Letter to the Editor: Why Chaplains?

My Letter to the Editor for the Concord Monitor. Much of its content was repeated in their August 12 editorial.

 

Why chaplains? The August 9 Capital Beat reported on controversy about Garrett “Patriot Pastor” Lear’s prayer before the Executive Council. The Governor and some Executive Councilors expressed upset as his prayer contained advocacy on the Planned Parenthood defunding vote.

As the priest serving Grace Episcopal Church in East Concord, the State Senate sometimes calls upon me to lead prayers as their chaplain. When I do, I agree to pray with their guidelines:

“New Hampshire’s State Senators cherish their private religious beliefs, and respect those of our colleagues, recognizing the many cultural, religious and secular backgrounds from which we come to serve our state.

In the interest of unanimity and comity between Senators before session, it is requested that our Senate Chaplain:

  1. Refrain from invoking by prayer any one specific religious faith or figure, whether Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or any other; and
  2. Refrain from interjecting into the prayer a religious or personal position on political or specific legislation.”

These wise guidelines should be embraced by anyone serving as chaplain to the Executive Council. Legislative chaplains provide care-giving relationships and attend to the emotional and spiritual needs of both Houses in order that our elected officials can work with clear hearts and minds.

My role as chaplain is not a pulpit for evangelism or advocacy. Instead, when I am invited inside the chamber, my role is to serve our elected officials humbly, without an agenda or quid pro quo, a spirit much needed in political places.

Author: Jason

Rev. Jason Wells is the executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches. Prior to this position he served Episcopal congregations in New Hampshire for 13 years after his ordination in 2004. Jason is also a board member of the ACLU-NH. He is a former president of the Greater Concord Interfaith Council and has served on the Episcopal Church's committee on ecumenical and interfaith relationships. Jason received a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and also holds bachelors degrees in computer science and mathematics from Southern Methodist University.