On Monday, Sept. 12, Texas Baptists Chaplaincy Relations celebrated its 20th anniversary at a banquet in Dallas, Texas. The banquet saw approximately 250 attendees, including current and former chaplains and Texas Baptists staff, as well as friends and family. It was a time of celebrating the past while also looking forward to the future.
“What began 20 years ago continues today, and we’re here to celebrate 20 years of chaplaincy relations, and to celebrate… the calling that God has placed in our lives to serve in chaplaincy in various and unique ways and settings… and to be representative of Jesus’s love to people who need to hear it,” Todd Combee, associate endorser of Pastoral Care and Support, said to the crowd.
The Chaplaincy Relations ministry was formed following a study done by the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) in 2001 under the leadership of then-Executive Director Charles Wade. Following the study, it was decided that a ministry dedicated to supporting chaplains would be created. Bobby Smith, who was a hospital chaplain and Texas Baptists employee at the time, was chosen to serve as the ministry’s first director.
Since its inception, Chaplaincy Relations has endorsed 1,125 chaplains in eight distinct categories: military, correctional, lifestyle, public safety, healthcare, marketplace, crisis response and pastoral counseling. Of those, 650 are actively serving through the program as of Sept. 2022.
Chaplaincy Relations entered into a partnership with the Baptist General Association of Virginia in 2017 to offer additional training and networking opportunities for chaplains to represent churches in Texas and Virginia.
Looking out over the crowd, Bobby Smith, director of Chaplaincy Relations, said, “God has blessed us as a people, as a program and as a chaplain ministry. We became a family of chaplains, who grew to love each other and our families.”
Among those in attendance were some of the original 42 chaplains to be endorsed by the BGCT in 2002. Joe Perez, a hospital chaplain who was among the first to be endorsed, explained chaplains' special bond and the need for fellowship.
“When you’re with a group of chaplains, you think, oh man, these are my brothers and sisters. We see the world in a different way,” he said, explaining the compassion and godly love that binds them all together.
Perez thanked Smith and Texas Baptists for promoting a culture of love and hospitality within the program.
“You can’t be a chaplain and not practice hospitality,” Perez said. “It’s a core function to meet with people who are broken and hurt and not demand anything of them.”
For the chaplains in the program, Smith and the associate endorsers act as their chaplains, providing comfort, support and hospitality when needed. Perez and other chaplains who spoke gave examples of the times Smith met them in their place of hurt and supported them through that time.
The banquet was followed by a dessert reception for Smith and his wife, Vicky. The Chaplaincy Endorsement Council announced that an endowment fund for chaplaincy in Virginia would be started in the Smiths’ name.
The banquet and reception were part of a larger, annual chaplain training event. The three-day event provides chaplains an opportunity to take courses related to their respective fields and fellowship with other chaplains.
As Chaplaincy Relations wrapped up 20 years of ministry, they are excited to push forward to accomplish even more in the next 20 years. As Smith concluded the banquet, he shared his hopes that the ministry would continue to glorify God and be an encouragement to chaplains serving around the world.
“May we continue to be blessed by God and be a family of chaplains who live in relationship, caring for one another,” he said.
To learn more about Chaplaincy Relations, go to txb.org/chaplaincy.