Church as a Chapel of Hope

Many years ago, I was an officer in the US Navy. Today, I find it hard to believe that I ever went that route. I really, really, enjoy my civilian status, and have little to no interest in politics and geopolitics.

Chapel of Hope, Naval Station Newport

Getting back on track in the story, I graduated from college and was accepted in the NUPOC program. I went to Newport, Road Island to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), Batch 87006, Alfa Company. Historically, OCS was more of a “knife and fork” school… learning the niceties of being a Naval Officer. At that time, however, things were different. It had more of a boot camp feel. That probably is a good thing. But having a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a good GPA, I could not believe that I volunteered to be yelled at and abused.

Indoctrination week was the harshest from this standpoint. I am sure people who had gone to enlisted boot camp or BUDS would laugh at how wimpy I was with OCS Indoc week. But it was a challenge for me and many others as well.

But one moment was different. During Indoc week, we were scheduled to meet the Navy Chaplains. I think that one was Southern Baptist, another United Methodist, and a third Roman Catholic. We were marched to the Navy chapel (“Chapel of Hope”), and told where to sit. The chaplains welcomed us. They thanked our company instructors (our motivational abusers). Then the chaplains told the instructors to leave the sanctuary. After the instructors left, the chaplains went back and ceremoniously closed the back door of the sanctuary.

At that point, the chaplains told us to relax. The chapel is a refuge, a chapel of hope… there is no rank in the chapel. Chaplains will talk to us as people… not rates, paygrades, divisions, and ID numbers. They will also do their best to minister to everyone… even those of a different faith.

This is a liberating concept. My experience with Navy chaplains has been that they practice what they preach (a good thing).

Shouldn’t all churches be like this? Shouldn’t churches:

  • Be seen as a refuge from the foolishness and violence of the surrounding world?
  • Treat people equally regardless of earnings and accomplishment?
  • Seek to minister to all people in the surrounding community… not just “members”?

Churches too often fail to do this… but if they learned to do this, people would see church as the place to be, not a place to avoid. Churches should radically contrast the twisted values of the surrounding society, rather than reinforce them.

Maybe churches need to embrace the symbolism of the Navy Chaplains at the Chapel of Hope. Welcome all in need of hope and comfort and shut the doors on those that harm and abuse. <Remembering, of course, that those who abuse also need hope.>

Challenges of Church-Based COMDEV in the Philippines (Part I)

This is a brief summary of issues brought up from interviews with 
community development specialists and church leaders in the Philippines 
in 2007. I have seen nothing to suggest that things have changed. 
Community Development, I believe, is a critical component for the church
and church members in being salt and light to the world. And... assuming
the world does not end suddenly in 2011 or 2012 (as popular apocalypticists 
keep on about), wholistic development is critical in transforming the 
hearts of individuals as well as communities.
Church-based Bamboocraft Program in Baraoas, La Union, Philippines
In the study, the challenges were broken down into three basic 
categories. These are:  
1. Challenges within the Philippine Church context 
2. Challenges within the Philippine context 
3. Non-contextual challenges 


1. Challenges within the Philippine Church context 
A. Bad Theology 
Bad Theology #1. Religious Dualism. Many in church maintain a strong 
belief that there is a major gulf between the sacred and the secular. 
This in itself is not bad. However, these churches then suggest that 
that which is sacred is for churches to involve themselves, while the 
secular is to be ignored by the church. Unfortunately, many churches 
believe that the physical, educational, social, and emotional needs of 
the surrounding community are secular, and thus, not their problem. 


Bad Theology #2. Separatism. Churches often seek to maintain a social 
purity... trying to remove the "stain of the world." Sadly, this often 
means that these churches do not interact with other people and 
institutions within their community. These churches often become 
insular... failing to make an impact with those around them. 


Bad Theology #3. Lack of Contextualization in Community Development. 
Community Development and Wholism are primarily Western concepts. 
They have entered the Philippines through secular and religious NGOs
as well as government agencies. There has been little work to develop 
these as Philippine Theology. This failure makes community development 
seem foreign to local churches. 


Bad Theology #4. Individualism. Churches, particularly Evangelical 
Churches tend to accept the Western ideal of Individualism. The church 
should focus on individual conversion, individual discipleship, 
individual development. Many churches have a hard time recognizing that 
other social groupings have any value at all. When a church sees a 
community as an aggregate of individuals, there is little to make the 
church value community transformation. 


Bad Theology #5. Apocalypticism. Of course, with different groups 
calling the return of Christ as occurring in 2011 or 2012, there is 
little to motivate churches to invest in community transformation. Scare 
tactics and mass evangelistic techniques seem to make more sense. This 
has been around for along time. St. Paul had to reprove people in the 
church of Thessalonica for sitting around being a burden on the church 
because they believed that Christ was returning at any moment. However, 
Jesus said to be faithful until the end... not making foolish decisions 
because of trying to efficiently "time" His return. If the church had 
spent more time seeking to mercy and justice to transform their 
communities physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually rather than 
trying to focus on date-setting, I believe the church over the last 
several decades would not be drifting towards irrelevancy. 


B. Lack of Resources. Philippine churches typically feel they lack the 
financial, material, and human resources to do community development. 
This is, to some extent false. Community development requires more will 
then wallet. This is, also, to some extent self-fulfilling. That is 
because if you do not train your membership to do community development, 
and you do not develop the material resources, than you (not surprisingly) 
lack these resources. 


C. Focus on Relief. Churches almost always focus on quick-fixes, bait and 
switch, and disaster relief. The idea of a long-term commitment to 
minister outside of itself, is quite foreign and scary to most 
Philippine churches.


D. Lack of Example. Since most community development is done by government 
agencies or NGOs, churches lack good examples of church-based or 
church-initiated community development. When I was working on my 
dissertation from Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary a few years 
ago, I had originally decided to do my paper as a Grounded Theory Analysis 
of Church-based or Church-initiated Community Development in the 
Philippines. I decided I had to change topics due to a lack of source 
material.