Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy

Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy Order Instructions: The historical roots of chaplains from the Roman imperial period, 27 BC–1600 AD will be examined.

Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy
Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy

This broad historical sweep of chaplain history starts with religious figures assisting in pagan worship, but takes a dramatic leap forward when Emperor Constantine Christianizes the Roman army and takes priests and deacons with him to battle. Further, the researcher will note that by the mid-thirteenth century, the sacramental and moral aspects of the chaplain’s office had achieved a firm basis in law. Finally, it may be observed that the Protestant Reformation and wars of religion propelled chaplaincy to the shores of the American continent.

Write a 3-page paper (following the current Turabian edition) explaining the emergence of the chaplaincy from its infancy in 27 BC until 1600 AD and the evolution of the chaplain’s ministry opportunities. what is now called “The Chaplain.” This assignment will require at least 3 distinct sources.


Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy Sample Answer

Reflection Paper, the history of Chaplaincy


The position of the Chaplain as it is known today is not a modern creation. It is more of a work in progress that has been constantly undergoing changes for just above two millennia. The evolution of the role of the chaplain has been precipitated by the constantly changing needs of the members of the militaries and their masters the governments that sponsor them. The only thing that has remained constant throughout the ages is the need for a figurehead to provide spiritual guidance to foot soldiers as well as their commanders. The manner in which this has been carried out is what has defined Chaplaincy through the different periods. In this exercise, Chaplaincy will be analyzed with respect to its historical development right from the time this concept first emerged around 27BC up until the 1600AD.

Chaplains in the Military during the Roman Imperial Period

The Imperial Roman period took place between 27 AD and 500 BC. During this period the military was the most treasured organization within the government and this is because it provided foot soldiers who defended the empire, helped expand it and also maintained its legitimacy within its borders. This is to say that the military carried out the work assigned to today’s policemen or law enforcement personnel. Their biggest role, however, was that of battle and this meant that they had to use whatever leverage they could get to overcome their opposition on the battlefield. This called for dependence on a higher power who would help tilt the odds in their favor in light of the strenuous and unpredictable nature of battle coupled with the grave implications held by a win or loss.

Prior to Emperor Constantine’s action of introducing Christianity to Rome, the prevalent religion was Paganism. What this shared in common with Christianity was a belief that the fate of humans was controlled by beings or a being that wielded great supernatural powers. As such the Roman society strove very hard to demonstrate its allegiance to the Pagan deities so as to ensure good favor for itself, a key part of this being religious victory. The importance of this meant that there were specific priests who were given the responsibility of taking the soldiers through their worship sessions so as to ensure they were at peace with the gods prior to and during any battlefield engagement. Here is where Chaplaincy has its roots as it is the first instance in history where there was a need for a person whose key purpose was to provide spiritual guidance in a military. These individuals oversaw religious ceremonies and rituals being carried out by the army.

Emperor Constantine is often credited as being the man who converted the Roman Empire to Christianity from its Pagan way of life. While this is true to a great extent, it is also true that his move had the impact of Romanizing Christianity and this refers to the inclusion of practices that were exclusively Roman into Christian practices. Key among this was the application of spiritual leadership within the military. All of this was achieved through the emperor’s action of reversing the edict that had rendered Christianity a banned sect. this move effectively provided legitimacy to the appointment of Priests to lead the Soldiers in Christian practices so as to appease God an win his favor, something Constantine believed was crucial for the success of the Roman Military. Priests and Deacons became a permanent fixture during the battle under his orders and they also prayed for victory among other activities they carried out (Bergen, The Sword of our Lord).

In the 13th Century, the role of the Chaplain became more defined effectively making such a person’s role much more than blessing the weapons that soldiers were going to use in the battlefield. The office of Chaplain gained recognition by the highest levels of government in the 13th Century when they were now being included as part of the Navy with each of the King’s ships being expected to have a Chaplain. This was supported by the fact that Church and state did not exist as separate entities during this period. During the protestant revolution when Martin Luther spearheaded a rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church the role of chaplains also transformed depending on the religious orientation of the army or government they served (Vallance, Revolutionary England and the National Covenant). During this period the prominence of Chaplains grew in predominantly Protestant regions such as the United Kingdom whose dependence on its military, specifically the Royal Navy grew tremendously. Given that the United Kingdom rose to be a super-power prior to the World Wars, it got to spread a protestant model of Chaplaincy to many countries, the United States included.

Another factor that led to the appreciation of Chaplains in the United States Military was the apparent moral authority-vacuum that presented itself during the civil war. The need for chaplains within the ranks of the army became clear when many of the young soldiers overindulged in antisocial behaviors of the time such as gambling and drunkenness among others making it difficult for them to render their services effectively in the crucial battle. Abraham Lincoln then ordered the commanders of all regiments to appoint Chaplains. Many in the North looked down upon the South whose soldiers were considered undisciplined for lack of an effective spiritual guidance system. The Confederates are said to have been too keen to have men able to fight rather than have disciplined units, something that could have contributed to their defeat (Beringer, Why the South lost the War).

Reflection Paper on the History of Chaplaincy References

  1. Bergen, Doris L. The Sword of the Lord: military chaplains from the first to the twenty-first century. Univ of Notre Dame Pr, 2004.
  2. Vallance, Edward. Revolutionary England and the National Covenant: State Oaths, Protestantism, and the Political Nation, 1553-1682. Boydell Press, 2005.
  3. Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and William N. Still. Why the south lost the Civil War. University of Georgia Press, 1991.

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