazine, Psalm 19, I was very excited. After all, I love to write! When I asked him on what topic he wanted me to write, I was truly surprised when he asked me to update my previous article, "Envisioning Communications and Communicating the Vision", published in The Army Chaplaincy Professional Bulletin
in the Spring 1997 edition. If you’d like to read that article in conjunction with this one, I invite you to point your web browser to http://www.parsonplace.com and click on The Parson’s Writings link.
Dan wanted me to explain how the Army has implemented the technological advances I mentioned in that article and how that has affected how I do ministry as an Army chaplain. Therefore, at Dan’s behest, that is what I intend to do in this article.
I am excited to say that many, if not most, of the technological advances I envisioned in my article six years ago both the Army and the Army chaplaincy have implemented. Since my concern is primarily with my ministry as an Army chaplain, however, I will focus on that.
While I don’t know for certain how much influence my article had upon the Army chaplaincy, I find it uncanny how much of my vision was actually implemented. The next Chief of Chaplains after I wrote my article (he stepped up in July 1998) chose to use these new advances to full advantage. He wrote a monthly Chief’s Newsletter, which he emailed to every chaplain in the Army. In every issue, along with his own meditation at the beginning, he included prayer requests for those who had lost loved ones or who were facing illness, as well as announcements and a great many other administrative matters. He also mandated the creation of a Chief’s web site hosted on its own network, called Chapnet (for chaplaincy network), which offered chaplain related Powerpoint slideshows for download, personnel and other administrative information, and much more. Chapnet has already been supplanted, however, by the Army’s own initiative, Army Knowledge Online (AKO).
AKO has given every member of the Army, and retirees, too, the potential to be in contact with every other member (through email, chat, and message boards), since every member of the Army is required to set up an AKO account, and retirees have the option of doing so. Furthermore, AKO has connected us with every key office, such as Finance, Personnel, etc., so that we are now able to handle most of our personal issues directly. Although AKO is still a relatively new development, it promises to be one of the best ideas the Army has ever had!
My most recent experience with the chaplaincy’s use of the new communications technology came while I was attending the Captain Career Course (C3) at the U. S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS) at Ft. Jackson, SC. This fairly new facility is equipped with computer projection systems in every classroom, enabling instructors to switch between video and slideshow displays with ease. Students are also allowed to connect to the school’s local area network (LAN) to view and/or copy files the instructors make available. Perhaps the most intriguing part of all, though, is the new communications system the Army has for the battlefield. For security reasons, l won’t go into all the specifics, but the concept is very much like what I envisioned in my article in 1997. As I said earlier in this article, I find it very uncanny just how much of my vision has been implemented.
What is the impact of all this on my ministry as an Army chaplain? The Army chaplaincy is much more “high-tech” now than ever. Army chaplains are much better connected through email, chat, and message boards because of this new AKO system. The dispatching of information is much swifter. There are many more chaplain web sites now than when I wrote my article in 1997. Today, nearly every Army installation has a chaplain’s web page linked to the installation’s site that at least lists worship opportunities and other ministries. How far we’ve come in just six short years!
While I know less about how this technology is being utilized in other branches of the U. S. armed forces, I feel reasonably certain it is keeping pace with the Army. Now, sharing the Good News about our faith is easier, more far-reaching, and more systematic than we might ever have imagined. Truly, the Gospel is being spread throughout the whole world, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth, just as Jesus said. Whether you choose to serve Him in the civilian society or in the military, God can and will use you to share His Glorious Hope through this phenomenal new mass medium we call the World Wide Web. Where and how will you serve Him?