Minimum Qualifications. To become a chaplain, a person must:
- Have a strong desire to help and bless those who are incarcerated
- Complete the current application form (found on LightInPrison.org)
- Be a member in good standing of both a California branch church or society and of The Mother Church
- Be sponsored for chaplain work by that person’s branch church or society
- Be class taught by a Christian Science Teacher (CSB) who is (or, at the time of passing was) in good standing in that capacity with The Mother Church
Application Procedure. Applicants should have read these Procedures and should also try to attend at least one or two local committee meetings prior to submitting an application. When feasible, the applicant should also try to accompany an existing chaplain on a visit to an institution prior to applying as a chaplain. The applicant then submits the completed application to the local committee. The local committee and the State Committee liaison to that local committee interview the applicant. If the local committee and the liaison both approve the applicant, they sign the application and send it to the State Committee. The State Committee then votes whether to confirm the local committee recommendation and then informs the local committee and applicant of the outcome. Once a chaplain is approved by the State Committee, that status continues until the chaplain resigns or is removed for some cause by either the local committee or by the State Committee. Any local committee may create a process to periodically review and reappoint a chaplain if the local committee so desires, but there is no requirement to do so.
Multiple Roles. Whenever possible, chaplains should not be a rep or an officer. In smaller local committees, however, this separation of roles is not always
possible. A chaplain may also serve under more than one local committee as long as that is acceptable to the committees involved.
Video interviews. All chaplains are encouraged to share fruitage from their ministry not only with their local committees and branch churches, but possibly in articles for the periodicals and in videos for LightinPrison.org.
Permission to Share. It is important that chaplains be sensitive to and respect the privacy of those included in their ministry. Prior to sharing accounts of healing or of other situations experienced by an inmate, chaplains should obtain the inmate’s permission to share any personal or sensitive details, even if the inmate’s name is not used, unless that information has already become public knowledge through the inmate’s own actions. Prior permission from an inmate is essential if the inmate’s story is part of a video interview appearing on LightinPrison.org. It is a good practice for chaplains to get in the habit of asking for permission to share fairly early in their contacts with an inmate who is expressing sincere interest in Christian Science. Using prayer, sound judgment, and common sense, chaplains may report on matters shared by an inmate without prior permission when the chaplain has high confidence that the inmate would not object to such sharing.
Christian Science Treatment. It is the privilege of chaplains to give specific Christian Science treatment to inmates who request it. Such treatment should adhere to all the ethical and moral standards of Christian Science as taught in primary class and as contained in the Church Manual and in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. Treatment for a problem should not be given to someone who is receiving medical treatment for the same problem, although prayer in the form of seeing and affirming the spiritual nature of that individual and their unbroken connection with the source of all good is, of course, always appropriate.
Chaplain Cooperation. Sometimes two visiting chaplains will serve the same institution. In those situations, the chaplains should coordinate so that they are not both giving Christian Science treatment to the same individual at the same time. A visiting chaplain and a corresponding chaplain usually will not be in contact with the same inmate at the same time, with the following exception: A visiting chaplain should keep informed about the status of inmates that chaplain has been visiting and should ask any who are expecting to be transferred to an institution having no visiting chaplain or about to be released, if they would like to be assigned a corresponding chaplain. If an inmate asks for a corresponding chaplain to be assigned, the visiting chaplain should then inform the Executive Secretary. The corresponding chaplain assigned by the State Committee to the requesting inmate and the visiting chaplain who made the referral should then be in close contact to support the inmate during the transition. The visiting chaplain should cease to be involved once the inmate has left the facility.
Identification of Christian Science. In interactions with others, chaplains and chaplain assistants should identify themselves as Christian Scientists and explain that Christian Science is a Bible-based religion that is especially focused on the teachings and example of Christ Jesus. Christian Science services should be announced as such. In the event that a chaplain is asked to give a non-denominational service or talk, that is a welcome opportunity, but the talk or service should start with the chaplain identifying himself or herself as a Christian Science chaplain with a brief explanation of Christian Science. It is usually helpful to also make a short statement that clearly distinguishes Christian Science from Scientology since there is common confusion on that point.
Removal. A chaplain may be removed by vote of the local committee and agreement of the State Committee or by direct action by the State Committee. Any removal should be done only after the chaplain has been given ample opportunity to explain their conduct. Any removal should be done in the most considerate and loving manner feasible under the circumstances. Written notice of removal should be sent promptly by the local committee to any institutions formerly served by the chaplain.
Distinguishing Visiting Chaplains from Corresponding Chaplains. The qualifications and application procedures are the same for visiting chaplains and for corresponding chaplains, but the work they do is different. Visiting chaplains are assigned by their local committees to work in one or more specific institutions to make in-person visits to those who are incarcerated and to conduct Christian Science services. Corresponding chaplains do not enter institutions but are assigned by the State Committee to specific inmates/patients with whom they correspond. Generally, a chaplain is appointed to be either a visiting or a corresponding chaplain. A chaplain may move from one category to the other with the approval of the local committee, in which case the Executive Secretary should be informed. There may be rare instances in which it is appropriate for a chaplain to do both jobs at the same time (although not at the same institution), but this may not be done without the approval of both the local committee and the State Committee. Normally, an inmate in an institution that has a visiting chaplain will not be assigned a corresponding chaplain. However, if an institution permits church services held by a visiting chaplain, but does not permit on-on-one visits, then a corresponding chaplain (not the visiting chaplain) may correspond with inmates that the visiting chaplain has identified as desiring one-on-one visits. Those inmates may also attend the church services. A visiting chaplain in a State facility can write inmates in county or federal facilities. A visiting chaplain in a county facility can write inmates in State or Federal institutions.
General Guidelines for All Chaplains. Most important is for the chaplain to be guided by prayer and a deep desire to bless and love everyone with whom the chaplain comes into contact. Take to heart the last line of Mrs. Eddy’s poem, “Christ My Refuge”: “My prayer, some daily good to do to Thine for Thee; an offering pure of Love, whereto God leadeth me.”
Personal information about a chaplain should not be given to an inmate either in person or by mail.
It is generally preferable to derive answers to inmate questions directly from our Pastor and, with respect to inmates unfamiliar with Christian Science, specially from the Bible. Having a copy of the Tenets of Christian Science to share can be very helpful.
Another very important requirement is that chaplains know and obey all of the laws and rules that pertain to work in the institutions housing the inmates they serve. Different institutions have different rules, and the rules sometimes change. All chaplains need to keep themselves aware of the pertinent rules and hanges in those rules and obey them – not only for their own protection and success, but also because violation of a rule by a Christian Science chaplain may cast a cloud over our ministry generally.
Similarly, if the chaplain feels it is appropriate, the chaplain may inform the inmate that members of the inmate’s family may contact the State Committee office (contact information given on the book marker) to request information about Christian Science and possible assignment of a corresponding chaplain.
Chaplains should be alert to examples of fruitage from their work and, when appropriate, report that fruitage subject to the requirements of Section III.E., above.
If an inmate has exhibited a sincere interest in Christian Science over at least six months and has begun to think of himself or herself as a Christian Scientist, then his or her name, prison number and facility where incarcerated should be reported to the State Committee so we can add him or her to our database of inmates who are students of Christian Science. This database is used to be sure that we don’t lose track of such inmates over time through transfers or changes in chaplains.
Chaplains should also use spiritual intuition as to whenever it may be appropriate to bring up the possibility of an inmate applying for membership in The Mother Church. If the chaplain believes the inmate is ready and the inmate embraces the idea of applying for membership and completes the application, the chaplain should sign the completed application and obtain the necessary additional signature (from a Teacher of Christian Science), then send it to The Mother Church and notify the State Committee.
To the extent an institution’s rules permit, providing Christian Science literature to inmates in the form of whole issues of the Sentinel, Quarterly and Full-Text Bible Lessons, or copies of articles from any of the Church periodicals is encouraged. It can be there physically with an inmate when a chaplain cannot. See Section IX, below.
Guidelines Specific to Visiting Chaplains. Each visiting chaplain’s activity is a reflection of his or her own prayer and the way the institution works in which the chaplain serves. Generally, however, chaplains seek to have either one-on-one sessions, or group interactions in the form of a church service. See Section IV.D., below, regarding the form of church services.
Debates and arguments should never be part of a chaplain’s ministry. If anyone wishes to debate or argue with a chaplain whether one-on one or during a service, the chaplain should rely upon prayer and spiritual inspiration from divine Love to avoid the situation. A chaplain can ask for staff assistance or can terminate the session if that seems to be the best way to settle the situation.
Chaplains should generally speak from their own personal experience and beliefs as a Christian Scientist. Please avoid pronouncements about what Christian
Scientists believe or how someone should think about something as a Christian Scientist.
Early in the relationship with any new inmate the chaplain should explain that the chaplain will protect the inmate’s privacy by not casually disclosing what they discuss; however, the discussions are not confidential. A chaplain must report the chaplain’s activities to the supervising local committee and a chaplain can be compelled by a court to testify truthfully to anything told to the chaplain by an inmate. Accordingly, an inmate should not talk about what led to incarceration or to disciplinary procedures within the institution. The discussions should stay focused on matters of a spiritual nature. Chaplains should also advise each inmate that the chaplain cannot write or give any kind of recommendation or character-reference for an inmate; however, a chaplain may submit a factual description of the number of times the inmate has met with the chaplain or the period of time the inmate has attended services if requested to do so.
Whenever possible, it is best if the chaplain or local committee can arrange for both Christian Science services within the institution and one-on-one visits with a chaplain. The two different activities reinforce each other and can lead to our ministry being a greater blessing to the inmates.
Different institutions call for different approaches. Some only permit visits to inmates who have requested visits from a Christian Science chaplain. Some will call out that a chaplain has arrived and ask if anyone wants to see him or her. Some only permit one-on-one sessions.
Chaplains should wear their “Christian Science Chaplain” badges, and generally present themselves as part of a statewide ministry and not as just an individual
chaplain. If permitted by the institution’s rules, they should give a bookmarker from the State Committee to any inmate who appears to have a sincere interest in
spiritual matters at either the first or second meeting with that inmate. They should also explain early in the relationship that if the inmate is transferred, the inmate can be put in touch with a chaplain (visiting or corresponding) at the new location.
Chaplains should conform to all facility dress codes and also use common sense by dressing conservatively and speaking and acting with restraint.
If the chaplain feels it is appropriate, the chaplain may inform the inmate that if the inmate is released, and if the inmate desires it, the inmate may be put in contact with a corresponding chaplain for a period of up to approximately 3 months.
There appears to be a rule that visiting chaplains in state prisons are not permitted to also send letters to the inmates they visit. Yet there are long ongoing instances where the authorities at a State prison have given permission to visiting chaplains to send brief letters to confirm meetings or to enclose a copy of the Bible Lesson for study and articles from our periodicals. The ministry should be conducted primarily face-to-face rather than through the mail.
Those who serve in juvenile facilities should take special care not to come across as proselytizing, and should generally try to avoid topics that are likely to be in clear conflict with elements of the faith traditions that the youths may have grown up with.
Specific State Committee Rules for Visiting Chaplains. Visiting chaplains should:
- Prepare metaphysically for each visit
- Stay current regarding, and obey, all laws and rules applicable to the institutions in which they serve
- Avoid conflict and argument with all they meet in the institutions (inmates, staff, other volunteers)
- Encourage use of and reliance upon our Pastor (the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
- Provide Christian Science treatment when requested to do so
- Attend local committee meetings and accept the supervision and direction of the local committee and State Committee
- Attend (either online or by phone or by review of a recording after the fact) any mandatory meetings called by the State Committee
- File reports for each calendar month by the 10th of the succeeding month online on LightinPrison.org. The report should describe the chaplain’s work in enough detail for the local committee to monitor and support the chaplain. These reports should not name specific inmates. New chaplains may refer to reports in the Members Only section of our website for examples.
Common Institution Rules. Be aware that the following rules are overwhelmingly likely to be in place for any institution you visit:
- Do not take any literature into a facility without clearance from the institution
- Do not give anything to an inmate/patient unless specifically given permission by the institution after following the correct procedure to get permission
- Do not touch an inmate/patient beyond a normal handshake
- Do not pass messages or take any actions at the request of an inmate
- Have no contact with an inmate you met in the institution for a period of one year after the release of that inmate from the institution.