Commander, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy (Reserve Component)
[Currently on a three-year active duty recall assignment]
Staff Chaplain, Federal Penitentiary, Atlanta, GA (Federal Bureau of Prisons)
[Currently on a three-year leave of absence]
What is your relationship with the Church?
Priest. Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.
How have you ministered in the Church?
As a Navy chaplain, I provide nonjudgmental and confidential listening and spiritual direction to sailors, Marines, and family members. I work alongside our sailors and Marines, going where they go, and conduct worship services. I also ensure that every member’s right to the free exercise of religion is protected. I cooperate with clergy and chaplains of other Christian denominations and religions. As a Bureau of Prisons chaplain, I similarly ensure that every inmate’s right to the free exercise of religion is protected. I was raised an atheist in a family that immigrated to the United States from India a year before I was born. When I became a follower of Jesus, I experienced belonging and purpose within the Christian family. Since Christianity is a religion of adoption and grace, ALL are valued, ALL are welcomed, and ALL belong! In this ministry, I find great power in stopping my life to listen and to care. I have learned that nonjudgmentally listening to someone share his or her story and feelings is a rare gift and often more effective in someone’s healing and wellness than is proclaiming some nugget of advice or encouragement.
How and where does Bless show up in your ministry?
In my ministry, “to bless” is to be present. By being present and being still, I recognize the Holy that is already present in my midst and within each person that God leads into my path. Oftentimes, clients do not recognize their own worth. When I simply make myself available to listen and honor them as persons created in the image of God, it usually blesses them and helps them to discover themselves in a more profound way. Through these encounters, I experience blessing. I think this must happen whenever the image of God in one experiences the image of God in another.
What gives you hope about the future of your ministry?
I know that God is at work changing lives. I just have to keep out of the way.
The Way of Love is the Presiding Bishop’s vision for The Episcopal Church. What about the Presiding Bishop gives you hope?
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has definitely inspired me to return to our foundational identity as followers of Jesus. As he so eloquently stated it, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” As a chaplain (and a priest of this Church), I’m in the love business.