For 233 years, the United States Navy Chaplain Corps has provided ministry, counseling and solace for Marines, sailors and their families.
“We are different from other branches, because Navy chaplains service all the armed forces, not just a particular branch,” said Capt. Robert D. Crossan II, base chaplain, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
The history of the Chaplain Corps traces its beginnings to Nov. 28, 1775, when the second article of the Navy regulations was adopted. It stated that religious services would be performed twice daily aboard ship and that a sermon was to be preached on Sundays, unless conditions did not permit one.
According to an article written in 1993 by Navy Lt. Margaret G. Kibbben, history projects officer, chaplain resource board, the first chaplain known to have served in the Continental Navy was Benjamin Balch, congregational minister, whose father had served in the Royal Navy.
His duties included reading prayers at stated periods, performing all funeral services, performing the duty of schoolmaster and instructing the midshipmen and volunteers in writing, arithmetic, navigation and whatever else would make them proficient.
William Balch, his son, is the first chaplain known to receive a commission in the United States Navy after the Navy Department was established in 1798.
The Chaplain Corps began to come into its own during October of 1906, when a board of chaplains was appointed by the Secretary of the Navy.
The established guidelines would require all newly commissioned chaplains to be graduates of both college and seminary. They also should receive the endorsement of their denominations.
All candidates must appear before a board of Navy chaplains for their endorsement of qualifications.
“Chaplains exist to provide for, and accommodate, the religious needs of their own faith groups, facilitate for those of other faith groups, and to provide pastoral care for all. Even if you have no religious background or faith, the chaplain is someone who will faithfully listen, care, and offer guidance,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steven Barstow, Air Station Astoria chaplain, United States Coast Guard.
The Chaplain Corps consists of ordained clergy who are commissioned naval officers. They promote the religious, moral and personal well-being of the service members and their families.
The sacrifices chaplains continue to make daily on behalf of our Marines and sailors by going into harms way is truly commendable. They selflessly risk life, displaying great courage and commitment while answering the call to serve God and country said Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commanding general, Marine Corps Forces Pacific in a Navy Chaplain Corps birthday message he sent out Oct. 8.
“We explain what religious ministry can do for the Marines, sailors and their families,” said Crossan. "Our religious program specialists are exceeding our expectations and their cooperation is without compromise."
On Nov. 20, chaplains, religious program specialists and their guests gathered to celebrate the Chaplain Corps' 233rd anniversary in San Marcos.