By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — When it comes to visiting, the process is simple: visitors come, they visit then they leave. When a chaplain goes out among the people he serves it is usually called visitation. However the 21st Space Wing Chapel is trying to get away from the temporary connotation of a visit and go with a more personal, engaging approach.
As part of that change in focus the chaplaincy is attempting to break out of the traditional chapel space and take ministry to where people are. Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Casey recently relocated his office from the chapel building to space in building 350 to do just that.
“Instead of coming to us at the chapel we are going out,” Casey said. “The goal is to get away from visitation to engagement and be more embedded in the units. I don’t want to be ‘the’ chaplain, I want to be ‘their’ chaplain and this helps.”
Casey’s move to building 350 has been in the works since the fall, but because Casey spent some time at Thule Air Base, Greenland, the move didn’t take place until Jan. 20. The building was selected because it is a high traffic location housing a number of units where people have frequent interactions. The move also signifies a shift in the way the chaplaincy is trying to perform its mission in today’s world.
Moving out from the traditional locations is a way to address reality on the ground according to Casey. In the past, when more people lived on base more of them attended chapel services, but as Colorado Springs grew more people attend church services in town. With fewer people coming to the chapel for sacramental services Casey said it makes more sense to go to them instead of adopting a “come see us” approach.
Another reason for the move comes from Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Howard Stendahl, Air Force Chief of Chaplains and Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff. It was determined that deployment ministry is well received so plans were made in an attempt to capture that feeling on bases at home.
“So having us out in the units like the mission support group makes it more like deployed ministry,” Casey said. Having easy access to more people makes it easier to minister to them where they are and when they likely have the most need.
The move already started to show its worth not long after Casey started moving into his office.
“I had the first walk-in within about five minutes,” he said. “Boom, there was a need and it was able to be met right then.”
In civilian life it would be nearly unheard of for a chaplain or minister to stop by a person’s job site, but on base the ability to be on the job allows a chaplain to become more of a fixture in daily life.
“We are here to reach them, Airmen and their families. We are trying to engage them in their workstations to get to know them,” Casey stated. “They feel they can come to you and confide in you when they have spiritual stressors on them. People carry spiritual injuries around longer than physical ones and if we are around them we can spot those earlier.”
He said statistics show a percent of Airmen on a base have no spiritual connection. Changing its approach the chaplaincy hopes to reach out to that group as well as continue to minister to those who typically take advantage of its services. Quantitatively, prior to the fiscal year about 45 percent of a chaplain’s time went into unit engagement. Now, nearly 65 percent, about 25 hours, will focus on engagement and the chaplain can be immediately present in the units, attending physical training or other events with them, giving an entire day to learning what people do and getting to know them.
“That, to me, is very promising,” Casey said.
One good thing for people to know is that any conversations are considered privileged and are 100 percent confidential.
“This office can become a very safe place where people can talk about what is bothering them. Everyone needs a safe place,” Casey said.
For more information visit the Peterson AFB Chapel on Facebook or call 556-4442.