Chaplain

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An exciting opportunity to be responsible for the spiritual ministry and pastoral support to soldiers and their families in a range of challenging environments.

Job Details

Graduate (Reserve), Graduate

The role of the Army chaplain is principally to do with religious ministry however, that ministry extends well beyond the community model of a minister of religion. Chaplains remain active members of their denominational church organisation. Indeed, they cannot continue to practice without the endorsement of their church. Yet, they are also commissioned members of the ADF. Therefore their roles are governed by two disparate yet culturally sympathetic entities.

Consequently, in describing the role of the chaplain some similarity with the civilian clergy can be found in the practice of the liturgical and sacramental rites of their particular denomination. But that is where the comparison finishes because the military chaplain must provide spiritual ministry to all members of the Army, regardless of faith or denomination.

No defence force in the service of a democracy, with freedom of religious persuasion, could afford to provide religious ministry to each member’s faith at all times, not even in peacetime. Consequently, and in recognition of the imperative to foster firm faith as described, every chaplain must be the spiritual minister to every member.

Commissioned membership of the Army further distinguishes the military chaplain from the civilian clergy. Chaplains do not share the settled life of parochial clergy. They are under authority in a way that parochial clergy is not. Every aspect of Service life, which affects the soldier and the soldier's family, affects the chaplains and their families. They experience separation, family turbulence, educational disadvantages and the like. The chaplain is expected to share in the dangers of armed conflict, should that arise, and all its associated conditions. There is really no relationship between the life-style of chaplains and their civilian counterparts, and neither there should be, because chaplains must be an integral part of the defence community, which they serve.

Given that the chaplain is at once a minister of a chosen religion and denomination, a minister to all, regardless of religion, and a commissioned member of the Army, the chaplain's role can still be divided into four generic groups:

  • Religious Ministry
  • Pastoral Care
  • Character Training
  • Administration and Staff Duties


Religious Ministry.  The Army chaplain is to provide spiritual ministry to all members of the Army to foster those high qualities of faith, character and conduct, which inspire courage and self-sacrifice in adversity. The denominational role of the Army chaplain is to provide opportunity for Army personnel to practice their chosen religion by acts of public worship in a manner to which they are accustomed and as conveniently as can be arranged, both in peace and war, and in accordance with their rights under the Commonwealth Constitution. Provision of opportunity for practice of religion extends beyond Army personnel to include the spouses and children of Army personnel in peacetime. This extension of duties particularly applies in military areas separated by distance from normal community facilities.

Religious practices include the preparation for and the conduct on a regular basis of denominational services of worship, which include the sacraments of Holy Communion/Mass, occasional rites, including the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Burial and other special services. The Army chaplain is to arrange and participate in ecumenical services that mark special events in the life of the Army community, such as the presentation of Sovereign’s and Regimental Colours. Such traditional services are of religious significance and immediate benefit to participants. They also have a residually beneficial effect in strengthening unit morale and cohesion.

Pastoral Care.  In practising vocational pursuit of pastoral care, the chaplain is furthering the leadership objectives of the military commander. In the exercise of pastoral care, the chaplain visits personnel in their work place, and accompanies them on exercises and goes with them into operations. The chaplain supports them through anxiety fear, stress, moral dilemmas, guilt, fatigue, boredom and loneliness. They accept human frailty in a helpful non-condemnatory manner, but at the same time upholds and strives to exemplify standards of conduct, which conform to the ethics of their faith. They endeavour to inspire and strengthen a sense of personal dignity and commonality of purpose; in so doing they are at one with the commander. Pastoral care also extends beyond the Serviceperson to the family. The chaplain’s ability to enter into the domestic life of personnel and the confidential position, in which they are placed, enable them to be an important and vital member of the family support team. They are able to address the problems and, in conjunction with other agencies, provide advice and seek remedies, which will benefit the Serviceperson and their families.

The chaplain encourages the ill and the wounded and thus assists the healing process and, especially in combat, provides consolation for the dying. As part of the family support organisation, the chaplain has an important role in providing support for the bereaved and comfort in distress. The chaplain relates to all ranks within the Service. The role is both preventative and therapeutic in nature. The chaplain works in association with and is complementary to the family support team, such as medical officers, social workers, and psychologists. However, the chaplain’s function alone embraces the whole range of human experience, at the work place and in the home, in peace and in war.

Character Training. The Army chaplain shares a functional responsibility for, and is the specialist in, character training for Army personnel. Character training aims to develop personal characteristics and interpersonal skills, which motivate responsible moral judgements and behaviour conducive to the common good of the Army and its members. All initial entry courses include elements of character training, while continuation programs comprise Character Guidance Courses, Character Development Courses, Character Leadership Courses and Commanding Officer’s Hours. The chaplain generally plans, organises and administers the continuation programs.

Administration and Staff Duties. The Army chaplain is a member of the personnel support team. As an adviser to commanders and staff on spiritual welfare and on the level of morale, the chaplain supports the process of command at all levels. Free from the trammels of command and privileged in insight into personnel attitudes, the chaplain stands in a unique position to exercise independent judgement and to give expression to that judgement as a staff adviser. That is so of all chaplains but especially so of the Principal Chaplain and Senior Chaplains who are the advisers to Senior Command and Staff.

In their own right, chaplains are responsible for the preparation, registration and maintenance of ecclesiastical and statutory records and documents associated with their appointment as a minister of religion. The chaplain must also attend to those administrative and staff procedures, which are required to ensure the efficiency of the RAAChD by using the normal staff system. The chaplain remains on the clergy roll of the church and in fact can operate in the Army only with the authorisation of the church; at the same time the chaplain is an integral part of the Army. The contribution made and the employment of skills is not always widely known because of the need to respect confidentiality, but generally, both by tradition and in current practice, the chaplain is known as a friend to all and a helper to those in need.

The role of the RAAChD is:

  • provide religious and pastoral support to commanders at all levels in accordance with established policy and guidance;
  • collectively, provide a religious ministry and character development program to all elements of the Army; and
  • denominationally, provide religious ministry to denominational members.
In fulfilling these roles the RAAChD is responsible for:
  • conduct of worship services and religious rites;
  • provision of pastoral care of soldiers, their families and such Defence Department civilian employees who seek their ministry, irrespective of denominational or religious affiliation;
  • provision of denominational ministry to members of denominational groups regardless of command boundaries;
  • pastoral visitation of soldiers in the work place, in their homes, in recreational areas (where appropriate and in accordance with protocol), in places of detention and in medical facilities;
  • ministry to and training of Chaplains for Defence Force operations, exercises and activities;
  • availability of Chaplains to all ranks, and particularly to commanders, as a confidante;
  • coordination of pastoral care activities with Army Community Services;
  • leadership of chapel affairs and activities;
  • design, development and conduct of character training that will enhance soldierly performance;
  • provision of programs for marriage and relationship preparation and enrichment; and
  • religious instruction in schools with significant components of Army dependants.
Chaplains hold the rank of Chaplain (CHAP) or Principal Chaplain (PRINCHAP) and are classified within Divisions wearing equivalent rank insignia as follows:
  • Chaplain Division 1 - Captain;
  • Chaplain Division 2 - Major;
  • Chaplain Division 3 - Lieutenant Colonel;
  • Chaplain Division 4 - Colonel; and
  • Principal Chaplain (Chaplain Division 5) - Brigadier.
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